Stimulate Sales with Selection, Display & Rotation!

In a great blog series about the Four P’s of micro markets from 2016, Tim Sanford and Emily Jed so into great depth to describe and explain each of the P’s as presented by multiple operators at the ACE show in 2015.

The second P stands for Product. We’ll break down the details for you here:

Knowing as we do that micro markets demand a significant increase in products, it’s easy to understand why presenter, James Bourne, says “You need your distributors to understand [micro markets]. Thus, supplier management is an essential component of successful micro market operations.”

The definition of Supplier Managment is the various acts of identifying, acquiring and managing the products and/or resources needed to run your business. 

Current consumer demands and understanding what your specific customers want is imperative to your micro market success. We would suggest that you use and encourage the use of the suggestion button on Three Square Market kiosks.  If you are looking for great suggestions try adding an incentive for products information!

Prevalent Consumer Demands:

Healthier, alternative snacks: Ranging from baked and low-carb selections to gluten-free, organic or all-nature products.  Distributors continue to work to bring these products into the industry, but availability can be difficult to source based on region. Bourne suggests, “Operators can do their homework to compile market information that can persuade a distributor to stock desirable new items.”

Brands Matter: 61% consider their brand of choice to be an important attribute of a snack. 73% of consumers look for a favorite brand when choosing a snack.

Sales Surges: An IRI for calendar years 2011 to 2014

  • Candy 33%
  • Salty Snacks 32%
  • Pastry 16%
  • Meat Snacks 13%
  • Nuts & Seeds 9%

“Bourne emphasized that precise inventory control is essential in micro markets.  Each market should be inventoried at least monthly, and drivers should carry tablet computers with scanners for best, speed and accuracy. Each inventory visit should be followed by preparation of a ‘no scan items’ report, which helps to identify slow-moving items — 15% of market inventory. ‘Watch this,’ he warned. ‘Don’t let your market get sparse; they can’t look unattended.'”

Let us interject here because A) we totally agree and B) Three Square Market has made this process even easier! Check out our intelligent inventory management that will identify each of your products movement/pattern in each market. Also, learn how you can manage your inventory via a smartphone during market visits! 

Planograms are essential to micro markets.  The object being to apportion space to a  product category on the basis of its sales volume. Need a starting point? You can use vending sales as a good place to begin your market planogram and then expand to the added products you’d like to carry.

Bourne said, “Be sure to carry strong local and regional brands, as well as the national best-sellers. … Consumers will search for these products.”

Understanding Placement of Products: (more p’s)

Placement of products in display cases is important. Bourne says, “You should place your top sellers on the bottom shelves,” and goes on to say, “Place impulse, discontinued and high gross-profit items on the top shelves; and put new items at eye level, ideally in the ‘first’ position — closest to the door handle — because that’s where the customer looks first.”

Planograms should be refreshed at least quarterly.  Bourne tells us, “Our goal when we do this is to eliminate 10 to 15 items, and introduce 10 to 15 new ones.”  Updating promotions in accordance with the market refresh can boost sales and invite new market users.

Pre-kitting can not only make your market restock more efficient but also will free up enough time for your driver to check inventory, ensure cleanliness of the market, face market products, and maximize your market potential.

When dealing with portion sizes for your products, Bourne suggests looking at demographics, stating that “Males tend to want large sandwiches; women often want smaller ones … we try to provide something for everyone.”

Fresh Food Programs:

“Bourne emphasized that a good fresh-food program can be essential in realizing the full earnings potential of a micro market. ‘Fresh food represents 30% of overall sales,’ he reported.”

Fresh food in your micro market is shown to draw added customers to your market and can lead to the increased value of the average purchase.  Our writers add, “For best results, it’s important to rotate menu options, slot in seasonal and holiday-themed selections and feature regional favorites, when possible.”

Again, it’s important to understand that supply management of your fresh food is incredibly important and attention to detail in this area is required.

Micro market operators can make price changes in real-time. Bourne gives the example, “Anything that sells for $3 or more and has a sell-by date of today can be discounted to $1.99. You could offer 10% off all sandwich sales on Fridays.”

