Micro markets: the self-service supermarket in the lobby
Micro markets offer a much greater variety of products than traditional vending banks. Photo courtesy of Company Kitchen.
Recent studies show that 87 percent of consumers are generally trying to eat more healthfully, and that includes doing so during the lunch hour. Many progressive businesses are taking notice. They want to capitalize on the trend in order not only to improve retention rates by giving employees what they want, but also because studies show workers who eat better and therefore feel better are more productive on the clock and take fewer sick days.
A solution currently picking up momentum is the onsite micro market. These vending areas are akin to small grocery stores stocked with a variety of fresh and nutritious meal options. Workers gather their selections and pay for them using self-service kiosks.
Because these micro markets can offer a greater variety of food options and therefore appeal to more users, the market is exploding. Research shows that micro markets can generate up to 300 percent more sales than vending machines, and many creative-thinking business managers are trying to get in on the bottom floor of this rising opportunity.
Here are some stats about micro markets from various industry sources:
- 17,000: number of micro markets in operation across the US today
- 50,000: total number of micro markets expected to be in operation within the next five years
- $1.6 billion: projected micro market sales in the next six years.
Opening new day parts
Micro markets make fresh food available 24/7 through automated customer service kiosks, so hard-working employees can enjoy wholesome choices whether they arrive early to prepare for a sales meeting, eat lunch with colleagues, or stay late at night to hammer out the final details of a client proposal.
Some stats about micro markets related to day parts:
- 25 percent: micro market sales between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., breakfast hours that have proven an elusive target for self-service vendors over the past half-century
- 30 percent: micro market sales for fresh foods such as deli salads and sandwiches, a missed opportunity by most businesses that employ vending machines
- 200: food stock keeping units a typical kiosk-managed mini-store stocks compared to the typical 45 in a vending machine
- 60: beverage stock keeping units at a typical self-service market, such as coffee, milk and popular energy drinks. Vending machines typically offer only around 10 drinks.
Nothing against the neighborhood grocer, but a digital kiosk can manage a micro market very efficiently for office workers often used to a fast-paced, no-nonsense environment. In addition to allowing customers to securely use virtually all payment methods, from cash to mobile NFC technology, micro market kiosks:
- Record transaction information and provide updated inventory information in real time.
- Allow market owners to introduce special sale pricing, product bundling and upselling opportunities.
- Introduce new or featured products and display local business ads through digital signage.
- Can serve as a portal for company wellness loyalty programs, offering easy access for signups, rewards and promotion details.
A recent survey showed that nearly half of all office workers had only 30 minutes or less for lunch, and 80 percent said they would like the ability to purchase a nutritious meal or snack on company premises. Furthermore, employees in 83 percent of locations surveyed that were served by vending machines said they have already asked their bosses to help transform lunches from ho-hum to wholesome. Research shows that:
- 90 percent of employees care about the quality of the ingredients in their meals.
- People would make 2.3 visits to a self-service micro market daily.
- Customers would spend 33 percent more for a deli sandwich purchased at a micro market kiosk instead of an offsite deli counter, presumably for the convenience of staying onsite.
Reinvigorating workers in a variety of industries
While large, corporate office buildings with hundreds of employees and vendors are obvious places for micro markets to exist, there are plenty of hungry people working everywhere, and in buildings such as hotels, the customer base expands even further to include guests. Here are some other places innovative decision-makers can generate micro market revenue:
- Colleges and universities
- Apartment complexes
- Retirement homes
- Airports and other transportation hubs
- Community centers
Frank Olea Frank Olea is the CEO of Olea Kiosks Inc. Frank has been designing and manufacturing kiosk solutions for almost 20 years and has held numerous kiosk industry Board of Director positions. www