Courtesy Treat AmericaFresh fruits and vegetables join traditional sugary and salty snacks in Treat America's Company Kitchen concept. About 40 locations in the Midwest have the healthy snacks in vending machines and counter displays through the program.When a Kansas foodservice/vending company launched Company Kitchens for break rooms, officials knew there was a relatively untapped market for fresh produce snacks in the workplace.
But they didn’t know employees would go bananas if given the chance.
Treat America Food Service, Merriam, Kan., manages more than 100 on-site corporate dining facilities across the country and provides vending and office coffee services in the Kansas City, St. Louis, Omaha, Indianapolis and Des Moines metro areas.
In late 2010 the company had a “soft launch” of its Company Kitchen concept, which is now operating in 40 locations, said marketing director Diane Young. Kansas City area clients that have opted for the service for their employee break rooms include the Blue Cross Blue Shield, U.S. Bank and Harrah’s Casino.
The Company Kitchen program replaces traditional candy and soda vending machines with cold cases and open shelves similar to those in convenience stores. In addition to sugary and salty snacks, the Company Kitchens include healthier options, including fresh fruits, salads and fresh-cut vegetable snack packs.
“As we started to review the sales data from our first Company Kitchen installation, we were amazed that bananas were the No. 1 seller. Obviously, you can’t sell bananas in (traditional) vending machines and we were filling a void for employees with Company Kitchen,” said Ed Schleicher, controller for Treat America.
Company Kitchens operate on a cashless basis. Employees use special reloadable “CK” debit-type cards and a touch screen with a bar code scanner to ring up their own purchases. Employees can open cold cases and select and inspect the salad or other items they want before they pay.
A security camera system is part of the package when a company opts to have Treat America install a Company Kitchen. Inventories are automatically reconciled on a daily basis with data from the payment kiosk. Employees can also use their CK cards and the kiosk to track their calories and other nutritional information.
“We have found that (theft) is less than 1%,” Young said. “And the whole setup is done free of charge to the company. All they have to do is provide a space that is not accessible to the general public that has electrical outlets and an Internet connection. We do the rest.”
Additional details are available on a new website (http://www.companykitchen.com) that Treat America launched with the Company Kitchen concept.