The global market for smart vending technology is on track to reach $15 billion by 2025 as a growing share of office and workplace facilities seek upgraded vending machine experiences. These unattended smart retail stations can offer more than typical sugary snacks and sodas, however. They can also fuel professionals with a variety of fresh, healthy foods, beverages and snack options.
These smart vending systems might be largely unattended, but they still need humans to ensure that fridges remain fully stocked. Delivery drivers are an essential part of any unattended retail marketplace, and companies must ensure these workers are equipped with solutions that enable them to do their jobs without interruption. Drivers who are tasked with making deliveries as efficiently as possible need access to spend management tools that help them move smoothly from point A to point B.
Megan Mokri, CEO of San Francisco-based unattended smart refrigerator provider Byte Technology, said drivers who work for the company’s foodservice division, Byte Foods, are responsible for picking up supplies at warehouses, delivering goods to sites and overseeing inventory. She explained that these employees are given payment cards that allow them to quickly buy fuel for company vehicles, enabling them to complete their jobs seamlessly and eliminating the need to file for reimbursements. Mokri recently explained to PYMNTS how spend management solutions – including payment cards – and data analytics complement the company’s smart vending operations.
“It’s table stakes for anyone operating in an incredibly competitive labor market,” she said. “Making sure the individuals who are ultimately delivering the experience to the customer are well-equipped to do so is really critical.”
Adding Intelligence to Food Deliveries
The inspiration for Byte came from Mokri’s early experience running a food delivery company with her co-founder and husband, Lee Mokri. Each night involved a different delivery route for each food order, a model that presented constant logistical challenges, such as when multiple customers on a single street placed orders at different times.
“The end result was very high spoilage from a food planning perspective and high delivery costs from an operational perspective,” she said.
Byte Technology offers a more seamless food delivery and management system. The company’s platform can track inventory in real time to determine which items need to be restocked and can also plan drivers’ optimal routes based on the time of day, traffic patterns and other factors.
The platform is not the only solution the company uses to help its drivers remain efficient. They are also given payment cards that enable them to purchase gas for their refrigerated vehicles and anything else they may need. The cards include spend controls that limit how much can be purchased and provide real-time insights into how funds are being used.
The payment cards allow Byte’s drivers to focus on their delivery tasks instead of out-of-pocket expenses, Mokri noted. The insights also assure the company that its funds are being spent appropriately.
“Being able to use company funds in a way that [allows us to] still maintain control and a high level of visibility gave us the comfort we needed to put cards in our drivers’ hands,” she said.
This data proved to be valuable on one particular occasion: “We had an instance where a truck’s engine started to fail and our lease provider stated that unleaded gasoline was put in the tank,” Mokri explained.
The card system requires drivers to submit receipts for purchases, meaning Byte was able to review the transactions and prove that only diesel fuel was used. This prevented the company from having to file an expensive insurance claim.
A Financial Lifeline for Delivery Drivers
The delivery drivers have also welcomed the payment cards, Mokri noted. These employees do not have to worry about out-of-pocket purchases or having to wait for reimbursements.
“It’s a blue-collar workforce,” she said. “The reality is, some of these guys are living paycheck to paycheck and may not even have credit cards.”
Mokri added that this was one of the reasons Byte was uncomfortable asking its drivers to assume responsibility for buying gas. Its suite of payment cards and spend controls enables delivery drivers with small budgets to make fuel purchases without assuming financial risks.
“[If] you have to use funds directly from your checking account, which is already low on balance, that creates a stressful situation,” she said. “If the company is not reimbursing on a frequent basis, if you’re just coinciding with the pay cycle, the reality is you can put someone out and put them in a risky life situation.”
Mokri noted that it is essential to the company’s success for its delivery drivers to be able to do their jobs without friction.
“Ultimately, it is our drivers who are helping deliver that end experience with [the] clients and customers who use our stores on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “Making sure those drivers are best equipped to do their jobs and deliver great service is critical to our success.”
The market for unattended food retail solutions is expanding, and spend management tools could play a significant role in helping delivery drivers focus on their jobs and feed businesses’ appetites for efficiency and insights.