Hospital catering: Vending machines and new technology

How vending technology is evolving to meet the needs of hospital staff, visitors and patients

Vending technology is moving on in leaps and bounds

In the past, vending was considered by many as something of a Cinderella sector, and some might argue that, for years, it was purely a functional provision for distress purchases - one that was caught in a teabreak time warp.

Old-school vending conjured up images of tired and often temperamental machines hidden away in gloomy corners of the building offering an uninspiring selection of refreshment staples.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and vending machine technology, customer engagement, and refreshment options have enjoyed a quiet revolution pioneered by entrepreneurial independents which have taken on the corporate big boys with a whole new approach to vending facilities for healthcare employees, patients, and visitors.

Today’s vending options are beginning to respond to workplace aesthetics, and healthier and more-varied dietary requirements.

Increasingly, a small band of vending professionals is introducing innovation through technology: applying the latest technological developments to offer a customer- focused vending experience that’s relevant to contemporary lifestyles, dietary demands, and personal preferences.

As a result, specifiers are incorporating new-generation, smart vending solutions into the specification of new builds, refits, and refurbishments alike throughout the healthcare buildings sector.

Vending machines have emerged from the shadows of cluttered corridors and are now viewed as a positive ‘perk’ for employees and a valuable asset for the site visitor experience.

Of course they also represent a healthy revenue stream for the host organisation, so it pays to provide a selection of refreshment options that will sell well on site and appeal to the changing tastes of employees and visitors.

There’s increasing demand among healthcare providers to reflect the move towards healthy eating options that’s encouraged by the Government’s health promotion campaigns.

With this in mind, vending visionary, John Broderick, managing director of national family firm, www.brodericks.co.uk, developed the Broderick’s Better For You concept – a bespoke vending solution that reflects popular demand for a healthier diet.

This concept has taken off among many healthcare providers who have embraced the need to provide their staff with sustaining snacks that are better for their health than the sugar-drenched confectionary of yesteryear.

Since the launch of the Broderick’s Better for You concept, many healthcare employers have led by example in their employees’ snack provision by supporting Government health promotion initiatives in their vending selection choices.

This move also accommodates the growing interest in special dietary requirements, for example, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options; again showing how new-generation vending is responding to society’s dietary demands.

The potential health issues faced by shiftworkers are well documented, so healthier options are provided by enlightened and in-touch healthcare sector employers as a means of helping their out-of-hours staff to address this challenge, too.

Striking a balance in the offering is important, with healthy options working well for many companies together with a more-traditional sweet and savoury selection for more-conservative tastes.

Touch-screen technology, a revenue stream for the healthcare provider, and various payment options are all key improvements

Smart vending

Smart vending machines with their interactive advertising screens and touch-screen technology are being used imaginatively as style statements and focal points in themselves, as part of the overall interior design.

Broderick’s has taken technological innovation one step further by developing Media Vend: its own smart screen point-of-purchase advertising channel, which enables vending brands to synch their advertising campaigns with social media announcements, promotions, and seasonal product offerings.

The lively advertising channel’s outputs create visual appeal at point of purchase and, again, assist in revenue generation for the organisation housing the machine.

While siting of the vending machines in the 1970s and 1980s was usually just somewhere out of the way close to a plug point; today’s smart vending machines are now taking centre stage in attractive break-out areas and areas of high footfall such as outpatient waiting rooms, foyers, and receptions.

Striking a balance in the offering is important, with healthy options working well for many companies together with a more-traditional sweet and savoury selection for more-conservative tastes

With new technology in the most up-to-date machines, the interiors are as glossy as the facades.

Hardware that has hygiene at its fore is vital: because in vending, hygiene is often a hidden consideration, but that doesn’t mean it is any less important.

Innovation through technology has also enabled organisations to offer employees and visitors the latest in pioneering payment options.

While the Broderick’s estate was upgraded ahead of schedule for the recent introduction of the new £1 coins; there’s a growing demand for cashless payment options and forward-looking vending companies have also factored this trend into their machine capabilities.

John Broderick is keen to accommodate the needs of our increasingly-cashless society and has partnered with many providers including Apple Pay, PayPal, Wave & Pay to offer payment via mobile phone, credit cards etc. He has even introduced various pre-payment methods to make refreshment purchases hassle-free for time-poor employees and visitors to healthcare buildings.

In addition, the latest vending technologies now offer advanced ordering from the desk or on the hoof in the workplace.

And Broderick’s is also developing a ground-breaking app for customers, featuring loyalty ‘bonuses'.

In a revolutionary move, the app links in with FitBit and other smart wearables, with information such as allergens and nutritional content readily available.

Technology helps to avoid the age-old problem of out of stocks on popular vending machine lines. Broderick’s developed its own solution to this problem with customised automatic ordering software that again saves time for the employer.