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Vending Machines – The Future of Post-COVID Catering?

Vending Machines – The Future of Post-COVID catering?
21 October 2020
 

The whole dynamic of workplace catering has been disrupted by COVID-19, so are vending machines the answer?

Aside from the new logistical issues that face workplace canteens, managing perceptions of hygiene and safety for employees is also critical. With office footfall at an all-time low, those few people attending their workplace might feel understandably reticent about their usual lunchtime habits.

There’s not only the potential for anxiety about visiting high street catering outlets to consider, but also the trustworthiness of in-house catering options too.

Might vending machines and other digital-first experiences provide the most comfortable solutions?

Dean Kennett, founder of Fooditude, a contract catering company, suggested back in summer 2020 that "no matter how delicious food is, people will not enjoy it if they’re concerned with the level of hygiene caterers put in place.”

He also told us that research amongst his own clients revealed that a third are very concerned about the safety of their food. 

 

"Vending is often overlooked as it's typically a slow-moving industry. Through the convergence of technology and modern food trends, Vinny has been able to re-instill consumer trust through our automated retail solution."

– Matt Kitchen

Co-Founder and CEO, Vinny

 

Automatic Vending Association says Vending Machines are a Safe Option

 

This concern for safety has led to vending machine companies thriving in this landscape, promoting it as a way of purchasing food whilst minimising contact with others.

The Automatic Vending Association (AVA) the trade body for the vending industry, has reiterated that vending machines remain “an open and safe channel for consumers to purchase food and beverages.” Their website states that “during the coronavirus outbreak, there is no increased risk of using vending machines for drinks and snacks.”

The association has provided extensive vending operator guidance and additional hygiene measures such as fully cleaning a machine after filling it.

 

A Touchless Experience – UV-C Sterilisation, Microbial Screens and Contactless Checkout

 

Vegan vending machine company Vinny has recently implemented a touchless experience on their machines, as well as other hygiene measures.

Each machine offers a touch-free checkout using QR codes – customers simply point their phone camera to the screen and are instantly directed to a website through which they can control the machine in real-time. They can then select products, view information, and checkout. There’s also an automated product retrieval flap, again reducing touchpoints in the purchasing experience.

Vinny has also implemented UV-C sterilisation light in the product chute – a UV-C module that exposes the product retrieval area constantly to the light, which destroys bacteria, achieving the highest possible hygiene standards. 

The touchscreens also have a 24/7 hydrophilic finish, which rejects droplets, a  feature that lasts the entire lifetime of the machine.

Commenting on post-COVID office catering, Co-Founder and CEO of Vinny Matt Kitchen said:

"In a post COVID world, a refined focus on health and workplace wellness is essential for any business looking to motivate their team. Vending is often overlooked as it's typically a slow-moving industry. Through the convergence of technology and modern food trends, Vinny has been able to re-instill consumer trust through our automated retail solution. 

“Although the element of human interaction has been removed, we have been able to personify our solution and brand by introducing customers to our clean machines on a first name basis.”

 

Mobile-First Experiences

 

Man on phone

Picture: a photograph of a person using a smartphone

 

Similarly, service provider Sodexo’s solution to the office catering problem has been developed with the consumer and their smartphone in mind. 

They have partnered with food technology experts Dynamify to support the implementation of digital retail and hospitality across its sites in the UK.

Sodexo’s new app will enable consumers to buy from its restaurants and retail outlets, or to access delivered-in options at the touch of a button, as well as ordering hospitality for meetings. Already successfully deployed in Sodexo’s Asian operations, the app is being rolled out across corporate sites and universities over the next 12 months.

The app allows personalised content and tailored promotions and will enable Sodexo to further support offer development and build loyalty. Crucially, it removes shared touchpoints and eliminates physical queuing as companies manage social distancing.

Julie Ennis, CEO of Corporate Services, Sodexo UK & Ireland said: “Using consumer-facing digital applications for on-site food orders and contactless payment for on-site retail locations is the smart way to limit infection exposure risks as we support our clients over the next few months, as well as building the flexible capabilities we need.”

Picture: a photograph of one of Vinny's vegan vending machines

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 21 October 2020

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