Clarion Group: How Corporate Food Service Operators Are Dealing with New Convergence Systems

“Convergence is a term usually associated with communications, the blurring of lines between television, the internet, smart phones and the like.  Now convergence has come to corporate food service,” says Tom Mac Dermott, president of food service consulting firm Clarion Group.  “The line between staffed employee cafes and vending is being blurred with the emergence of the unattended food service option called micromarkets.”

The new concept provides fresh and packaged foods in a compact convenience store-style setting, but requires no attendant or cashier, Mac Dermott says.  Customers select their products from glass-front refrigerated display cases, shelves and racks, then pay for the purchases at a touchscreen kiosk, similar to those found at Home Depot and some supermarkets.

A surveillance camera monitors the space, discouraging pilferage.  Current operators say their pilferage loss is about 2%.

“A micromarket is designed for workplaces that are too small to support a staffed café and where vending is an inadequate solution,” he says.

The concept can supplement the corporate food service’s central dining center, Mac Dermott says.  “A company with its population spread among several buildings on a campus can install a micromarket in buildings with a population of 500 or fewer that are too far from the central dining center to be convenient to employees.”

““It could be useful in a company that has a population in evenings, overnight or on weekends, when the dining center is closed.  It also can replace the staffed company store or c-store, selling sundries and company-logo products in addition to light foods, snacks and beverages,” he adds.

Space requirements are minimal,. As little as a 20x20-foot semi-enclosed room or alcove is all that’s needed, enough for a two- or three-door refrigerated display case, shelving and racks for non-refrigerated products, a payment kiosk and surveillance camera, according to Mac Dermott.

“We’re recommending the concept to clients where it would be an appropriate solution,” he says.

The concept is gaining a niche in corporate food service.  There were a total of 2,642 micromarkets in operation at the end of 2012, up by 170% from 2011, according to industry reports.

“So far, independent vending companies that have fresh food commissaries and the national Canteen division of Compass Group are the ones promoting micromarkets,” Mac Dermott reports.  “Vendors say sales double when a micromarket replaces a bank of vending machines.  The low cost and ease of installation makes the option especially attractive to them.”

There’s nothing to prevent a company or its food service operator from installing a micromarket, supported from the corporate food service’s central kitchen instead of an outside commissary.

“The key for anyone who wants to include a micromarket in its corporate food service portfolio is to ensure the food offered is fresh, appealing and well packaged.  That means daily restocking and strict rotation of product,” he says.  “One or two customers having a bad experience will be enough to destroy acceptance and sales.  That’s where fresh food vending often is unsuccessful.  Customers don’t believe the food is fresh.”    

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About Clarion Group
Clarion Group is an consulting firm that advises companies, professional firms, colleges and universities, independent schools and institutions in the management, operation and improvement of  their in-house employee/student food services, catering, conference, lodging and related hospitality services throughout the U.S. and Canada.

For information, contact:
Tom Mac Dermott, FCSI, President
Clarion Group
PO Box 158, Kingston, NH 03848-0158
603/642-8011 or TWM@clariongp.com
Website: www.clariongp.com

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Contact Clarion Group

CLARION GROUP Food Service Consultants, P.O. Box 158, Kingston, NH 03848-0158

Phone: (603) 642-8011    Fax: (603) 642-7744    info@clariongp.com

Offering food service management consulting, hospitality services consulting, sustainable dining facility design.
Nationwide food service consultants.

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