Why Five Star Food Service Is Betting On Mobile To Improve The Micro Market Customer Experience

Easier. Faster. Better. Those ideas are the basis of new technology and service upgrades. They also happen to be the reasons Five Star Food Service, a full line vending operation based-in Chattanooga, TN, with more than 1,000 micro markets is looking at a mobile app to increase sales and service.  

“It’s called the Canteen Connect & Pay,” explained C.J. Recher, vice president of marketing for Five Star. “Customers can use their mobile device to make micro market transactions faster and more convenient.” It works similar to 365Pay, where consumers have a global market account accessible through a mobile app. The app allows customers to pay for items at the kiosk by scanning a QR code on their phone instead of entering in an email or other account identifier - saving time. Or, the app can be used to scan product bar codes and pay using the global market account without a kiosk, instead pairing with a Bluetooth dongle. Funds can be added to the account using the app and there’s a feature where users can provide feedback and will receive loyalty rewards.   

“We anticipate it will improve adoption rate of the micro market account,” said Mark Stephanos, vice president, micro markets at Five Star. “We are building it into our sales presentations and it’s creeping up our priority list because it also opens up a whole different market for us – smaller locations.”  
Going smaller the right way 
Smaller offices, those with as few as 50 people, are a challenge for operators to service profitably. The necessary kiosk, or vending machine, costs thousands of dollars to purchase, before the costs to keep it clean, filled and working. However, all that has changed. Using a Bluetooth dongle on or near the snack rack enables the mobile app to connect with the global market account and perform the same functions as the micro market kiosk.  

“It’s an honor box for the 21st century,” said Stephanos. “It opens up the opportunity to service smaller office and work spaces.”  

Five Star is using its mobile payment app to capture business in areas where there is a concentration of small locations that its delivery vehicles drive by when servicing routes. “It makes sense to go after those types of locations now because the investment is very low,” Stephanos said. However, it does have to be the right location. “We want to ensure that where our drivers stop once or twice a week, our drivers can go in and service those small locations quickly, in and out,” Stephanos said. “15 minutes tops.” From that point, Five Star looks to expand services for the customer, perhaps office coffee service business or breakroom paper products.   

Five Star has been aggressively promoting the mobile app and educating end users for the past 3 months, so it is too early for concrete numbers about the effect on sales or how it will alter theft rates, but the team is optimistic.  

“From the launches I’ve been at, customers gravitate towards it,” said Recher. “Your younger demographic is most open to using it, but not the only group.” It’s one more way Five Star is making its service easier, faster and better. 

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