A New Spin on Office Food Service

by Brett Merz

A New Spin on Office Food Service

Time is one of the most precious commodities—everyone wants it, but there just doesn’t seem to be enough of it. Enter: micro markets.

Micro markets–so-called “self-serve convenience stores”–are a fast growing segment of the retail and food service industries. According Vending How, “mini retail is a 7 billion dollar opportunity, which is about 17% of the vending market in the U.S. 5.1 billion [dollars] of this is in a micro market.” Located within an office building, the micro market concept resembles a self-contained C-store with shelving and displays stocked with a variety of high-quality food and snack options that are often times made freshly daily, depending on the contract and carrier.  But what really makes micro markets so inventive is that there are no cashiers on-site. Patrons simply follow an honor system to pay for their items at a designated payment station.

Customers: the micro market advantage
Micro markets are popular with tenants because it’s a hassle-free experience that saves time. These stores are popping up across the country at a quickening pace as a result of companies and employees improving the overall efficiencies, productivity and lifestyle that are now required as part of the work environment. They provide a fun, practical solution that supports the evolving requirements of businesses, and they allow employees to do more in the comfort of their office. Micro markets also create another space where tenants of the same or different companies can gather and interact with each other either on a formal or casual “collision” basis, and help foster a community within an office building.

Landlords: cafes vs. micro markets
From a landlord’ perspective, micro markets are a good alternative to traditional food service because it is oftentimes tough to find a café operator that is both cost effective and provides top notch service. Additionally, there is a minimum mass of people required for a café to make sense. Micro markets are much more scalable, are easier to run, and typically less costly for the landlord, meaning less costs get passed back through to the tenants. Micro markets also require less infrastructure, and therefore less startup costs

Several of KBS’ buildings utilize micro markets, including its 101 South Hanley property located in the upscale Clayton submarket of St. Louis. This particular micro market is run by Cardinal Vending and tenants are able to access the micro market with their building access badge and then purchase their items at a self-serve kiosk. Prior to the installation of the micro market, the building’s “break room” merely had snack and soda vending machines. KBS has a sales number we are required to meet each week (if we do not then KBS is required to pay Cardinal Vending the difference). However, since the micro market has opened almost a year ago our sales are double the requirement each week.

There is definitely a cool factor involved when it comes to micro markets in that it is self-serve and automated. And as demand increases for time from employers and employees to be as efficient and productive as possible in all aspects, I only expect to see continued growth in this segment.


A New Spin on Office Food Service Brett Merz website A 240x300
Mr. Merz is a senior vice president and asset manager for KBS Realty Advisors and its affiliate KBS Capital Advisors. As a part of the Central Region team, Mr. Merz oversees a portfolio size of seven assets containing approximately 4.1 million square feet.