The Supply Chain And How It Effects Your Local Break Room

The COVID-19 Pandemic has created a large disruption in the supply chain that is being felt across the world. Restarting a high-demand global economy after a recession has been clunky and jerky like a sputtering old car.  

So many factors have combined to make this issue go deeper and last longer than first expected. There are many full containers sitting in port, and it will take months before this bottleneck works its way back into a normal rhythm. Another factor causing this disruption is the lack of personnel and getting people back to work. Many companies have also adopted new operational processes for social distancing and other COVID protocols that are less efficient. Add other major items to the mix, like the shortage of automobile chips, and you have a perfect storm. 

What has changed in the world of vending, micro markets, and coffee services? 

First, product availability has been a major issue. Many of our manufacturers have run out of popular brands and can’t keep up with demand. One day we will receive an item and on the following delivery, we are shorted. The manufacturers have not been forthcoming about whether the outage is a short-term or long-term issue. If we know it to be a short-term issue, we wait for the product to return; however, if the shortage is more than a couple of days, we can replace the item with a different one. A sudden move to a new item has also created shortages of the new item. This can cause empty spirals or columns.

We’ve also had several scheduled deliveries canceled because our suppliers didn’t have enough drivers to make all their deliveries.  Some of their drivers were making multiple runs but were unable to finish the week because they had already met their drivable hours for the week.

For flavored beverages that don’t have a strong brand preference, we’ve worked to keep the flavor alive by buying the flavor from whichever manufacturer has the flavor in stock.  When selecting an orange soda, our customers may receive Orange Crush, Orange Sunkist, or Orange Fanta. Our goals have changed and now we just try to get our customers some type of orange soda. There are many other beverages where we have had to make similar substitutions:  Gatorade vs Powerade, Minute Maid Lemonade vs Brisk Lemonade, Schweppe’s Ginger Ale vs Seagram’s Ginger Ale, 7 Up vs Sprite, and the list goes on.

There are other low-volume beverage flavors that the bottlers have just eliminated, so they can focus on their core items and the items that have higher profit margins.  Whether or not these flavors return is yet to be determined.

One of our major distributors has openly shared their in-bound rates and shockingly, they are only receiving about 72% of the items they order. This forces A.H. to change out candy, snack, and K-Cup items to provide what’s available.

Our commissary has also been juggling our menu due to product availability. Certain meats become unavailable or their price doubles overnight. We offered a wide variety of breads and tortillas, and now these manufacturers and bakeries have reduced their offerings to focus on the core items. Currently, it is difficult to find pesto or tomato tortillas and specialized breads and buns, i.e., pretzel buns. Some of the popular, supplemental food items like Big AZ, Tyson, or Lunchables have been getting substituted with less popular items due to lack of inventory.

Code sensitive items like dairy were having issues as schools had unpredictable start dates and attendance levels. School meal trends were off, as many students were eating in the classrooms to allow for social distancing. This created one of two scenarios for us. We either couldn’t get enough milk, yogurt and juices, or the codes were shorter than we normally receive. 

Finally, the equipment and parts themselves are more difficult to obtain. If you are hoping to have new equipment installed, the timeline will be extended. As discussed earlier, parts and equipment sit in containers, so demand is much higher than current supply.

How does this affect my break room?  

Many Operators, like A.H., strive to provide an excellent customer experience. Even with all the supply chain challenges, our Team is resilient and works through these issues. We have gone through great measures to keep our points of sale full and uninterrupted. However, based on availability, we may not always have the most popular items, a column may be empty, or a different brand of the same flavor may be delivered. 

We’re very fortunate to have great customers that have been patient with product changes and outages. We’re all in this together, so being flexible and going back to some basics is what our current situation requires. Soon, the variety of offerings will go back to normal…a time when an Orange Crush will be an Orange Crush.

Micro Markets Continue To Grow

Micro Markets are set up in break rooms and provide beverages, snacks, and food to employees. An employee simply selects items from reach-in coolers, reach-in freezers, snack racks, or shelving units. Once customers have their desired items, they check out at the unattended kiosk by scanning the items’ bar codes and then pay for them right at the kiosk.

Micro Markets have been around for approximately ten years.  When they made their debut, many people thought that choosing items from an open market and then paying for them at a kiosk was an interesting idea but would never launch. There were many perceived hurdles early on: credit cards, reward cards, unattended/ self-checkout kiosk, honesty, FIFO, etc. We had a very difficult time placing our second market and had to convince the customer that we were fully committed to making this unfamiliar concept work. Our first market, however, was a very easy placement. At A.H., we set it up in our own break room to use as a showcase and to familiarize ourselves with its nuances.

Enhancing The Office Break Room

As time marched forward, the micro markets’ presentation, variety, healthier product selection, and overall positive customer experience propelled them into many of our customers’ employee breakrooms. Vending machines still have their place and are needed in many instances, but more and more clients want the open market feel. Comparing vending machines to micro markets is like purchasing a cup of coffee through a drive-through window versus going into the coffee shop to buy it.  The drive-through window is quick and convenient, but the coffee shop provides a great experience and allows you to see the wide variety of items offered. 

