At the National Automatic Merchandising Association’s annual meeting in Las Vegas, the role of vending, coffee service and micromarket operators in assisting their clients to create workplaces “that meet the requirements of today’s businesses and employees”, was explored by Coca-Cola’s Julie Seitz in her keynote address.
In her speech she said that workplace design is evolving swiftly in response to the fast-changing environment. The trend today is more toward the “work café – the goal is an inviting environment, one that you’ll want to come to work in.” In concept, it is open, well lit and furnished in a manner that “encourages quick conversations during chance encounters.”. This trend could present a challenge to operators, but also offers great opportunity. The ‘work café’ can be a combination of an airport lounge and a something like a Starbucks, offering connectivity plus access to food and beverages.
The same trend may move conventional workplace cafeterias out of existence but it is expanding to outdoor spaces, and its foodservice dimension increasingly is inspired by contemporary commercial restaurants: “places where you can eat, plug in and work,” she summarised.
Today, the average worker has dramatically different communication styles, traditions, experiences and expectations. We used to go to the office to do our jobs; now, we can work anywhere we want to. The employer’s task is to convince employees to come to work. They want flexibility in where they work.
Approached imaginatively, this holds great potential for vending operators. Something to keep in mind when thinking about it is that it represents a turn away from the “telecommuting” future envisioned at the turn of the millennium. “In 2013, Yahoo! took away telecommuting, recognising that people together are more effective,” Seitz pointed out. “Creative people need face-to-face dialogue.”
A good starting-point for operators positioning themselves to take advantage of these developments is to recognise that more and more employers are looking for solutions. “Offer more robust food and beverage options,” she recommended. “And meet contemporary consumer attitudes by communicating with patrons through smartphones.” A more diverse workforce demands a wider range of options, and expects convenience. “Look at micromarkets,” she suggested. “Make it easier to buy from you”.
Vending and coffee service always have emphasised their roles in enhancing worker productivity and building morale. That role is becoming critical, and the future will belong to those who fill it best.