Another interject … try using our expiration management system to make sure you are staying on top of your expiring products so that you can make these price changes without missing the boat!

Bourne describes a food cooler and freezer layouts … We’ve made images to make it easier to show you!

cooler and Freezer layouts-01cooler and Freezer layouts-02

Destination Grouping:

“Bourne said, the operator should design a micro market installation with ‘destination zones’ in mind.  Thus, a ‘breakfast zone’ might position the coffee brewer in proximity to display containing pastry, and an ‘impulse zone’ near the checkout kiosk can feature gum and mint selections.”

Our writers suggest “for purposes of positioning and promotion, it can be useful to remember that the ‘dayparts’ of a typical micro market operation are breakfast, a morning snack (9-11 AM), lunch, an afternoon snack (2-4 PM), and dinner/ride home.

“Bourne concluded by pointing out that snacks, food, and beverages sold in convenience stores … not dissimilar to the one that patronizes micro markets. Both rely very largely on preportioned single-serving products, and he suggested that a solid starting-point for thinking about the expanded variety of items needed to keep a micro market interesting to patrons is to study the data on c-store performance and sales trends published by market research organizations.”

Bottomline:

Your product selection is a major part of your micro market success.  Be creative and flexible with your products and planogram, and always keep working on your markets!

 

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Take me to the water …

Are you on point with the latest beverage trends?

Going from vending to micro markets allows for a significant upgrade in the variety of beverages that you offer, going from 8-10 beverages to upwards of 40+. According to Reuters, on March 10, 2017, “Americans are now drinking more bottled water than soda.”

FYI: 

Bottled-water consumption in the U.S. reached 39.3 gallons per capita while carbonated soft drinks slipped to 38.5 gallons.

Soda consumption regularly exceeded 50 gallons per capita in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Total bottled water volume rose about 9% to 12.8 billion gallons in 2016.

Stats by Beverage Marketing Corp

Coca-cola states, “Overall, more consumers are making trips for sparkling water, with 12.9% of all shoppers stopping to pick up sparkling water products.”

Bernicks, a Minnesota based vendor, blogged about the emerging markets in sparkling water saying, “Sparkling water offers several health benefits to those who tend to be more health conscious. First, it’s a great way to add more water to your diet – particularly for those who are good at drinking regular water but desire something else to supplement their hydration habit. Secondly, as it contains low or no calories, sparkling water is an excellent (and delicious) beverage alternative.”

Bernick’s blog goes on to give a few suggestions on what options you should consider offering to your customers, “Perrier and San Pellegrino are popular choices, and they are seen as two of the most popular premium brands of sparkling water. Of course, you’ll also want to consider flavored sparkling water options, such as Klarbrunn Sparkling which is also home to Vita Ice. Finally, if you’re simply looking for the most popular, please-all brand of sparkling water, consider Aquafina Sparkling, which has been the best-selling brand in the U.S. for over 30 years, and it’s also the number one canned brand worldwide.  And, did you know the bubbly super brand got its start at a small Wisconsin brewery? True story. ”

We completely agree! And would throw out there that Dasani boasts a nearly 90% consumer recognition and is another great option for flavored sparkling water.

Bottom-line: We think it would be a great benefit to your stores to add, update, and include some sparkling water options to your markets! 

BONUS: 

According to Coca-cola, “retail outlets have the opportunity to increase profitability and leverage the connections between food purchases and three on-trend beverage categories: sparkling water, ready-to-drink tea, and still water.”

