Chicago, Celebrate National Vending Day Every Day

Vending Options in Chicago

March 7, 2019 was NAMA’s inaugural celebration of National Vending Day, a special day set aside to recognize those who make, sell and enjoy vending machines and the products they offer. Whether we realize it or not, the vending industry has played a role in our lives at one point or another, from the vending machines in a break room to the highway rest stop and everywhere in between. In fact, the impact of the Convenience Services industry, which the vending industry is part of, is larger than most of us realize and has had an economic impact of close to $25 billion. Now, that is something worth celebrating. 

Instead of waiting until March 7, 2020 for the next celebration, celebrate vending machines and your Chicago employees every day. Consumers know what they want to eat or drink, and they know when they want it. Help them understand that their break room snack, beverage and food vending machines are a great on-site resource. 

Below are a few suggestions that can spark employee excitement and share information about the delicious products that are available.

Taste-testing Event

It’s no surprise that humans are known for avoiding change, and that includes trying a new healthy snack or beverage. New flavors or textures can be daunting especially when it comes to spending money. Encourage your Chicago employees to enjoy new flavors and textures by offering a taste-testing event. Whether it’s once a month or once a quarter, it’s a great opportunity for your employees to experience something new, and you can learn which products are more likely to sell.

Trivia Competition

A little friendly competition is fun, and it can increase camaraderie and morale. Consider hosting a special event like a vending trivia competition with vending-related prizes. There are a lot of interesting facts about vending machines out there. Here are a couple questions to get you started.

When did the first reference to a vending machine occur? (answer: 215 BC by Hero of Alexandria, an engineer and mathematician in first-century Roman Egypt. He created a machine that accepted a coin and dispensed holy water.)

When did the U.S. Post Office start using stamp vending machines? (answer: 1905)

Vending Options in Chicago

On-site Events

Host an on-site event celebrating your employees. As part of the celebration include product discounts or food and beverage giveaways and programs where employees can earn currency for products available in the break room. Everyone likes to get something for free or at a discounted price, even in the break room.

The Break Room

Spruce up your Chicago break room or the space where your vending machines are located. Bright, cheery, welcoming spaces are more likely to attract employees than the bleak, gray break rooms of yesterday. If possible, include several separate seating areas that encourage spontaneous conversation, collaboration or a moment of relaxation. 

Lastly, consider revamping your current vending machine services or adding new ones to your break room. Mark Vend can help you create a customized menu with the right combination of products for your Chicago employees. If you’re looking for additional refreshment services such as office coffee service, micro-markets or pantry service, we can do that too. For more information, call Mark Vend at 847-291-9216.

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Chicago Employees Look for Their Next “Snack Meal”

Snack options in Chicago

Even if you haven’t heard of the term “snack meal,” you’ve likely experienced it with the 86 percent of Americans who already have. A snack meal is a healthy snack eaten in place of a traditional meal, and more and more people are incorporating them into their diet. For example, according to a recent survey performed for Farm Rich, the average Chicago employee consumes five snack meals each week and is likely to eat their snack meals instead of lunch.

Shannon Gilreath, Director of Marketing at Farm Rich, shared that “People are no longer feeling bound to the traditional three meals a day, which gives them more variety and time back to do the things they enjoy most, and for many, that doesn’t involve a ton of time in the kitchen, especially on busy days.”

Of the different generations of Chicago employees, Millennials are the most likely to believe that “three standard meals a day is a thing of the past.” Unlike older generations who look at snacks as a way to curb cravings, Millennials use snacks as way to refuel without needing a lot of time to grocery shop, prepare a meal, and then sit down to eat it. Snack meals need to be easy and quick to prepare and portable. 

Snack options in Chicago

Farm Rich’s survey found that the top healthy choices are cheese, crackers, fruit, chips, nuts, veggies, yogurt, and pretzels. The right combination of these healthy options will enable employees to create small meals that meet their own unique nutritional needs.