When you first walk into a break room that has a micro market, you will notice the open and inviting retail atmosphere that a market creates. Brightly lit coolers, well-merchandised products, attractive graphics, and promotional monitors immediately create an interactive feeling. 

With the increased variety in a market, there is generally something for everyone. The overall number of beverage and snack offerings from respective manufacturers has increased greatly. While soda is still popular, functional drinks continue to gain market share. Whether it is energy, antioxidants, or other healthy supplemental ingredients, these new-age drinks have a wide fan base. Healthier snacks have also come a long way, and A.H. offers many delicious, guilt-free items. We also provide over-the-counter medicines, safety equipment, and separate individual salad dressings so customers can enjoy crisp salads with their favorite dressing. 

Full-Service Office Program

The kiosk is connected to the internet, so A.H. can see real-time sales.  We know exactly what to bring the next day and can quickly observe emerging trends. If a refund is needed, this connectivity allows us to view transactions, confirm the refund, and apply it to your account.  Lost market cards that are registered can also have funds moved to new cards. Just notify us and we will move your funds from one card to a new card.

Our customers can use an App to easily make purchases.  Hold your phone to the scanner and the transaction will be completed. You can view your account from your app or by going online. Your account will provide purchase history, promotions index (buy 4, get the fifth free), reward points, and your balance. One of the most underrated features is the automatic re-load setting.  When funds go below a certain level, additional funds are added to your market card account from your designated credit card, and an email confirmation is sent to you. 

Micro Market cards are provided to our customers, and they are used to store value on them. Purchasing from your micro market card or from the app is quick with the added bonus of earning promotions and reward points at the same time. 

Micro Market Solutions

Cameras used for customer compliance also adds breakroom security.  Several times we have been asked to look for other incidents that occurred in the break room. Surveillance will offer some safety assurances, but we only access it when needed. 

Micro Markets use less energy than typical vending and can save on energy costs to assist companies with their LEED Program. Efficient, LED lighting accompanied by low voltage coolers creates a green footprint.

Micro Markets are very reliable. Most of the transactions occur with payment cards: credit, debit, or stored value cards. Even though markets can accept cash, coins are not an option. Kiosks will not accept nor payout coins……a major source for vending service calls.  It does not happen often, but with micro markets you won’t need to worry about products hanging up or drawers not opening as with vending machines.

Finally, Micro Markets have few to no touch points when making a purchase. This will give you peace of mind and complete a great micro market experience. 

On-Site Food Services, A Great Employee Benefit!

In previous blogs, we’ve discussed some excellent office amenities like coffee services, water services, pantry services, micro-markets, sparkling water units, and cold brew, nitro coffee machines. Today, we’re going to discuss one of the top amenities a company can offer their employees – on-site food services.

A.H. Dining Services is a premier food service operator that tailor makes programs to fit its client’s needs. The times of operation, the menu, pricing, payment options, and many other features for on-site food services can be customized to achieve company goals.

What Does a Full-Service Food Management Company Do?

What does a full-service management company do for its clients? Full service, food service operators will assist in the concept, design, and build-out work for your dining area. We secure health permits while maintaining operational health, sanitation, and safe procedures.  We provide and support a team that will offer a high level of professional food service best practices. They will be well trained, friendly, and ready to serve your employees. We use a top-quality supplier network from which we order, receive, and maintain fresh inventory for the operation. Menus are carefully planned and supported by chefs and cooks that have culinary degrees and expertise in cooking. Orderly record-keeping and financial statements are provided each month for client approval. Eco-friendly, green initiatives are coordinated to support and emphasize a reduce, renew, and recycle culture.

Most commonly, food service operations provide breakfast and lunch offerings in the workplace with all the beverages you would find in a restaurant.  They are well-received by management as these in-house services get people to work and keep them there through the course of the day. With such a great value proposition, this benefit will also help to recruit and retain highly sought-after and talented employees.

Maximize Employee Break Time

An employee’s break time can be maximized with either pre-packaged grab-and-go items or customized online orders which are placed ahead of time and prepaid through our app. Online orders can be managed and delivered to various areas in the building or designated cubicles.  Otherwise, items can be easily picked up in the cafeteria or from a secure thermal locker.

Another great benefit of having food service personnel on-site is that they can provide catering for meetings and special events. Custom menus can be created, or Clients can choose from standard options that include entrees, veggie trays, meat and cheese trays, fresh baked cookies, etc. Recently, we began offering individually packaged items as the pandemic created a high demand for added protection.

The Future of Industrial Food Service

The days of the old cafeteria line with an industrial food service look are gone. Traditional food service operations are being refreshed with new, touchless, hybrid layouts. The design and cabinetry are warm, inviting, and stylish to capture a similar ambiance to the most popular retail establishments. This combined with name brand, product offerings like Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ, etc. will make a favorable impression on your employees. Some of the hybrid layouts offer barista bars, delis, and demonstration cooking modules. After the kitchen has closed, the pay stations can be converted to 24-hour, self-check-out kiosks to create a convenience store atmosphere.