Here is what Coke says about those three beverage categories and combined food to build cross-store connections (we’ve just put in items that make sense for micro-markets):

1. Sparkling Water Connections
Consumers are increasingly purchasing sparkling water with items tied to entertaining and snacking, specifically deli dip, specialty cheeses and value-added vegetables.¹

• Deli dip: Sales of deli dip increased 8.9% from the previous year.¹ Trips with both deli dips and sparkling water were up 25% over a year ago, and the average basket with both items was worth almost $114. (Think Hummus cups, salsa, veggie & dips)
• Specialty cheeses: Sales were up 7.5% from last year, with trips containing specialty cheese and sparkling water increasing 7% over the previous year.¹ When the two items are purchased together, the basket is worth nearly $121.¹ Utilize sparkling water to connect with premium, entertaining categories to further grow the connection between sparkling water and deli dip, and specialty cheese. Cross promotions can increase sales in both categories. (We’re thinking “adult” Lunchables, cheese and crackers, cheese sticks)

2. Ready-to-Drink Tea Connections 
The Nielsen study found strong sales and basket connections between RTD tea and every day, fresh ingredients, such as ground turkey, packaged salads, and deli cheese. In fact, 44% of tea buyers also buy deli cheese, and there is an 82% buyer overlap between RTD tea and packaged salad.

• Ground turkey: Since RTD tea and ground turkey buyers over-index as African American and Hispanic, leverage both the beverage/food connection as well as the appeal to key demographics.¹ Keep these consumers in mind when deciding on markets for co-promotion or meal deals. (Okay, so you probably don’t have ground turkey in your market but what about turkey based lunches or snack items? Those fancy Lunchables, or upscale deli sandwiches!)
• Packaged salad: Focus on increasing the frequency of trips that include both RTD tea and packaged salads by offering coupons with packaged salads or promoting them in circulars together. (We think this one is self-explanatory)
• Deli cheese: Merchandise tea near the deli with an emphasis on drinking tea with lunchtime sandwiches. Focus on cheese flavors that appeal to RTD tea’s key demographics, older families, and Hispanic households. (Deli sandwiches and your healthy meal options)

3. Still Water Connections
As still (or base) water gains in popularity, the Nielsen study revealed opportunities for retailers to leverage sales and basket connections with traditional staples that are occasion-focused. Consumers in this category are in the mid- to a high-income range and have bustling families with children of all ages.

• Deli items: There is a strong sales connection between still water and quick trip and alternative channel options.¹ However, this category had a weak basket connection with still water (as opposed to meat, which had both high sales and high basket connections). The opportunity for retailers is to show the value of your category on different trips and/or in different channels. For example, display base water in the deli department to encourage quick trip purchases together with deli pizza, or cross-promote base water and other deli-prepared items together as a quick, easy family meal deal.  (Water, its essential for life)

 

What is the major draw of a micro market & do you measure up? …

Let’s think about what brings your customers to your micro market! Often thinking about your market experience from your customers’ perspective can be your best spent time.

Why do customers use a micro market? 

  • Items not found in vending machines. (variety)
  • Fresh, healthy options that you don’t have to leave your workplace for. (convenience)
  • Access to hot food versus cold food. (quality)
  • Rewards and coupons. (bonus features)
  • It’s a nicer environment, more attractive look and experience. (aesthetics)

Knowing that Variety, Convenience, Quality, Bonuses, and Aesthetics are factors that your customers are looking for … how does your market measure up? 

How can you update your market in these important areas?:

Variety: 

Are you reviewing your product selection? Looking at products that are moving or not moving? Are you replacing products that have worn out their welcome?

Using Three Square Market’s exclusive intelligent inventory system you can easily see what products are popular, mediocre, and past their prime for each individual store.  This allows you to easily customize your product selection in each individual market to maximize your sales per market without the need for a lot of extra work. Here’s where you can learn more!

Convenience: 

Beyond having the products your customers what and need for a quick and convenient lunch … Do you have ALL the products that make your customers’ lives easier? Have you thought about the items that might save someone a trip to the store?

In today’s society time is money and saving someone time is worth a little extra spending cash.  Think about electronics or health and beauty items a person may need throughout the day, or take home meals for the family that eliminate that stop at the grocery store.  Maximize the ways that your market creates convenience for your customers and gain their loyalty in return!

Quality:

Micro market products are often priced higher than traditional vending products. Typically approximately 15 to 20 percent higher to cover the cost of credit card processing, sales tax, and product loss.  Millennials make up the majority of the workforce these days and according to Nestle, “[Millennials] are the first generation now who are willing consciously to spend more for better quality [products], for sustainability, for traceability.”