One way Chicago employers can help their employees meet their meal/snacking needs is to offer healthy snack meals (with beverages) in their break room vending machines or micro-market. Access to healthy, onsite options will not only save time, but it also provides employees with the fuel they need to recharge, giving them the energy to have a productive day. 

If you’d really like to give your Chicago employees a boost, consider offering Pantry Service – their wallets will thank you. Pantry Service provides snacks, food and drinks to employees at no cost to the employee and is a valuable employee benefit. 

For more information about customizing the right healthy vending machine or micro-market menu for your employees, contact Mark Vend at (847) 291-9216. 

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Chicago Office Coffee Service Evolves to Meet Employee Demand

Coffee options in Chicago

The blueprint of the local coffee shop continues to evolve as the broader coffee industry grows and consumer demands change. New flavors and combinations and roasting and brewing practices constantly appear in the market making local Chicago foodservice establishments the perfect place to take a break and discover the next in-demand beverage.

With more opportunities to find the “perfect” coffee or espresso-based beverage in nearby cafés and retail locations, it is more important than ever to make sure your office coffee service (OCS) offers your employees what they want and can draw them to the break room. Michael Schaefer, global lead of food and beverage at Euromonitor International shared that “successful coffee players will combine discovery, experience, long-term purchasing and rapid product innovation, all across a wide range of distribution points.”

Encouraging Chicago employees to stay on-site during the workday also creates multiple opportunities for spontaneous conversations between coworkers and increased creativity. Add in additional break room benefits such as delicious coffee and tea options as well healthy snacks and freshly made food, and you’re likely to find healthier and more productive employees. 

Coffee options in Chicago

To learn about what your employees want and how to introduce your employees to new choices consider hosting one of the following events with Mark Vend:

  • Not sure which new OCS options to include in your coffee service menu? Have a coffee taste-testing party, but don’t forget to include potential new tea options. Ask your employees to rank their preferences and use the results to determine one or more new selections to add to the menu. 
  • The same type of event would also work for healthy snacks. New and unknown tastes, especially when it comes to food, can be intimidating. Remove some of the pressure connected to purchasing an item and not knowing if it will taste good by hosting a “Try a Sample” gathering. Your employees might be surprised at how delicious healthy can taste.
  • Survey your employees about the types of coffee condiments they enjoy with their coffee and tea. Adding a non-dairy milk or raw sugar option to the menu might be enough to attract those employees who usually go off-site to find a less traditional choice. Small changes can have a big impact.

Whether you’d like to add a new beverage or healthy snack to your current menu or update your entire vending services, Mark Vend is here to help. We will work with you to create a customized solution that will meet both your and your Chicago employees’ needs. For more information, please contact us at (847) 291-9216.

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Healthy Tips for Chicago’s Hearts

Healthy options in ChicagoGive yourself the gift of a healthy heart this holiday season and celebrate with some delicious dark chocolate — yes, dark chocolate.

We know that diet plays an important role in one’s overall health including the health of the heart. New research has confirmed, yet again, that dark chocolate can be part of a Chicago individual’s healthy diet. Study participants who enjoyed chocolate bars three times per month reduced their risk of heart failure by 13 percent when compared to those who ate no chocolate.

Let’s celebrate!

But don’t go overboard. The same study found that participants who ate chocolate everyday appeared to increase their risk for heart failure by 17 percent. Yikes!

Dr Chayakrit Krittanawong, lead researcher of the study, said, “I believe that chocolate is an important dietary source of flavonoids which are associated with reducing inflammation and increasing good cholesterol…However, chocolate may have high levels of saturated fats. I would say moderate dark chocolate consumption is good for health.”

Chocolate is made from different combinations of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, cocoa bean powder, sugar, and milk powder. For dark chocolate, the first ingredient should be cocoa or chocolate liquor followed by any combination of cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, and cocoa butter. Sugar, a necessary ingredient, is then used to balance the bitter taste of the chocolate. For healthier dark chocolate, sugar should be listed toward the end of the ingredients’ list and always after the cocoa. Cocoa is beneficial for the heart while sugar and any unnecessary fats are damaging.

