Cafeteria Management Insights

Self Service Cafeterias: Micro Markets that Offer Employees Fresh Food 24×7

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Self Service Cafeterias: Micro Markets that Offer Employees Fresh Food 24×7

Corporations that want to offer a variety of delicious fresh food options to employees at any time of day are taking advantage of self service cafeterias and micro markets– mini non-staffed versions of their corporate cafeterias.

Self service cafeteria check-outs have been around for years, are still gaining in popularity, and continue to see advancements that enable people to save time. The micromarket technology streamlines standing in line to make purchases, by allowing individuals to scan, pay, and bag their own purchases.

Mini markets contain fresh foods from the cafeteria food service company and are monitored and kept full on a daily basis.

Mini markets are managed individually by location, offering a lot of flexibility to what foods are available. For example, they can contain fresh sandwiches from the cafeteria, but also special requests.

Greg Coy, Café Services’ district manager of corporate dining said, “We can put in gourmet breads, pretzel rolls, and ciabatta rolls, for instance.”If someone asks to have specific sandwiches stocked before the end of the day or for the weekend, Greg said, “We’re able to make them and put them in the market before we leave.”

Café Services’ staff checks on the markets every day. Each station is generally accountable for their portion of the mini market. For instance, the deli person will go over and see how many sandwiches are needed. The salad bar person will check to see how many pre-made salads need to be made. At the end of the day, the chef will prepare the pre-made entrees. Greg said, “We’re putting hot entrees in these markets. At the end of the day, we can have lasagna or baked stuffed shells or chicken stir fry, for example. We prepare these items, put them in the microwaveable containers, and they go right into the mini market’s fridge.”

Portion sizes of meals are identical to what is served in the cafeteria.

Another example of flexibility in food options includes offering employee-preferred snack foods and candy. Greg said, “We stock mini markets with Reese’s® and Snickers® and regular candy and can offer more of a variety. People can ask us to stock certain items, like Junior Mints®, which aren’t always available in a vending machine.”

Photo of self service cafeteria kiosk.

Photo of self service cafeteria kiosk.

Self Service Cafeterias

The first self service cafeteria micromarket that Café Services managed went into Amazon Robotics in North Reading, MA. Greg said, “We needed to give them an alternative to standing in line because the cafeteria is so small.” With 300 employees filtering into the cafeteria at lunch, the line quickly became long and time consuming.

Greg said, “We put a mini market out in the seating area and it allows the same fresh food with the convenience of checking out by yourself.”If the line is long or the employee is simply in a hurry or only wants one or two items, they can go to the mini market. The employees know they can get the same fresh entrée, sandwich, or salad from the micromarket and avoid a checkout line.

Photo of beverage vending in corporate cafeteria micro market.

Photo of beverages in micro market.

Customizable Micromarket Cafeteria Fits into Any Space

With a customizable size, employee micro markets can fit anywhere. They can be used as an addition to a corporate cafeteria or be the only fresh food option if a facility is too small to have a full-service cafeteria.

Of Amazon Robotics’ two employee self service cafeteria micro market kiosks, one is next to the cafeteria and one is on the other side of the building – each is 12’x12’.

The one mini market at a large electric power industry company in New York state, is 30’x40’ and is in the dining area next to its cafeteria. This company wanted to free up the cafeteria line during the lunch hour and also offer employees fresh products after hours.

Photo of self service checkout in corporate cafeteria mini market.

Photo of self service checkout in corporate cafeteria mini market.

Greg said, “We’re able to customize for whatever size is needed for any client.” He noted that it’s common for vending companies that offer mini markets to generally only have one size to offer and it’s up to the client to make it fit – or do without. Greg said, “We say, tell us what you want and we’ll make it work.”

Micro Market Self Service Cafeteria Payment Options

Similar to self-service kiosks at stores such as Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Hannaford, and so on, mini market checkouts enable an individual to purchase one or more items without assistance. Employees simply select an item, or items, scan the UPC code(s), and make payment with a credit card, with a prepaid card, with a microcard (those small tags kept on keyrings), or with biometrics (a thumbprint). Accounts are managed online, so an individual can easily track their expenditures and create a spend limit if they are on a budget.

Mini markets are managed location by location for displaced items. Greg said, “We do have instances where someone picks up a Snickers bar, says ‘oh no’, and puts it in the Reese’s box. Our areas are small enough that we can manage the inventory and the location.”

Micro Market Kiosks Encourage a Healthier Lifestyle

Photo of fresh salads in a company cafeteria micro market.

Photo of fresh salads in a company cafeteria micro market.

Since the micromarket foods are similar as to what is offered in the corporate cafeterias at these locations, employees are able to get locally sourced foods such as fresh fruit, fruit cups, and whole fruit. Baked goods are made on premise – fresh.

Breakfast foods are items such as bagels with cream cheese, muffins, pastries, OJ, apple juice, cranberry juice, and bottled water. Greg said, “The New York location has premade breakfast sandwiches in a nice wrap. They get sold in the cooler and can be heated up in a microwave.”

The refrigerator (or cooler) contains a variety of pre-made hot meals in microwave containers; a large variety of salads such as tossed garden, chef, Caesar, and country harvest. Greg said, “We stock sandwiches such as regular turkey, ham, and roast beef to boursin cheese with roast beef on ciabatta, pretzel rolls – really whatever the managers and people can come up with.”

A freezer holds a variety of ice cream treats.

Café Services packages their own food options and creates their own UPC labels for each item.

Greg said, “We try to put the condiments in with the product, so if you get the bagel, the cream cheese is in the package, with your butter.” An option such as peanut butter is sold in a small cup as a separate item.

Bundled deals can be an option, too. As an example, Greg said, “If you buy a sandwich, chips, and soda, and ring all three items into the self-service kiosk at once, you’ll get a reduced price.”

By managing a mini market along with a corporate dining room, Café Services can run different promotions. For instance, Greg said, “At Amazon, they want to be able to move the product, so on Fridays at 5:00 all fresh food is marked down 50%. So, if you’re in on the weekend, or 6:00 Friday night and you want to grab some dinner, all the fresh food is half off. Or, every second Tuesday we can make the bags of chips 25 cents. We have flexibility.”

Micro Market Companies Provide Onsite Training

Photo of cafe micro market kiosk poster.

When mini markets are installed at a facility, the micro market company, in this case 3 Squared Market, has someone onsite on opening day to train employees as they approach the self-checkout kiosks. There are also 3’x6’ banners beside these micromarkets with complete instructions, including how to reach online help, if the need arises. Café Services’ employees are also available to assist during cafeteria hours.

Micromarket Food Service Increases Food Sales

Photo of micro market food service items.

Since November of 2015, Amazon Robotics has increased food sales about 10% with its two cafeteria mini markets. One employee mini market is next to the cafeteria, the other, installed in 2016, is on the other side of the facility. That employee mini market is 100% wireless. Greg said, “People use an app on their phone to scan the product. They cash out and make their payment. It’s pretty slick.”

Café Services partnered with the electric power industry company in May of 2017. Along with cafeteria food sales increasing, the employee micro market has boosted food sales by about 13%.

Like being able to fit a mini market into any space, there isn’t any minimum number of employees needed in order for a company to benefit from offering an onsite mini market. It is truly an amenity to employees and can be extremely useful to companies with night-shift employees, as those employees can utilize the company perk of the onsite dining program.

Micromarkets enable companies to offer all employees the convenience of getting fresh product at any hour.

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