If the average fast-food lunch for an employee is $6 you can assume that your customers are willing to spend up to $6 on quality lunch items in your market if it meets the convenience, variety, and appeal of a fast-food.

Bonuses:

Every retailer out there is using coupons, rewards, loyalty, bundled options to increase transaction values.  Consumers love opportunities to save and increase the value of their purchase! The key is to look at perceived value and create specials and deals that make sense for your consumer. Salad or sandwich purchase gives you a discount on your beverage purchase … where is the downfall?!

Using coupons, rewards, bundles to increase your average transaction value is a great way to 1) increase revenue and 2) decrease the chance of product spoilage.

Aesthetics:

According to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Consumers rate [micro markets] off the charts in nearly every category. Employees love it because it’s just a nicer environment. It’s like going to a bistro or a restaurant.”

The aesthetics of your market is an important factor. Employees are looking for something special that gives them the feel of leaving the office without actually having to do so. Investing in the space beyond just your products and checkout is important.

Making the space comfortable, attractive, and inviting can only add to a quick return on your investment. You can even work with the company to pay for these upgrades or split the costs – touting the perks to a company with a micro market with happier, healthier, more productive employees. Bottom line is investing in your market can only make your market more attractive to your customers yielding increased sales and profit for you.

For starters, you can go to 32MarketStore.com to see how you can show off your products in the most attractive way possible with 32Fixtures!

 

32m_breakroom-phase1_edited

 

 

Landing that appointment to grow your business …

As a micro market operator,  you know the best thing for your business is to grow your number of location. Sometimes that is easier said than done.

Here are some tips: 

We know you’re looking for a qualified business that will make your service profitable. During your introductory phone call, you can gather some of the important details you need to zero in on your target locations, such as staff size, current vending or market situation, office coffee situation, etc.

Although the world is moving towards texting, messages, and email communication, by creating a personal relationship with your target location and making on-site visits you can build a rapport and trust with the business that will help you in your sales pitch. You should always seek to sell in person vs. over the phone.

Want to land the appointment? Ask engaging questions that will help you to understand what the client currently has, and what messages you can tailor to win the account.

During your initial call, you can ask these questions:

What is your current vending situation? 

  • This will prompt your prospect to talk about how many machines they have and what’s in those machines.

Tell me about the kinds of items you have in your vending machines now? 

  • If they are using traditional products at this time, this gives you a great conversation starter about the wide variety of foods and products that can be incorporated into a micro market. Think “Fresh Food, higher quality products all at no cost to the company.”

Do you have employees that work late or overnight shifts? 

  • Off-shift workers are extremely limited in their food options and will benefit immensely from the update to quality, fresh, & meal options of a micro market.

Do you have a calendar in front of you? 

  • This is a great way to almost guarantee an appointment to talk about the benefits of a micro market in person.

 

Micro market benefits to talk about: 

  1. Multiple payment options (credit/debit cards, cash, payroll, mobile).
  2. Expanded product selection including fresh, quality foods, health & wellness, electronics & personal needs items. 
  3. Self-checkout that allows employees to pick up and look at products prior to purchase. 
  4. Easy to use, more attractive than vending, lower energy footprint, and often fits in the existing vending space.

 

If you are reading this you know that the benefits of micro markets are becoming well-known and ever-expanding within our industry.  You can increase your chances of successfully landing an account by being the first in the door with your market solution.

What are you waiting for?

 

We got a lot of this great information from MarketReach! Check out their article here to learn more: http://bit.ly/1aQdOnd

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogs We Love: VendingMarketWatch.com 10 Reasons Micro Markets are better than Cafeterias!

