Office Redesign Needs The Vending Operators' Advice

Posted On: 3/21/2017

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TAGS: Vending Times, Vending Times editorial, vending industry, coin-op, vending machine, coin machine business, office coffee service, vending machine operator, micro markets, Alicia Lavay, The Workplace of the Future, office design, modern breakrooms

Alicia Lavay, vending, Vending Times

As a trade magazine covering the vending, refreshment service and away-from-home amusement industry for more than five decades, we often are asked to identify emerging trends and consumer drivers. One theme that has become central to these inquiries might be called "The Workplace of the Future."

The National Automatic Merchandising Association's Coffee, Tea & Water conference highlighted the importance to today's managers of designing workplaces that provide convenient access to the amenities that "millennial" employees value, and the influence that large information technology companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple are having on the provision of those amenities, which include a variety of high-quality hot and cold beverages like coffees and teas.

Of course, a company identifying itself primarily as an "office coffee service" can provide coffee (and tea, hot chocolate, soluble soups, specialty flavored beverages and water) as well as brewing and serving equipment. Depending on the location's size and requirements, a vending and/or micromarket operator can offer different solutions. And an amusement operator can provide location-based entertainment (which those millennials also prize).

But part of creating the workplace of the future is changing the environment, reflecting the very different workflow of an information-based business when contrasted with the mid-century industrial model or the specialists-in-cubicles layout that followed. Managers thus are looking not only for a new approach to providing workplace refreshments and other amenities, but they also are turning to office designers. And those designers probably are not familiar with the nuts and bolts of dispensing equipment and its related utility and storage needs.

This is not a new problem. About 30 years ago, the National Coffee Service Association (now part of NAMA) started an office-design certification program for operators. This made sense: an operator receives a request for a proposal from the tenant of a suite in a new office building. The operator wants the business, but sees that there really is no provision for a breakroom, so the installers will have to work around cabinets with insufficient clearance over countertops, inadequate electrical outlets in the wrong places, and so on. Office designers were telling operators that they didn't know much about office refreshment needs and would be glad to know more. This prompted NCSA to initiate a program under which an office-design trade association composed a test of basic knowledge of the principles of construction, electrical wiring, plumbing and so forth. An operator could take this test and, if he or she passed it, become certified as an office design consultant.

That did a number of useful things beyond solving a specific problem For one thing, it resulted in certified operators' getting calls from the office designers with whom they'd worked, whenever the designer was about to remodel another office. This gave the operator an inside track for signing up the new tenant or tenants. For another, it gave operators a new source of information on the plans of attractive future client companies to move into, or expand in, the operator's market area.

Google took a bold step in reinventing the office environment as a place where employees are encouraged to take recreation breaks, and are lavished with free smoothies after working out at its onsite gym. What seemed like a vision isolated to attracting and keeping tech talent at the height of the "dot-com" boom is becoming more widespread throughout all industries and geographies.

This development offers possibilities for OCS and vending operators. Workplace refreshment providers need to recognize the valuable role they can play in helping drive the revolution, and the value of getting in on the ground floor at potential accounts by working closely with design firms.

So, how might operators can take advantage of this opportunity for workplace designers and refreshment providers to work together to tailor solutions for mutual clients based on the location's square footage, budget and desires?

NAMA explored "The Workplace Café of Today," at its 2016 Coffee Tea and Water conference in Nashville (and VT will publish a related feature in the next issue). The speaker, an executive of an international office design company, made pretty much the same argument as I've outlined above.

The most well designed contemporary workplaces can only live up to their vision when serviced by a top-notch food and coffee provider to ensure that the right products are available to satisfy the employees from facilities that always are fully stocked in a visually appealing way. I think it's time to revisit the idea of offering operators the chance to partner with architects and interior designers to the mutual benefit of everyone -- including the employees.