High quality cocoa, which is found in some dark chocolate, contains flavonoids (flavanols, flavonols (source of the antioxidant qualities), epicatechin and procyanidins) and polyphenols. Flavonoids, a type of antioxidant, improve cognitive function, fight inflammation and oxidative stress — improving blood flow, boost blood vessel health, and improve overall cardiovascular health.

Healthy options in ChicagoOther ways to help keep your heart healthy include

  • maintain a healthy weight
  • eat more fruits and vegetables
  • select whole grains
  • limit unhealthy fats
  • reduce the amount of sodium in your food

Maintaining a healthy diet during the holiday season isn’t always the easiest for Chicago employees or students. Between work or school, social gatherings, and errands, finding a healthy snack or beverage can be challenging. One way to help them is to provide healthy snack vending machines in visible locations such as the break room or school lunchroom. Our healthy snack vending machines offer

  • controlled portion sizes (weight impacts your heart’s health),
  • the ability to see the ingredient list and nutrition information for each product and to determine the type and amount of grains, fats, sodium,
  • the occasional treat such as dark chocolate, and
  • a healthy option when away from home; whether the stop at the vending machine is planned or not.

Do you have a plan to help your Chicago employees or students stay healthy this holiday season and through the new year? We’d like to help you customize a solution that meets your and their needs. For more information, please contact Mark Vend at (847) 291-9216. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Chicago, Do You Have A Unique Vending Machine Story?

vending machine options in chicagoCabbage, lobster, clothing, gold bars, and champagne are a few of the random items that can be purchased in a vending machine somewhere in the world. In the 150+ years since the first fully automatic vending machine was invented, there have been a wide range of products, some practical and others pretty crazy, sold in different iterations of the machine known as a vending machine.

Let’s take a look at a few super-fun products that are found around the United States today.

Art

Dalton High School in Dalton, GA has come up with a new and innovative way to raise funds for it’s art department’s supplies and materials. Students in the art program design letters, pocket-sized cards, and other artwork that is sold in a vending machine. Placing it in a prominent place, next to beverage and snack vending machines, has helped increase awareness and curiosity. Eventually, the school hopes to place a second machine out in the community.

Soft-Serve Ice Cream

Soft-serve ice cream is usually associated with hot summer days and the beach, but New Yorkers can now buy it anytime of the year. Moxy Times Square, a Marriott Hotels subsidiary, has installed an on-demand soft serve vending machine with a touchscreen video display. The draw? Customers can choose from a variety of traditional and unique flavors such as the spicy Hot Honey Vanilla and top it with just as many unique toppings like the Greek yogurt chips.

Runners’ Gear

Did you happen to run the New York City or Chicago Marathon this past year? If so, you might have seen the digital vending machines that Lululemon, an athletic apparel company, put in their New York City and Chicago stores during the marathons. Each machine offered bottled water, electrolyte-enhanced tablets, bars and energy gels, and emergency supplies such as first-aid kits, sunscreen, and face wipes all for free. That’s right; it didn’t cost a thing!

vending machine options in chicago

Candy Converter

This past Halloween, only the lucky few got to experience something we all wished we had as children – a way to swap out the lame candy we got while trick-or-treating for more of the “good stuff.” Anomaly, a New York City advertising agency, developed the Reese’s Halloween Candy Converter, a vending machine that accepts lame candy as currency and swaps the lame candy for peanut butter treats, or the “good stuff.” Now if we could only get one in Chicago.

While most of us don’t have access to those vending machines, Chicago has a great alternative. Healthy snack, beverage, and fresh food vending machines from Mark Vend. Keep those employees hydrated and satiated and increase productivity and morale. And don’t forget to offer office coffee service. Whether it’s a traditional coffee service or a cafe-style experience, a delicious cup of coffee or hot tea will brighten almost anyone’s day.

For more information about customizing your Chicago break room, contact us at (847) 291-9216. We look forward to hearing from you.