Here’s another blog we love!  We hope you love it too … 

10 Reasons Why a Micro Market is Better than a CafeteriaMarket vs. Cafeteria

By VendingMarketWatch.com

1. It’s Employee Paid. Offering food and drinks to employees is a powerful benefit for companies looking to attract and retain good quality workers. However, food budgets can be hard to prove return on investment for in some areas. The retiring of the foodservice decision maker or an uncertain corporate climate can affect cafeterias, cafes and pantry service. The new person or board might feel the money would be better spent elsewhere. Conversely, because the capital outlay by the location for a micro market is zero, it is less affected by budgets and executives.

2. It’s Grab and Go. At work, people are searching for quick, convenient eating options. There is more snacking and fewer sit down meals during a workday, which means micro markets are a great option. The service is 24-7, giving everyone the flexibility to snack when they need an energy boost and everything is prepackaged for easy shopping of ingredients.

3. It’s Fewer Upfront Costs. Cafeterias require a number of additional upfront costs including grills, washing stations, food temperature logs, walk-in coolers, etc. Micro markets are much simpler, with a comparatively low upfront equipment cost. A micro market needs a few coolers, shelving, a kiosk and internet connection. Any add-ons can be discussed with the location and purchased by them to add that positive employee experience they want to create in the space.

4. It Allows Bulk Buying. Since micro markets use so many prepackaged products that can be used in vending and other markets, it increases the volume of items operators order, allowing them to get better pricing from the suppliers. A great purchasing manager can also work to take advantage of special offers and rebates. This can enable micro market operators to tie in better-priced products to on-site promotions that will drive sales at each location.

5. It Offers Cost Balance. While fresh food is a key component of both cafeterias and micro markets, cafeterias rely more heavily on their food offerings. Food means waste and a smaller margin. Micro markets, on the other hand, allow operators to provide a good mix of food options and shelf-stable products, such as bagged breakfast items and treats. Micro markets can even include non-edibles options that employees crave, such as small electronics or smartphone chargers.

6. It Serves A Wider Range Of Locations. Unlike cafeterias that require a few hundred employees on site, a micro market can be successful with between 100 to 200. It’s a much more flexible option with what type of checkout is available, including full, freestanding kiosks to small, tablet-based checkout that can be placed on a counter next to a small shelf and cooler combo. Micro markets also work in a broad range of businesses from manufacturing to offices.

7. It Requires No Additional Staff Onsite. Having a cafeteria means having staff on site. From cooks to cashiers, it’s more people to hire, train and manage. Comparatively, a micro market requires a route driver and support staff, people who are already on the payroll at an operation. There is no staff required to keep it open, yet a micro market offers more hours of operation to the employees making it a worthwhile benefit.

8. It Includes Supported Marketing Efforts.Consumers love getting a deal, especially when it’s a product they enjoy eating. With new features being added by micro market suppliers, promotions, special pricing, and loyalty programs are easier than ever to schedule. Many micro markets have built-in programs operators can simply turn on and off. Others have special relationships with suppliers for great partnerships. Either way, micro markets make marketing easier and more engaging with customer-focused apps and interactive touchscreens.

9. It Means No Waiting In Line. Everything is made ahead of time and prepackaged, eliminating lines of people waiting to order or for their items to be cooked. Micro market customers can just browse the selections and make a purchase. Many even offer mobile checkout apps to eliminate

the queue at the kiosk. It also encourages repeat business during the day. After all, it’s much more inviting to purchase a pack of gum in the afternoon if you know it will be a quick checkout than waiting in line for the cashier to ring up other employees.

10. It Requires A Smaller Footprint. Unlike cafes and cafeterias that need food prep and storage areas, micro markets are all about product display and sales. The configuration, number of coolers, kiosk placement, type of shelving and even how the equipment is powered is flexible. It’s a solution that adapts to locations large or small much more easily than a foodservice solution. It’s scalable as well – a solution that can grow with a company.

 

Kudos Automatic Merchandiser and VendingMarketWatch.com, we agree! Micro markets have a lot of great components that cafeterias alone don’t have!

Blogs we love!

Here’s a blog we love!

https://praticogoods.com/blogs/news/45465665-the-benefits-of-using-stainless-steel-cups

This blog talks about the benefits of using stainless steel cups and we use them throughout our office to reduce waste and increase employee satisfaction!