An on-site, food service program will make your company stand above the competition. Employees will be happier and more productive. Collaboration is most likely found in an environment where employees can gather and converse around great food and beverages. Contact A.H. to get the process started for this great company benefit.

Where to Shop for Office Break Room Snacks and Supplies

There are many different places for people to order coffee and breakroom supplies – just Google what you are looking for and you will come across an almost infinite number of sites.  You can drill down on products and find their prices, payment options, delivery terms, and more. Finding all the products in your break room, however, may require lengthy research and buying from several different sites.

Two things to remember:
1) time is money (TI$)
2) while products can be commoditized, great service cannot be. More often than not, great service will save you more money than shopping for the lowest prices. Below outlines areas where a full-service provider will save you money:

How to Encourage Employees to Return to Work

Many employees are finding it difficult to return to their workplace after working from home for so long. Working from home may have saved people hours daily just by foregoing the routine of getting ready in the morning and commuting to and from work. Old habits and the time spent going into work were most likely replaced by new habits and the time saved by staying at home.

SINGLE CUP BREWERS: K-CUPS VS PODS VS PACKETS

With so many options for brewing coffee in the workplace, it can be difficult to choose which coffee solution is the best for your office. Traditional drip brewers are still widely used in many break rooms but single-cup machines are a very popular choice as well.

WHY CHOOSE SINGLE-CUP BREWERS?

Traditional drip brewers are an economical way to provide a pot of coffee for employees, but there are some limitations. Most offices only provide one blend of coffee for their drip brewers. Coffee brewed into pots can taste burnt if it sits on the warming plate for a long period of time, and coffee brewed into thermal carafes will eventually cool down, leading to a lukewarm cup of coffee later in the day.

Creating a Snack Station in the Office

Office snack programs have changed through the years. Over ten years ago, Vending used to be the standard approach to offering snacks to employees. It is neatly contained in a box and you could subsidize the pricing in order to offer your employees reduced prices. We still have many customers that like this solution as vending itself has evolved. Vending machines accept credit cards, wallet payments or cash, and there are several apps currently entering the market that will allow for touchless transactions. Products offered in vending machines now have the calorie count printed on the front of the package. Additionally,  prepaid cards can be used to discount the price while generating loyalty points that convert to cash. Through our GlobalConnect solution, we also offer many product promotions – Buy four and get the fifth one free.

Setting Up Your Office Coffee Station

An office’s coffee program has the ability to inflate morale and help communicate a company’s culture by showing appreciation for its employees. It is reasonable to say that the decisions required to set up an office coffee program are important and need careful discernment. Many of the following items need to be considered:

  • What type of coffee machine best suits your office? 
  • Do you have the appropriate amount of space, power, and water in your breakroom? 
  • Does your office like a particular coffee or does it prefer a variety of blends?
  • What type of allied products (creamer, sweeteners, teas, cups, plates, etc.) will your office provide?
  • What is your office’s coffee service budget?
  • What services are provided by the service company and which of them do they charge extra for?
  • Who will be responsible for cleaning and maintaining the coffee brewers? 
  • How will the supplies be replenished – will one of your employees order the products or will the coffee service company handle the inventory?
  • Does your company have a green initiative?

As you can see, there is much thought and preparation that goes into choosing an office coffee service program; however, all these collective decisions make your company’s coffee program successful, tailor-made for your employees. Let’s walk through each of the questions above to help you through this process.

Apps for Office Vending & Break Rooms in 2021

It has been a wild 2020, to say the least. Many of today’s socially acceptable mannerisms were not prevalent or even around a year ago. To name several, we are now social distancing, wearing masks, zooming, self-quarantining, and touching elbows to greet one another. With so many changes come new solutions and ideas. 

As many essential workers have been at the office and remote personnel begin to return to work, what new challenges will the workplace face?  How will people socialize, collaborate, and take breaks together? At work, it’s important to not only take the right steps to prevent the spread of COVID for individuals, but also for workgroups. Sending an entire workgroup home has the potential to shut down a company.

For the sake of this article, let’s focus on the break room. Many break rooms are small and have different touchpoints. Some people will use this area to make a quick cup of coffee, while others might spend their entire lunch break there.

How Do I Get Pepsi or Coca-Cola into My Break Room?

The battle between blue versus red is not only found in politics but has also had a long-standing history between the two iconic soda brands, Pepsi and Coca-Cola. These two beverage companies have been competing for well over 100 years as they were founded in 1893 and 1886 respectively. Pepsi was created in a drug store and was originally called Brad’s Drink. Coke was created by a Pharmacist who initially named the drink Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. Obviously, some rebranding and marketing was necessary to help both of these start-up companies.

In 1975, Pepsi launched The Pepsi Challenge and through blind taste testing, consumers chose which cola they preferred – Pepsi or Coke. Consumers’ tastes seemed to be shifting more towards Pepsi’s sweeter taste, so in 1985 Coke reacted by launching New Coke which was later renamed Coke 2 in 1992. 

New Coke’s sweeter formula failed, and consumers wanted their original Coke back. Coke reintroduced it, and that is why it received its new name – the name we call it today, Coca-Cola Classic.