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It’s Time to Celebrate Coffee Chicago

Coffee options in ChicagoNo matter the time of day or year, Americans love coffee in all of its many forms. Whether it’s the traditional version with cream and sugar, an espresso-based beverage, or an iced coffee, every Chicago resident has their favorite one. There are multiple reasons why coffee is so important to everyone, but the following one might surprise you.

A recent study performed by Wakefield Research, a global, full-service market research firm, found that coffee’s caffeine boost and health benefits aren’t the only reasons why so many Chicago individuals drink it daily. There’s one more really important reason; coffee, in its many forms, makes the survey participants feel good or happy. For example,

  • 47 percent of survey participants said that consuming that morning cup of Joe played an integral part in having a good start to the day.
  • 60 percent of those questioned consume additional cups of coffee after the lunch hour.
  • 43 percent would choose an iced coffee for a “pick-me-up” during the day, and 26 percent would choose to drink iced coffee year-round, regardless of the season or weather.
  • Here’s a jaw-dropper — 38 percent of participants would be more willing to spend a day without their smartphone than not drink any form of coffee for 24 hours.
  • But this one isn’t a surprise — participants who are parents said they were more likely to grab an iced coffee to brighten their day than those who are not parents (53% vs. 38%).

Coffee options in ChicagoWith so many benefits and ways that coffee can boost Chicago residents’ moods, let’s look at five fun activities that employees can participate in to celebrate the beverage.

  • Invite a colleague who you haven’t spoken to recently to meet for a cup of java and mid-morning or late-afternoon snack in the break room
  • Try something different; maybe it’s adding a nut-milk instead of cow’s milk to your hot beverage or trying something that is completely the opposite of what you’d usually drink — always go for hot, then try iced
  • Decrease the impact on the environment by bringing a reusable mug to work and keep it there instead of always using a cup that gets thrown away
  • Learn about different types of coffee and their beans; where are the beans grown? why are they grown in that particular region or climate? and how or why are they roasted in the way that they were?
  • Have an at-work tasting party; it’s a great way to bring everyone together in the break room for a few laughs and boost company morale

An increase in employee morale does more than just increase overall productivity. It can also improve collaboration, self-esteem, and job satisfaction as well as reduce employee absenteeism and the costs associated with employee turnover. Survey participants confirmed that there’s one more reason why coffee boosts morale. 47 percent of participants compared to 17 percent of participants shared that office coffee service (OCS) in the break room at work boosts their mood more than a compliment from their boss. Now that is truly magical.

Whether you’re interested in adding a few perks to your current OCS or creating a new service from the beginning, Mark Vend can help. We offer a variety of flavors, roasts, equipment, and complementary products such as sweeteners, creamers, and paper products that, when combined, will create a highly-valued employee perk. For more information about all of our vending services including OCS, contact us at (847) 291-9216. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Break Room Perks in Chicago Change With Each Generation

Break room options in ChicagoWhich break room benefit do your Chicago employees value the most? The answer might surprise you. It depends on which generation the majority of your employees is from. As of 2017, the Pew Research Center determined that 35 percent of the U.S. labor force were Millennials followed by Generation X at 33 percent. To be a sought after perk in 2018, a break room has to offer what current and potential employees are looking for, and that means understanding what Chicago Millennials want.

While the age difference between Millennials and Gen Xers may not be very far apart, many Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) came of age during the recession. For a variety reasons, the recession had a strong impact on Millennials and triggered the need to find value in what they purchase. Words that describe a product or brand that convey value to Millennials include “well-priced given the quality,” “reliable,” “high quality,” “trustworthy,” and “loyal to customers.” Next in line are words that indicate social responsibility like “fair-minded,” “ethical,” “moral,” and “transparent.”

Whether the product in question is a piece of clothing, a smartphone, or a snack or beverage purchased from a vending machine or micro-market, value matters. So, how does this generational shift impact your Chicago break room? Unfortunately, there is no single answer for all break rooms. To figure out what matters in your break room, consider the following questions.

break room options in ChicagoWho was your current break room designed for, and what did they value? What do your current employees value? Does that match what Millennials value?