We believe in stainless steel tumblers so much we’re adding them as an offering in our “Stock Your Store” on our web-store! Check out the store to see what a great price we have for you and your customers!

The Benefits of Using Stainless Steel Cups

The Benefits of Using Stainless Steel Cups

Stainless steel cups may not seem as glamorous as beautifully crafted glass cups, but they offer more benefits.  People may doubt this, but it is actually true.  There are many benefits to using stainless steel cups.

Plastic and glass cups cannot match the safety, durability, and sustainability of stainless steel cups.  These cups offer strong impact resistance.  They are 100% reusable and recyclable.  It is a practical choice.

It Can Last a Lifetime

stainless steel cups last longer

Stainless steel is quite indestructible.  They possess lifelong properties that do not diminish with repeated use.  It has superior strength-to-weight ratio compared to glass and plastic cups.  Glass cups are fragile.  Not surprisingly, they are often not the best choice when it comes to large events and venues.  Aluminum bottles may be tough, but they are susceptible to corrosion and leaks.  These things also have synthetic interiors which eventually decay over time.  Plastic can crack or disintegrate overuse and washing.  These things cannot hold hot liquids.  They also melt when exposed to extreme heat.  The truth is when it comes to longevity – stainless steel cups beat them all.

Safest Material to Hold Your Drinks

stainless steel cups are safe for kids

Every now and then, controversies will arise regarding the toxic chemicals that can be found in plastic containers and aluminum bottles.  These controversies gave rise to consumer backlash.  Not surprisingly, more people are opting to buy stainless steel products.  The natural composition of the stainless steel is non-toxic.  They are free from BPA, zinc, lead, phthalates and other toxic materials that are linked to health issues.

Stainless steel is well known for its antibacterial and hygienic properties.  It is widely used in the food and beverage industry.  Stainless steel cups and bottles do not leak.  They do not need interior coatings or linings that eventually disintegrate.  Stainless steel is nonreactive to acid, so you get a clean taste without smell or flavor.

Easy to Clean and Maintain

Unlike plastic and glass, stainless steel is incredibly easy to clean.  These things are resistant to stains, rust, and corrosion.  They are considerably easy to wash, and they do not require careful handling, unlike glass cups.  You can wash them by hand or throw them in the dishwasher. I particularly enjoy the rust-proof aspect of these cups.

stainless cups are easy to clean

Environment-Friendly, Reusable and Recyclable

Billions of plastic cups and bottles end up in landfills yearly.  If they are placed end-to-end, they could circle the entire planet.  On the other hand, stainless steel glasses can be reused for years.  They can even be recycled at the end of their useful life without degradation.  They can be kept out of landfills.  Stainless steel cups are durable, recyclable, reusable and environment-friendly.  They are a great addition to your kitchen.

Great For Outdoor Activities

Because of the durability of stainless steel cups, they work well for outdoor activities like camping and picnics. Paper cups are convenient but leaving drinks in them can cause them become soaked and soggy. Stainless steel cups are great for not only general hot or cold drinks, but they also make it very easy to mix drinks, alcohol or non-alcoholic. Our specific cups are also very stackable, making it easy to carry to any party or outdoor event with ease.

One Con I Noticed When Handling Steel Cups

When using steel cups, make sure you keep them in the shade or a cool area. I’ve noticed they heat up quickly, especially when you leave them in the car or out in the blazing hot sun.

Where Can I Find a Great Stainless Steel Cup Set?

You can add one to your cart by going to our stainless steel cups page here.

 

 

 

Blogs we love!! 16 things you MUST do on your lunch break!

Here’s another blog we love!  Check out these great suggestions about taking your lunch break and getting a true break from your work to refresh and reset! Then check out our website BreakRoomRehab.com to #rehabyourbreakroom!

16 Things You Should Do On Your Lunch Break Every Day

If it has to do with leadership, jobs, or careers, I’m on it. 
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

How do you spend your lunch break? Do you quickly chow down a sandwich at a nearby deli with your eyes glued to your Blackberry? Do you devour a salad at your desk with one hand on your keyboard? Perhaps you skip lunch altogether because you have “too much on your plate.”

