Source: Martee’s

Martee’s cofounders Harry Slagel and Lucy Adams

A startup seeking to “apply modern technology to the old-school vending industry” has launched its first ‘micro market’ at a London co-working space.

Martee’s – cofounded by a former Weezy employee and ex-CEO of meal kit brand Plateaway – this week opened its first location at Expressway, an office space near Royal Victoria Dock, London.

A Martee’s store features shelf space for ambient goods and chillers, and a payment kiosk, with the food on offer made up of healthy and sustainable third-party brands. Among the brands sold are wraps and sandwiches from Crussh; snacks from Proper, Eat Real and Shore; microwaveable meals from Fiid; and Moma porridge.

Further locations are expected to launch in the coming months, with co-working spaces the initial target for the brand.

“There is right now a lot of competition for co-working spaces to improve the offering for their customers and it’s really complicated operationally to run, and to invest the capex to build a café or canteen,” said Lucy Adams, Martee’s co-founder and COO. “Some would rather do it internally, but given we’re keeping the fridge stocked, taking the risk on the waste, giving them up-front infrastructure… it’s an attractive offer.”

While co-working spaces were the focus for now, Martee’s ambition was for sites to be “everywhere there’s people – train stations, hospitals, hotels, universities,” said Harry Slagel, the startup’s CEO and co-founder.

“Workspaces are just the start,” he added.

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Source: Martee’s

The unattended sites are restocked weekly, with dynamic pricing to cut down on food waste. Unlike other micro unattended retail sites – which often require customers to pre-authorise their payment card to enter an enclosed space – the shelves are open, with the stores working on a ‘trust-based model’.

It is the same format as used by co-working space player WeWork in its offices globally.

To host a Martee’s micro market, workspaces pay an installation and lease fee up front, plus a monthly management fee.

“We track everything digitally – so if something has not sold we can go and remove it, or even lock our fridges remotely so we don’t even have to be on site. Everything we do is removing the up front, human labour of having to be there, so it works at scale,” Slagel said.

In the future, Martee’s plans to launch an app to push discounts and offers to users.

“There’s an opportunity there to say ‘Jenny’s in the office, she’s bought goat’s cheese salad before, there’s one left and for her it’s 50% off’. There are things we can do there you can’t in a bricks and mortar setting,” said Adams.

The startup is backed by Nesta and Founders Factory and says it is close to unlocking further investment, which will allow it to launch a further five locations. Further fundraising activity is expected later this year.

As it scales it expects to achieve “price parity with slow-moving processed foods to products sourced through fresh supply chains” Adams added.