Depending on the age of your organization, your current employees might be those who the space was designed for. But if that’s not the case, what do your current employees value? Are they looking for healthy snacks, beverages, or food that have a functional purpose? Does that snack need to be organic or be made with as few ingredients as possible?

The next step in this process is to compare those answers to what Chicago Millennials are looking for in the break room. Based on the results of the Pew Research Center study, most Millennials will look for a welcoming, comfortable space that offers snacks, beverages, and food that are well-priced and made with high-quality ingredients by companies that are trustworthy, transparent, and care about their customers. And that sounds like something everyone would enjoy.

Take the first step toward a high-value break room by designing a customized menu full of delicious and healthy snacks, beverages, and meals. Consider increasing the value by offering the same options to your Chicago employees at no cost via cashless pantry service or by adding a cafe-style office coffee service. For more information about increasing the value of an important employee perk, contact Mark Vend at (847) 291-9216. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Healthy Vending Choices Take Over Chicago Break Rooms

Healthy options in ChicagoHave you ever considered what might happen if you were to offer healthy vending machine options in your Chicago break room? Would your break room turn into a space that everyone avoids or will it attract employees and become a welcoming gathering place. The results might be surprising as both employees and employers would benefit.

“Healthy” no longer means super expensive and weird tasting. Rather, competitively priced, all-natural and tasty snacks and beverages help turn your break room into an inviting space that encourages collaboration and creativity. Employees no longer have to overcome previous obstacles such as needing to find a corner store to grab a bite to eat or something to drink. Now, all it takes is a trip to your Chicago break room to find a better-for-you snack or beverage.

Snack and beverage vending machines in the break room are also important resources that help employees avoid the negative effects of hunger and dehydration. Hunger increases impulsiveness and the likelihood of experiencing lightheadedness, and decreases one’s ability to make long-term decisions and concentrate. As dehydration increases, the negative impact on cognitive and physical functions, such as short-term memory, arithmetic efficiency, and visuomotor tracking; motor speed and attention increases. None of those effects lead to positive outcomes, but without them, employee productivity and morale increases.

Healthy options in ChicagoTo provide your employees’ with an extra perk and boost your break room’s appeal, offer cashless pantry service where all products are available to your employees for free. Instead, each month, your company pays for the full amount of products consumed. It’s a great way to help take care of your employees’ financial and physical health. (It’s also an enticing perk for potential new employees.)  

Whether you are interested in healthy vending machine options or a combination of healthy and traditional choices for your Chicago break room, we can help. You’ll find a wide variety of traditional and all-natural snacks and beverages in vending machines and micro-markets that are healthy for everyone as well as coffee service which provides an energizing boost. For more information, please call Mark Vend at (847) 291-9216.

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Water, Vending Machines, and Hydration in Chicago

Water options in ChicagoDo you drink enough water on a daily basis to meet your health needs? If you’re like 77 percent of a group of recently surveyed, employed Americans, you don’t. The reason given by 43 percent of those individuals was lack of thirst. Before going any further, it is important to make a necessary statement.

If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.

Staying hydrated is crucial. Hydration not only plays an important role in an individual’s health, but it also impacts how that individual functions. Because dehydration has already occurred before a Chicago employee realizes that they are thirsty, the negative impact of dehydration has also likely happened.

Mild dehydration has been known to have a negative impact on productivity, energy levels, and alertness. Hydrated employees can also have an impact on workplace productivity. Tony Ibarguen, CEO of Quench recently said, “One inexpensive way to boost productivity is to encourage hydration. Companies that make it easy and convenient for their people to access and drink more water throughout the day may see their employees’ energy levels, engagement and work capacity increase.”

Unfortunately, there are several obstacles that must first be removed if Chicago employees are going to consume more: lack of time to get water; have to pay for it; and dislike the taste of it at work.

Let’s look at three ways to overcome those obstacles and help employees stay hydrated.