“A common complaint I hear is about lunch time getting squeezed down to ten minutes, or to nothing at all, with people eating on the fly or eating while hunched over their computers,” says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker, author and president of Humor at Work.

Why does this happen? Because America has become such a work-obsessed society that we tend to shun the notion of taking a break, explains Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD, organizational psychologist and author of The YOU Plan. “Just like professional athletes, we all need the energy from calories for our minds to function at their best. And we all need a little time to recharge, too.”

In Pictures: 16 Things You Should Do During Your Lunch Break

Last month I laid out the 16 things you should do at the start of every work day and the 16 things you should do at the end of every work day. I concluded that how you spend the first few and last few hours in the office can have a significant effect on your level of productivity. As it turns out, what you do during your lunch hour can be just as important, and that time shouldn’t be overlooked. Taking a midday break during which you refuel and re-energize can not only make you a better employee but also a healthier and happier person.

“You should be as strategic about your lunch hour as you are about your day in general,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant; How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job.

With the help of career and workplace experts Michael Kerr, Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, Lynn Taylor, Anita Attridge, Alexandra Levit and David Shindler, I compiled a list of 16 things all workers should do during their lunch break.

“It’s critical to make the most of lunch and remind yourself that by taking a proper break you will accomplish more in the long run and that productivity and creativity will increase, while your levels of stress and fatigue will diminish,” Kerr says.

Anita Attridge, a career and executive coach with the Five O’Clock Club, a career coaching organization, adds that taking time to disconnect from your work provides renewed energy, and, as a result, makes the rest of the day go more smoothly. “Typically, the afternoon can bring some lulls that can be offset by having been away from your desk. Talking with people about something besides work during lunchtime can also boost your energy level and improve your mood.”

Alexandra Levit, the author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success, agrees. A lunch break not only fuels your motivation to power toward the end of the day, it also gives you something to look forward to in the morning. “Most people accomplish work best in short bursts with breaks in between, so organizing your schedule around these natural energy peaks will help you be more productive.”

What you do during your midday break might vary depending on your job, company culture or personal priorities—but the experts agree all workers should try to do these 16 things during lunch hour:

Make a plan. “Don’t squander your lunch break because it’s ‘free time,’” Taylor says. Time is a non-renewable resource, wherever you are, whatever the time of day. Try your best to plan it out and make the most of it.

You should also plan your activities immediately after lunch, Kerr suggests. “Giving thought to how you prioritize and schedule events in the afternoon can maximize your productivity. For example, scheduling a meeting or conference call right after lunch may end up causing you  stress over the lunch hour or you may end up squeezing the lunch break in order to get back in time and be ready for the meeting.”

Take a real break. Breaking from work for 60 seconds to chow down your lunch at your desk doesn’t count. “In order to get a period of true respite, the time has to involve an actual break from work,” Levit says. Try not to check your e-mail, bring work with you or talk about work during lunch.

Decompress. The first thing you should do when your lunch break begins is take a deep breath and relax, Taylor suggests. “You’ve likely been on over-drive all morning, putting out fires. Before you decide how to spend that golden hour, take a couple minutes to clear your head. Take your break-neck pace to a halt; don’t automatically jump to the next ‘to do’ item. When you’re relaxed, you can better strategize your goals with a broader and wiser perspective.”

Get up from your desk or workspace. “Staying at your desk is a big no-no in my book,” Kerr says. “There are more and more reports on the dangers of sitting too long, so even just getting up to walk to another room to eat is important, or better still, getting outside for some fresh air and a quick walk can do wonders for the body and spirit.”

Even if you don’t sit at a desk, you should get away from your workspace during lunch, as it will help you clear your mind.

 

Eat. Don’t try to be a hero and starve yourself for the sake of being a hard worker or checking off another “to-do” item, Taylor says. “You’ll pay for it later when you can’t concentrate and throw your body off balance. If you’ve earned a headache or are lightheaded at 4 p.m., you haven’t ultimately gained anything.”

