States and cities have begun lifting stay-at-home restrictions, and many micro market customers are headed back to the office. Social distancing will remain the norm for the foreseeable future, which means facilities managers will be evaluating—and likely making significant changes to—office layouts to mitigate the threat of coronavirus exposure. Break rooms will likely be one of the areas that employers will want to make as efficient and comfortable as possible for their workforce.
Micro market operators should be proactive, both by determining how to best work within new office floor plans and by preparing for possible changes in micro market design itself. To ensure the safety and comfort of customers, operators should do the following:
1. Overcommunicate and stay flexible.
When in doubt, it’s better to overcommunicate through challenging times.
Micro market operators should outline for customers specific actions they’re planning to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. They also should be open to adopting additional measures their customers request. Some customers may be considering implementing changes in their offices that could impact your operations, such as one-direction hallways and staggered shifts.
Companies that previously prioritized sustainability may turn to single-use items. Design firm Perkins & Will, for example, has encouraged employers to request that outside caterers only provide individually packaged items and disposable servingware. Micro market operators might be asked to do the same.
Operators should offer their customers a fact sheet of best practices for using the micro market. That way, employees returning to the office will know what to expect and what to look forward to seeing in the break room. Just be sure to update it regularly and have peers review it, both to gather additional perspectives and to catch any typographical errors.
2. Enable social distancing and encourage hygiene.
Technology provides several options for micro market operators to encourage good hygiene and social distancing. Hand sanitizer stations, trash cans, and food and beverage dispensers can all be automated and contactless. Operators should consider using these in their micro markets. Among other recommendations, the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) advises micro market operators to meet with customers at their location to discuss adding contactless hand sanitizer stations near the micro markets.
Operators also should prioritize expediting circulation through the break room—especially at congestion points—so customers can keep a safe distance from each other.
Perkins & Will also suggests that new areas for prepackaged foods may need to be created to help prevent lines from forming. Micro market operators may want to consider offering customers a digital menu of food and beverage products that are offered in the market so customers can get in and out quickly.
3. Stay aware of measures other operators and customers are taking.
As customers consider what comes next for their office space, micro market operators can be proactive and plan for different situations that could occur. This might include increased work-from-home options for employees, staggered shifts to reduce the number of people in the office at any given time or even dramatic differences in office layouts.
Operators should follow industry news closely so they can remain indispensable partners to their customers. Paying attention to what other operators, foodservice companies, and other businesses are doing can shed light on appropriate next steps.
Operators also may want to consider adding services, such as carrying expanded grocery items or hand sanitizers. VendingMarketWatch.com has a dedicated COVID-19 channel, as do other industry news sources like NAMA and the International Food Manufacturers Association.
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic worldwide has immensely changed the course of the convenience services industry and made social distancing a top priority. Operators should be mindful of social distancing needs and continue to manage their accounts with the highest standards of sanitization, food safety, excellent customer service, and teamwork. While the market might appear totally different, there are still common values to which micro market operators should adhere.
Looking for more ways to help customers and their employees practice social distancing? Consider adopting these best practices.