When it comes to health and safety, anything that falls under food service to consumers receives focused attention. Maintaining health and safety can be particularly challenging for those operating a micro market where independence represents part of the operation. The issue of health and safety when running a micro market in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic is even more critical.
Currently there are approximately 10,000 micro markets in the United States. By the year 2022, there will be approximately 35,000 micro markets. Therefore, these ventures are a growing business. How do you operate a micro market while maintaining the highest degree of health and safety for consumers?
What is a Micro Market?
A micro market is a small food retail space with self-checkouts that has become a 21st-century trend. They include open shelves and food kiosks. The goal of micro markets is to offer good, healthy pre-made food, fruit, coffee, and other drinks in a convenient format.
Micro markets can be called an advanced form of the vending machine but not quite a grocery store. However, they differ from vending machines in a variety of ways. Here are three examples:
1. The markets are like grab-and-go open-style food stands, restocked daily, rather than a vending machine with items placed behind glass restocked based on a fulfillment schedule.
2. Micro markets offer healthy food options. In contrast, vending machines typically offer favorites that consumers love the taste of but that often fall under the “junk food” category, such as candy and chips.
3. The markets accept coupons and loyalty cards instead of just cash or a credit or debit card.
Micro markets operate without an attendant and are on the honor system. Therefore, for anyone who runs a micro market, theft should always be a concern. Various ways to protect these markets include video surveillance, digital locks, pressure-sensitive shelves, etc.
How Do You Set Up a Micro Market and Where Do You Find Them?
You can set up a micro market anywhere there are power outlets, refrigeration, food-safe storage units, and a strong internet connection. You can find these markets in airports, hospitals, hotels, health clubs, corporate businesses, etc.
For some micro markets, the start-up expenses are covered by the owner. When you set up a micro market on your own, even though it’s based on consumer independence and convenience, it’s still essential to follow guidelines.
It’s vital to check your market periodically. You can’t just set it up and leave it. It’s also important to place popular items where one can grab them quickly. For example, owners should not place popular items on the top shelf where they are harder to reach than a shelf at average eye level for an adult. Also, successful micro markets have a staff. It is difficult for one person to do it all. Finally, it’s important to consider anti-theft features and include the possibility of theft in your operating expenses.
In other situations, an owner can hire a company to install and maintain the micro market. In this case, you are partnering with a company that will do the bulk of the work.
Micro Markets Should Be Tailored to the Consumer
When setting up a micro market, one needs to consider the consumer and what the consumer needs. If you are setting up a market in a corporate office, are you providing snacks and lunch items? The type of corporate office is also important. Suppose the employees are working in a business that sells natural products. In that case, it may make sense to include as many healthy options as possible as people who enjoy natural products are also often consumers of healthy foods.
A micro market in an airport, for example, can serve a wide variety of options. Because many people travel through an airport, a market can include various items from the healthiest to the not-so-healthy.
Are Micro Markets a Danger With the Onset of Covid 19?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk of getting COVID 19 from eating or handling frozen food, produce, and food packages very low. Furthermore, there is no evidence that such micro markets have led to COVID 19 transmissions.
However, keeping micro markets clean in the age of COVID 19 is important despite the low risk. Owners of micro markets should let consumers know exactly how they are keeping their markets sanitized. Signage in prominent places can accomplish that.
Customers can pay by swiping a credit card or charging their purchases to an account. That eliminates the need for paper money, which can carry germs. However, customers will touch the door handles, kiosk screens, and racks throughout the day. Therefore, these surfaces should be sanitized throughout the day. In addition, anti-bacterial hand sanitizer and EPA-approved disinfectant wipes should be available for customers to use. Furthermore, masking and social distancing should be encouraged or enforced depending on the location.