In 1998, vending started out as a small addition to Harbor Pacific with only a few vending machines in circulation and one driver to stock them. Since then, they have enjoyed continuous growth while implementing exciting new technology.
By 2000, Harbor Pacific, who up until then had mainly been a beverage distributor, decided to go all in on vending, purchasing a truck full of vending machines. The vending entity is now spun off on its own and called Fiesta Food Services, proudly serving seven counties, including Grays Harbor. They have worked tirelessly to grow all aspects of their services, offering everything from coffee and water dispensers, to sales of micro markets.
New Technology Meets Vending
Modern technology has brought about many positive changes. Up until about 2005, staff used to manually write lists to keep up on orders and load the machines. Then came a large investment in VendMAX, which computerized the process.
VendMAX is software that allows vendors to easily monitor everything from inventory to sales and delivery. This cut down on potential errors and saved significant amounts of time. “You could increase by probably 25-30 percent the number of machines you could service in a day,” says Shawn Martin, general manager of Fiesta Food Services. “It is still an integral part of our operation to this day.”
Micro Markets Change the Game
“Up until five years ago, vending had been pretty stagnant,” says Shawn, “The new innovation in vending today is called micro markets, like a miniature convenience store.”
A micro market is a kiosk, or self-checkout system where users can have their own account that is accessed using a biometric fingerprint, pin, or scan tag. Customers can then use cash, credit, debit cards or funds already in their account to pay for items. Users can also put money into their account using an app called Three Square Market. The kiosk also conveniently allows for guest users.
Fiesta Food Services now has 25 of these customizable stores with plans to keep expanding their accounts. Micro markets are ideal for companies that employ between 150 to 1,000 employees and Grays Harbor has taken advantage of the availability of these markets with several of them in place. Local businesses such as Ocean Spray, Overstock and Cosmo Specialty Fibers are just a few of the accounts to partake in this revolutionary technology.
“That’s where the growth is in the vending industry,” Shawn says. “This time next year we could be up to 35 markets.”
Fiesta Food Services currently employs 11 people, including drivers, warehouse and office staff. As the popularity of micro markets continues to grow, they are likely to hire another worker next year.
An advantage in using micro markets is that they are connected by cellular technology. This allows for live inventory updates giving advanced notice and actual depletion of stock on-hand, resulting in less loss even with products like salads and dairy that have shorter expiration dates than other products. The markets are also equipped with camera monitors that identify potential theft issues.
“Customers just love the micro markets,” says Charlie Norris, sales manager for Fiesta Food Services. “The convenience and product variety are great benefits to large employers who want to offer their employees choice in the break room. It’s really exciting to hear the positive feedback we get once we open a new store!”
To see a Fiesta Food Services micro market in action, click here.
New Picking System Speeds up Restocking Process
About a year ago, Fiesta switched to a new picking system. Currently employing two staff members, the new picking system uses tablets that give workers the ability to get all of the information they need electronically, including pictures of the products. “It used to just be on paper with one machine at a time and accuracy wasn’t as good, either,” Shawn says, “now it’s more accurate and a loader can pick four totes at once. It’s much faster.”
A Team Effort Keeps Fiesta Food Services Flying High
Fiesta Food Services is home to many hardworking employees that go above and beyond to keep things running smoothly on the Harbor and elsewhere.
Charlie Norris is a crucial part of getting the word out about micro markets and other offerings of Fiesta Food Services to potential accounts, says Shawn. “It’s hard to cold call and sell, it takes time and cultivation,” he adds. “It’s quite a process…sales is very important.”
Charlie has been with Harbor Pacific for nearly 14 years, spending the last three years primarily on micro markets. He began as a delivery driver for the first six years and then helped build the coffee route for Fiesta Food Services before moving to micro market sales.
As Charlie reflected on his time building the coffee route, he laughs because he didn’t like drinking coffee at the time.”I had better learn how to like it,” he says, thinking back and then admitting that he now loves coffee.
Another team member is Jill Horne, the Fiesta Food Services operations manager. She is an integral part of the team with a strong background in how convenience stores operate. She also handles all of the food products, including which products are to be sold. “She’s the glue that holds it together,” says Shawn.
Dawn Dougherty, the human resources manager, plays another key role in the success of Fiesta Food Services. She is the VendMAX “guru” as Shawn says. Dougherty was sent to classes to learn the ins and outs of using VendMAX when they first installed the system and now has become an asset to the VendMAX company who has, in turn, used her as a resource due to her knowledge and expertise. “When Fiesta first transitioned into using VendMAX, Dougherty helped us transition faster than any other vending operator ever had.” says Martin, “Dawn was critical in us being able to do that.”
Shawn speaks highly of their employees, touting that they are all good people and exceptional workers. “All of our employees have been great, and are what really make Fiesta Food Services successful” Shawn says.
To learn more, contact Fiesta Food Services at 888-592-0925 or visit the Fiesta Food Services website.