Connect Vending is re-defining itself as a ‘best-in-class’ unattended retailing provider of food and beverages. Over the last six years, the company has been at the forefront in the evolution of micro markets and now, with a base firmly established, Connect has recognised that there are business environments that may need a slightly different approach, if they are to satisfy the high expectations of on-site consumers.
Consequently, Connect has added commercial Smart Fridges to its arsenal of products and services. ‘The aim is to meet the niche needs of a segment of the UK market which has, until recently, has been reticent to upgrade from more traditional vending solutions by embracing micro market concepts’, Connect Vending MD Elyas Coutts told PV.
Connect’s commitment to innovation, together with its progressive approach to F&B services, has been rewarded. The company has secured its first commercial Smart Fridge customer. ‘We believe this may represent a ‘first’ for the region and if that’s true, it’s tremendously exciting for us.’ The installation will be in north-west London. It goes ‘live’ in May.
We’ve been hearing a great deal about Smart Fridges recently, but how do they work and what are the benefits? ‘Typically, fresh food was offered in the workplace in vending machines, designed with a cylindrical drum, with compartments contained within a large fridge. It’s an unnecessarily complicated vending design for what is essentially a fridge’, Elyas said.
‘Now, however, cashless payment technologies have opened the door – literally – to the development of commercial smart fridges, which offer an increased choice of products – up to 400 lines – in an easily viewable, easy to use unattended retail format. The additional benefit is that there’s a pre-authorisation stage, which enables a consumer to purchase and at the same time, adds a layer of protection against theft.
‘To use a smart fridge, consumers pre-authorise a contactless payment device by scanning it’, Elyas said. ‘The fridge then unlocks, enabling the customer to select the desired products, scan them, and then close the fridge. When the door closes, the deal is done. The smart fridge charges the device accordingly.’
Connect believes Commercial Smart fridges will play a leading role in changing the way B&I customers access the increasing range of F&B products that modern consumers demand. ‘Commercial smart fridges are different to fresh food vending machines’, Elyas said. ‘Critically, a key feature is the additional layer of transactional security that is provided in a format with which people are comfortable. The smart fridge requires pre-authorisation of a payment, followed by selection and subsequent payment.’
The added layer of security creates a sense of comfort for those client locations which have more fluid footfalls, such as agency staff and other visitors on site.
‘Smart Fridges are subtly different from other unattended retailing experiences, such as our DeliCafé Micro Market’, Elyas said. ‘However, these differences have immense implications for operators. The key benefit is, of course, the ability to expand the number of products offered for sale, particularly fresh food and cold beverage items. Traditionally, vending operators would decide against stocking these products in vending machines, due the lower vend volumes and shorter shelf life of fresh food. For many, it was seen as a commercially unattractive proposition.
‘Smart Fridges change that by bridging the gap between micro markets and traditional forms of fresh food vending,’ Elyas said. ‘They bring many of the benefits of micro markets to customers who do not have the on-site staff numbers required to justify the investment a full-scale micro market requires. That’s the reason why all of us at Connect Vending are looking forward to the immense opportunities incumbent in bridging that gap.’
More stories about Connect Vending on Planet Vending, HERE