Brussels, 1 April 2020
Devastating impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the vending & coffee service industry in Europe.
We are currently living an unprecedented situation that will not only cost many human lives, but also affect our European societal and economic model. The necessary radical measures taken by the EU Member States have already seriously reduced the economic activity and many Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are afraid of the consequences for the employees and the awaited economic downturn. Indeed, many jobs could be at stake and plenty of businesses will close down. This is true for the majority of the sectors and the vending and coffee service industry is no exception. The European Vending & Coffee Service Association (EVA) would like to communicate how the COVID-19 outbreak is decimating the vending and coffee service industry, and calls on a number of urgent measures to be introduced by the EU Commission, European Central Bank and National governments.
The EVA would first of all like to state its support for the exceptional measures and restrictions introduced nationally in order to reduce the spread of the virus in society as a whole, and to protect European citizens and workers. We also express our full sympathy and support to all the health care staff mobilised around Europe to treat citizens infected by the virus.
With 80% of vending and professional coffee machines located in workplaces, our industry has already been particularly affected by the mandatory restrictions introduced in many EU member states and the wider significant reduction in economic activity.
Vending operators – the machine fillers and technicians – are already reporting business losses of up to 90% since a vast majority of employees work from home. In an industry with 95% of operators being small and medium enterprises (SMEs) these losses are not only unabsorbable for a few weeks, but without immediate financial support many companies will find continuation as completely unsustainable. Millions of jobs are at stake across Europe in every sector, and among these many thousands of employees in vending.
We are relieved that vending is rightly seen in many member states as an essential sector in the supply of food and drink, especially in the healthcare sector, and as an unattended industry vending is uniquely placed to address consumer concerns including social distancing when purchasing items. Vending operators, highly trained in food safety and personal hygiene, are sanitising machines as regularly as possible across Europe, and many national vending associations are providing practical guidance and labels for machines to remind consumers how best to interact with the machines.
As referred to earlier, most vending machines are located in workplaces such as offices and factories. Only a relatively small proportion are in public locations like train stations or airports. Consequently, a lot of companies are allowing employees to work from home where available, but we are also seeing that some buildings are preventing vending operators from accessing the premises in order to refill, restock (and critically) sanitise machines, even where national restrictions allow access for external workers. Furthermore it is unfortunate timing that recently implemented legislation is potentially aggravating the dire situation in our sector, such as the Regulatory Technical Standards (RTS) on Secure Consumer Authentication (SCA) under the Payment Services Directive 2, which effectively requires a PIN pad to be added to vending machines to avoid lost sales (as previously an industry preference was for contactless-only readers). Not requiring SCA would avoid queues and make the social distancing at the vending machine easier to implement. Further to this, the EVA strongly recommends consumers to choose a single use cup rather than a reusable cup, to ensure a safe and hygienic experience every time at the machine. We are however fully aware that this advice for safety reasons is despite the significant reduction required for these products in EU and national legislation on single use plastics.
The EVA therefore calls upon the European Commission, the European Central Bank and national governments to swiftly implement the following urgent measures:
- A European approach to the restriction measures of people, to have a common and effective strategy to combat the further spread of COVID-19;
- Ensure the free and seamless movement of goods in the Internal Market despite the closure of some National borders in order that both raw materials and manufactured products are transported swiftly;
- Temporary state aid from national governments for the vending and coffee service industry as an essential supplier of food and drink
- Fast and easy access to short- and medium-term loans to overcome liquidity shortages in otherwise profitable companies, including funds made available by the EU through the Corona Response Investment Initiative
- Immediate fiscal relief for SMEs, including short term refunding of already paid tax and social contributions, and temporary deferment of new payments;
- Targeted reductions in VAT and excise over the medium term, to boost recovery and job creation in the unattended retail sector;
- Minimum net salary compensation (e.g. of 90%) by governments, of employees facing technical unemployment;
- Appropriate insurance compensation in the case of forced closure or loss of unused stock; • Financial support for companies to conduct for example short-time work schemes, training programmes
- Dissemination of key protective equipment (masks, gloves, etc.) at EU level to ensure that fillers and technicians aren’t unduly exposed to the virus when they work on vending machines in public places.
To summarise, the vending industry is a key channel for the supply of food and drink to consumers, conveniently open 24/7. Crucially at this time, vending machines are often the only available means for healthcare personnel to obtain fresh food (such as sandwiches), a snack or a beverage, all without the need for face to face interaction or queuing. Furthermore, they can both in public places and in factories provide protective equipment, such as gloves and masks.
However, due to the business model and trends meaning the vast majority of vending machines located in workplaces, the national restrictions and work from home policies have particularly impact our industry and already resulted in many vending companies struggling to maintain their previously viable activities. The vending industry needs your urgent financial assistance.
President, European Vending & Coffee Service Association