From Vending Market Watch
Blind Vendor Deploys Her First Micromarket In A South Carolina Government Building by Emily Jed
Issue Date: Vol. 55, No. 9, September 2015, Posted On: 9/23/2015
MONCKS CORNER, SC — Breakroom Provisions sees an opportunity for blind vendors to bring micromarkets to the public buildings they serve. The company worked closely with the South Carolina Commission for the Blind to get its first self-checkout market up and running and, based on its early success, is working to expand the effort in partnership with operators nationwide.
Kevin Galaida, vice-president of business development of Hickory, NC-based Breakroom Provisions, focuses on finding new applications for the company’s self-checkout technology. He recognized that the government vending locations serviced by blind operators are suitable for micromarkets. These locations typically have a white or gray demographic and the 150 to 500 employees needed to ensure a sufficient traffic level at the stores.
To that end, Breakroom Provisions and SCCB found the ideal operator for the first store. Janice Smith, a visually impaired vendor who operates vending, concession stands and cafeterias in several government buildings, embraced the new concept. “She’s one of the strongest blind operators working with SCCB,” Galaida said. Galaida and Breakroom Provisions operations consultant Ben Valle installed Smith’s first self-checkout store in late March at the Berkeley County administrative offices in Moncks Corner, SC. The micromarket replaced the vending machines that she had previously operated in the building.
The market is located in a breakroom that usually hosts about 250 employees. Fresh food was not a part of Smith’s vending program, but it’s now a main offering, and reportedly a big draw, in her new automated store. She prepares salads and sandwiches, among other grab-and-go offerings, at the cafeteria that she operates at another government facility. Galaida emphasized that the switch from vending machines to a micromarket not only added the appeal of fresh food, but also expanded the beverages and snack offerings available to employees. Following the installation, BP’s micromarket pros spent several days training Smith on the ins and outs of operating a self-checkout store, from the point-of-sale system and backend software system to merchandising the vastly expanded and more perishable product selections.
“The Breakroom Provisions team communicated very well with our blind vendor and building manager throughout the project’s lifecycle to ensure we had a successful market integration and install,” said SCCB Business Enterprise Program director Otis Stevenson. “Our open house was attended by many of the building’s employees who were very excited about their new market.” While Smith’s sight is limited, Galaida explained, it’s sufficient enough for her to maintain her micromarket and use BP’s software. She also has staff to assist when necessary. For blind vendors whose sight is too limited, BP can train staff to support them.
“We want to get the message out that the micromarket concept can be used by blind vending operators, in the right situations, and with the right level of training and consulting,” Galaida said. “It’s a little different from the traditional operator and we’re in a good position to make it work. The success of our first market in that space is a credit to our ability and Janice’s as an operator.” The Berkeley County administrative building micromarket is in an environment open only to employees, but Galaida said there’s also potential for operators to install the self-checkout stores in public locations, which would require additional security measures. “It could work if it’s a closed-off space that conveys enhanced security,” he said. “Maybe people would need a badge to go into the store. There is so much opportunity in public buildings and we are focused on helping blind operators pursue the opportunity.”