Innovation is on the rise

Today’s retail environment can be significantly enhanced with digital technology for payments, monitoring of demand, and customer communications.

Not all of us “love” technology but in a swiftly changing world we do value speed and convenience so, if something is easy to use, we will use it more regularly.

Electronic payment systems have shown in many situations to boost revenue from vending machines – cashless, Apple Pay, credit/debit cards are all examples. Staff ID cards can have multiple uses, not just as a payment method but also a means to monitor transactions, which can then be linked to loyalty programmes to encourage increased buying habits.

Telemetry can capture consumer data and be used to offer users promotions, discounts and special offers and of course the vending machines can then become interactive, connected and smart.

Placing digital TV screens across the work sites and the use of social media to communicate with visitors and staff, are examples of good practices where catering teams can post details of relevant menus and offers and gather feedback on the quality of food and service.

We have specialists in our team that can advise on this challenging and frequently changing area, as it’s important to put in place the systems that are appropriate for a client’s workplace and that all parties can enjoy the benefits on offer.

Locker style vending

A new style of fresh food vending machines have been on show in Aberdeenshire, Scotland offering local produce to the community in “lockers”.

The company – Vending by JSR – has the contract to sell the Italian-built machines in the UK along with another simpler farm food vending machine by German company Roesler which was unveiled in the UK three years ago.

The Roesler machine is a multipurpose healthy vending machine used to sell eggs, organic food, vegetables and even jams and oatmeal.

The machines are said to have “dramatically increased sales” in every site they have been installed and proved a real hit with customers of all ages.

The machines take all payment systems and can be built chilled or not or a mixture of both.


Smart glasses for vending route drivers

A US based vending company claims that it has been able to reduce their route driver work time while improving inventory accuracy using “smart glasses” called RoutSight.

The vending company needed to replace their old route handhelds and realised they could replace them by switching to a wearable technology solution – the glasses allowed for more efficiency by being hand-free rather than still needing to hold a device to service a machine.

The glasses work by sending visual and audio messages to the person wearing the glasses, instructing them on which products to take from the van. The system then provides the driver with a heads‐up display which allows them to view product information while they load the machines. The driver can enter inventory counts and spoils using voice commands while their hands are free to load the machines. They also display visual notices and special requests, so the driver can make corrections as they are servicing the machine.

The company claims that the drivers that have switched to the glasses were able to save roughly half an hour per day after two weeks.  They added that: “Inventories in the machines improved immensely and this was quantified by the reduction in (inventory) ‘bring back’ on those routes and the increase in the fill percent in the machines.  Filling the machines accurately allowed us to achieve a 26% reduction in sellouts and over 25% reduction in bring backs.”

Wearing the glasses need some getting used to, but the majority of drivers felt comfortable after a couple of days training.  Apparently, there is an up front cost and a monthly fee, but perhaps this could be justified by the improvement claimed above and the time savings by the drivers.

3 hits for the Azkoyen Group


The Azkoyen Group has scooped three awards – Innovation, Best Machine Manufacturer and Best Table-top Machine – at the industry’s Gala Awards Ceremony that took place on 2nd October in Birmingham, UK.



It won in the category of “Best Machine Innovation” for Novara Proteins which incorporates the latest technologies of protein shake making, which the company claims “guarantees the perfect combination of ingredients, as well as the appropriate texture” and is aimed at the gym / sport centre market.  

This recognition is added to the ones already awarded in September by the British consortium AVS, which awarded the brand “Coffetek” (part of the Azkoyen Group) with Best Machine Manufacturer and the Best Table Top Vending Machine with the Vitro series.   

The successful Vitro series – designed mainly for offices and HoReCa establishments – covers a wide selection of models with different capacities, functionalities and processes of delivering drinks, from espresso or filter coffee to leaf tea infusions. They are smart looking machines with a smoked glass finish and brushed stainless steel.  

The Azkoyen Group has been pretty successful in winning awards, having been recognised by the “Vending Industry Awards” as the best provider six times in consecutive years.  

Micro markets – the future of vending?


There is no doubt that our food and drink culture has changed over the last decade and consumer expectations of both vending technologies and vended products have risen.



The relatively recent arrival of the “micro market” to the work place has provided the consumer with variety and convenience. A micro market is effectively a 24/7 unmanned self-checkout small shop, designed to offer a range of diverse fresh food and beverage products in a pleasant environment.

Thirst Link has seen some impressive examples of micro markets and how they have evolved over the years and, for some of our clients, they will be just the ticket. Each one can be tailored to a specific work environment, offering a highly flexible retail solution and, at the same time, the client will enjoy increased sales revenue and employee satisfaction, at decreasing operating costs.

They do away with the age-old question of how and what refreshments to provide a workforce out of hours, that is more appealing than an indifferent cup of coffee and a bag of crisps. Wasted working hours queuing at a nearby fast food store will also be a thing of the past.

