The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

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


Related Articles

Sodexo Embraces Carbon Labelling at 300 UK and Ireland Sites

As part of its sustainable catering plans, Sodexo is introducing carbon labelling on its menus. The new labels will show the carbon impact of a particular meal choice,...

 Read Full Article
Sodexo Signs New FM Contract With AstraZeneca

Sodexo has re-signed a five-year facilities management and food services deal with pharmaceutical and biotechnology company AstraZeneca. The companies have worked...

 Read Full Article
Sodexo Retains FM Contract With Wellington College in Berkshire

Sodexo has re-signed a ten-year soft FM contract with private school Wellington College in Berkshire. The contract is worth approximately £80 million and...

 Read Full Article
Catering Companies Prepare for World’s Largest Climate-Football Campaign

A national campaign will see more than 85 of the UK’s top football clubs promote plant-based burgers, pies and hotdogs. Between 2-5 February, the whole of the...

 Read Full Article
Sodexo Announces Year-On-Year Increase in Popularity of Meat-Free Meals

Across the 2.7 million meals sold in Sodexo’s UK and Ireland client sites in 2023, 11 per cent were vegan or vegetarian, an increase of one per cent from...

 Read Full Article
Sodexo Re-Signs Four Year Cleaning Contract With Clifton College

Sodexo has extended its existing FM deal with Clifton College in Bristol, adding cleaning and laundry services to the contract. The contract, which has a value of...

 Read Full Article
Record Year for Sodexo's Plant-Based Options

To mark Veganuary 2023, Sodexo has published its food sales data showing a year-on-year increase in the proportion of vegetarian and vegan meals sold across 476 of its UK...

 Read Full Article
Contract Caterer Fooditude to Feature in Google’s Sustainability Training

Fooditude, a London-based contract caterer, is to be featured in sustainability training developed by Google and The Planet Mark, for the UK Government’s Together...

 Read Full Article
Post-Pandemic Catering Solution Launched by Lolly

Vending machines and other digital-first catering solutions might hold the key to post-pandemic office catering. It’s Lolly, the digital EPOS and commerce...

 Read Full Article
The Future of Workplace Restaurants

Morag Freathy, Managing Director of Compass Business & Industry, looks at what workplace catering might look like in the offices of the future. Freathy...

 Read Full Article