Lack of time to get it

Consider the placement of beverage vending machines throughout your office or facility. In addition to placing vending machines in the break room, also consider placing beverage vending machines in highly trafficked areas. By creating opportunities to get bottled water in areas where employees naturally traverse, those employees are more likely to stop and grab a bottle.

This approach is also backed by science. Researchers at the University College of London found that study participants were more likely to take the path of least resistance when it came to accomplishing a task. So in other words, it’s important to place as few obstacles as possible along the way to get a bottle of water.

Water options in ChicagoHave to pay for it

While bottleless water coolers that connect directly to the building’s water supply or a filtration system can sometimes be a solution, there are many other situations when that is not an option. A great way to provide bottled water and overcome employees needing to pay for it is to offer it at a reduced cost or for free. Chicago employees see pantry service as a high-value benefit, but for employers, the cost is much lower than the perceived value.

Dislike the taste of it at work

Yes, it is true. Water has a taste. Recent research published in a monthly scientific journal about neuroscience found that water has a flavor. While researchers believe water’s flavor should be in its own category, they discovered that its flavor is most closely related to the sour flavor category. Given this information, it is important to offer a variety of options from ‘normal’ bottled water to bottled flavored sparkling water. Each one of these will have a unique taste that reflects its specific mineral content or any natural flavors such as fresh fruit that might have been added.

Mark Vend can help Chicago employers overcome all three of these obstacles, and help employees stay hydrated by offering a variety of healthy beverages in vending machines or micro-markets. And don’t forget to offer healthy snacks to go with your employees’ preferred beverage choice. Hydrated and satiated employees are a win for everyone. For more information about adding healthy options to your Chicago break room, contact us at (847) 291-9216. We look forward to helping your employees stay hydrated.

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Chicago, Watch Out for Caffeine Lurking in Your Beverages and Snacks

beverages in ChicagoIn 2018, the number of beverages, snacks, and food that contain caffeine has skyrocketed. Whether it’s espresso, coffee, decaffeinated coffee, hot or iced tea, caffeinated soda (cola and non-cola varieties), chocolate and anything made with chocolate or coffee, energy drinks including energy water, caffeinated snacks such as  granola bars and energy bars, or gum, everything contains caffeine. The challenge for Chicago employees is to figure out how much caffeine is too much since everyone experiences and is impacted by caffeine differently.

Recent research by Dr. J.W. Langer, a clinical pharmacology lecturer at Copenhagen University, found that “each person’s unique genetic makeup determines to what degree a given amount of caffeine will affect the individual. Some [individuals] will metabolise caffeine quickly, while others will metabolise it more slowly. Some will show greater sensitivity to the stimulating effects of caffeine, while others need higher amounts to feel an effect.”

Chicago’s employees’ genetic makeup is only one of the reasons why each person responds differently to caffeine. That genetically-caused response usually triggers a unique self-regulating reaction that can affect a person’s regular intake of caffeine. Either a person will be able to consume more caffeine before they have a negative response, or they will recognize that they need to consume less because the response is too strong.

So how can this information improve your Chicago break room? The answer is by encouraging organizations and facility managers to look closely at their employees’ refreshment needs and to realize that a variety of caffeinated and non-caffeinated snacks and beverages should be offered in the break room. Below is a chart that shows which beverages have the most caffeine per eight ounces of liquid.

There are several important responses that can occur when caffeinated snacks and beverages are available in the break room.

  • Spontaneous conversations and problem solving are more likely to happen when employees remain on-site for meals, snacks, and coffee breaks.
  • Morale levels often get a boost when there is an inviting break room space with sought-after snacks and beverages. 
  • Productivity levels increase as consuming caffeine is known to boost energy levels.

If an increase in spontaneous conversations, problem solving, and morale and productivity levels sounds appealing, it’s time to change up your Chicago break room. Come collaborate with Mark Vend and design a customized menu offering a variety of caffeinated and non-caffeinated snacks and beverages. For more information about elevating your break room, contact us at (847) 291-9216.

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