From the articles written by our American cousins, micro markets (or “breakroom markets”) are revolutionising the vending and foodservice markets, or are they?

We know some UK operators have bought into the trend, but we haven’t seen the meteoric “rise and rise” of micro markets as they seem to be seeing in the States. Is the UK vending industry missing a trick here, or are we just slow to catch up?

Thirst Link on the look-out for what’s new for the HoReCa market

EVOCA has recently introduced two new machines for the HoReCa market which, in our opinion, look pretty smart.

The Krea Touch is indeed a good-looking machine, created by “a subtle fusion of decorative lighting, chrome and black gloss”. It has a user-friendly interface and a 7” HD touch screen shows the consumer a comprehensive drinks menu, as well as allowing on-screen branding and customisation. It also has the capability to play videos, both in stand-by mode and to accompany specific drinks selections.

When things go wrong, the machine has a built-in wi-fi feature which, when connected to the Internet, can be set to send an email alert if there is a machine fault.

EVOCA’s second new machine is the Necta Kalea, which the company is marketing as their answer to having “an authentic, Italian coffee experience, complete with fresh milk”.

As with the Krea, the machine appears to be both user and operator friendly and it too boasts a 7” HD touch screen and video capability.

It had to happen….

It was just a matter of time before AI arrived on the vending / coffee bar scene. US based robotic coffee shop start up “Café X”  arrived in San Francisco with their second generation robot barista kiosk.

The standalone kiosk can serve multiple drink sizes.  The articulating robotic arm carries out its barista duties behind a large clear screen so customers can see their drink being made and don’t feel they are at a vending machine.


Drinks are ordered through a customer’s phone or via the tablet next to the kiosk. The “human touch” is provided by a member of staff always in attendance to help people with the ordering process, or to advise on the drink choices available.

Café X plan to operate these machines in airports, commercial buildings and other high-traffic areas.


AI turns Lisa into Vicki

ViaTouch Media’s “smart-shelf” vending machine arrived in the States back in April called “Lisa”.  But not for long, as it’s now been renamed “Vicki”.  So what is “Vicki”?

Vicki stands for ViaTouch Intellishelf Cognitive Kinetic Interactions – wow!  The high-tech vender is equipped with smart shelves that “know” which products customers take, and also if they put any back. The items they retrieve appear on the machine’s display, along with corresponding prices. Customers are charged for their merchandise after the door closes.

Rather like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s intelligent personal assistant Alexa, Vicki can personally greet patrons; they can ask her questions, and she can answer them. If a customer asks Vicki which snacks in the machine are gluten-free or organic, for example, she will tell them. In addition, through visual AI, Vicki can turn off the lights for all products that don’t meet the requirement.

The virtual assistant can also suggest special offers and alert shoppers to promotions and the company say she can “cozy up to customers on a more personal level” by tying into their social media platforms.

Vicki can ask patrons for feedback on the products they select and those they put back. During the process, the machine can collect and analyse data about how they shop, and share it with brands and retailers. The machine features directional speakers, so only the person standing in front of it hears the sounds. Also new, since the machine’s first rendition as Lisa, is the addition of eye-scanning technology as an option for patrons to open the machine’s door by authorising payment, along with thumbprint biometrics, their smartphones or credit cards. Another new feature has blind patrons in mind: a product the customer selects vibrates, as a way to guide them to it.

That’s one smart vending machine.

Digital checkouts

A new type of “digital checkout” is available in the States which is an all-in-one kiosk that allows customers to order and pay for freshly prepared foods in advance, either through a website, app or in person at the kiosk, and pick them up minutes later.

A cashier can man it during peak hours, or it can stand alone as a self-service kiosk during off-peak times. Five models are available, designed to fit differing location needs, and each is integrated with all-in-one software that eliminates the need for separate programs to track inventory and sales.

The company predicts Digital Checkouts will do for corporate cafes what micromarkets did for vending.

Cloud-based vending system

Gimme Vending, based in the States, has launched a cloud-based system that instantly delivers data exchange data from a vending machine to a company’s headquarters as the technician completes a vending machine service.

The plug-and-play solution “is poised to transform the vending industry”, claims the company, as it easily integrates with existing vending management systems and turns traditional vending machines into data-producing “smart” machines on demand.

This allows vending companies to track what’s happening in the field in real time, without the need for end-of-day downloading, synchronising or hand-keying, and the data produced enables clients clear visibility into the performance of each and every machine.

Deployment is easy, a Gimme Key is simply installed into each vending machine’s DEX board once and is left there. Data is then communicated wirelessly from the Key to the Gimme Drive app via Bluetooth Low Energy during each service visit. The data instantaneously uploads from the app to the Gimme Vending cloud.