Enjoy your food. Lunch should be about having lunch, Woodward says. “Treat yourself to something you enjoy that fits with your diet,” he adds. “If you have a favorite place or a particular food you enjoy make sure to go and enjoy it at least once a week. You only live once.”

It’s OK to splurge from time to time—but try to stick to healthy meals as often as possible.

Do what you can’t do in the morning or evening. Some errands—like going to the Post Office or the bank—must be handled during work hours. “Be strategic and use your lunch break to accomplish some of those personal errands that can’t be handled before or after work, or on the weekends,” Taylor says.

But be careful that you don’t cram too many personal errands into your lunch break, Kerr warns. “You’d just end up swapping one stress for another kind of stress without getting the re-energizing benefits a good break can offer.”

Use the time to connect with someone new.  “I used to work in an office of 3,000 people, so it was pretty much the norm to not recognize most everyone in the elevator,” Woodward says. “Our workplace interactions can be so fleeting that we really never actually get to know the people we spend most of our days with. When you don’t really know those you interact with it’s easy to dehumanize them and take them for granted. Take some time to get out of the office, grab a sit down lunch, and get to know your co-workers.”

Catch up with old friends. If you have a friend who works nearby, try to meet him or her during lunch occasionally. “Remember, your personal life needs tending to just as much as your work-life, so be sure to take the spare time you have and use it to fulfill your personal needs,” Woodward says. Your midday break is a good opportunity to catch up and socialize, in person or by phone—but don’t lose track of time, and don’t treat it like happy hour.

Have a system for dealing with your absence. This will allow people inside and outside the company to know when you will be back, how to contact you in an emergency or have an alternative point of contact, says David Shindler, founder of The Employability Hub and author of Learning to Leap. It may also help you relax and avoid obsessively checking your e-mail during lunch.

Engage in activities that will help you re-energize. Take a walk outside, visit the gym or meditate. Get out and do something that will make you feel better about yourself. “A quick dose of sunlight and fresh air is the perfect elixir for the midday blues,” Woodward says.

Network. Even if you’re perfectly happy in your job, and you’re not looking for a new one, it can’t hurt to continuously build and maintain your professional network. “This is critical to success in any line of work,” Woodward says. “However, finding the time to connect with those in your network can be tough.”

Attridge adds, “Strategically, lunch is an excellent time to continue to build relationships and network with others whether that is by having lunch with them or calling them to catch up.”

Don’t get stuck in a routine. Many of us are creatures of habit. Maybe you go to the same pizzeria every day or eat with the same colleague. You might always use your lunch break to run errands or make personal calls. Try to mix things up in order to clear your head and boost your energy.

Avoid all screens. Try to stay away from your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and computer. “Give your eyes a break,” Taylor says. Most office jobs require you to stare at a screen all day—so try to avoid that during lunch.

If you can’t help it for whatever reason (maybe you want to shop online or e-mail a friend), get up from your desk so your body perceives this as a true break, Levit adds.

Regroup. Treat lunch as sports teams treat halftime: take a few minutes to reassess where you’re at and re-prioritize the rest of your day depending on how the morning has unfolded, Kerr suggests.

Don’t take too long or too short of a break. If you’re allotted an hour for lunch, take it. Maybe not every day, but when you can, use the full sixty minutes to get out, eat, exercise your mind or body, catch up with an old friend or a colleague and/or tackle items on your personal agenda.

However, if everyone else in the office takes shorter breaks, follow suit so you don’t stand out.

“Don’t take breaks that are too long or too frequent, as people will start to notice,” Levit says. “And don’t pressure colleagues to adhere to your break schedule. You are primarily there to work–not socialize–so let them do what works best for them.”

“You have the ability to make your lunch hour an invigorating boost to your afternoon by doing what you enjoy; be it a brisk walk listening to music, talking with a close friend, being in nature, even if briefly, or spending time on your favorite project or pastime,” Taylor concludes. “It’s your time to refresh.”