contactless payment, but there are also many healthy options available to incorporate in food provision. In addition, as an unattended mart with

a self-checkout kiosk, micro-markets offer employers a new and interesting alternative to the office canteen best suited to today’s hybrid a workforce operating flexible hours. “This level of technology in vending not

only shows that the industry is future proofing, but the industry is ready for the future where contactless interaction and customer safety is at the heart of the retail customer experience.

Laura Barwell, business development manager at VMC agrees that there will be new opportunities for vending to take advantage of as furlough comes to an end and many companies plan to bring more staff back in to the office. She comments: “Employers will definitely

still be looking for hygiene around payments for the foreseeable future, so machines that are equipped with contactless payment options will be in demand again. New hybrid home/office working

arrangements may mean that staff are not in five days a week anymore, and as a result it may not be viable to offer a full catering service all of the time, and in this scenario

vending machines can be utilised to ensure that food is still made available within working hours.” “The flexible nature of our cashless solutions makes it easier for companies to use vending to support their wider catering operations as people return to office working. Those more forward thinking may want to vary the contents of their machines, to support grab-and-go style lunches rather than just the usual snack and drink options. There are also opportunities to utilise our payment solutions in a positive way, like welcoming staff back with a free vend entitlement. It’s possible to set multiple tariffs and subsidies within our back office to suit exactly what the client needs.”

Chief executive of the Vending & Automated Retail Association David Llewellyn says: “Whilst I don’t believe we will continue working from home entirely, it is important that we recognise that the workplace is going to change. Going forward, we are going to see a much greater level of flexibility from employers, and this will likely have an impact on what services businesses choose to offer within the workplace, especially regarding catering and refreshment options. “As consumers grow more comfortable with cashless catering and other types of

retail technology, this also opens the door for more unattended retail markets, such as micro-market vending – a custom-designed vending market or mart with a self- checkout kiosk. The 2020 AVA census showed that there

are currently 200 new micro-markets in operation since last year, with around 320 now installed across the UK. “In a post-COVID-19 workplace, micro-

markets are likely to play a much greater role to provide refreshments, as there is likely to be less demand for the traditional catering or 24-hour canteens. This is where vending naturally becomes the ideal solution as it can cater for these smaller numbers of people effectively, at a much lower costs than having a fully staffed canteen. “Despite appearances, vending has always

been driven by technological advancements. The plain metal box people associate with vending has changed in significant ways over the years, from the addition of screens to provide enhanced product information, to cashless and even contactless technology. At present, almost half (47%) of all machines support cashless payments, which is a 235% increase in the last three years, according to the AVA’s 2020 census. Cashless payments are now also stretching further than just contactless card payments, as payments by smartphone devices have increased by 27% in the last three years. |


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