In this article, we’d be exploring all you need to know about launching a successful vending machine business in the United States of America. Are you interested in launching a lucrative business that doesn’t require any special skills or training? Then the vending business might just be the right choice for you.
The vending business is no doubt, one of the most lucrative businesses you can venture into with a little startup capital. One amazing fact about it is that it requires no special skills or training, just the willingness to venture into it.
According to thebalancesmb, the vending machine industry in the United States reached $8 billion, and global vending machine revenue topped $23 billion just prior to the COVID-19 shutdowns. While the COVID-19 pandemic affected the vending machine industry, I’m confident it is going to rebound fully once people return to their workplaces and travel picks up again.
Advantages of running a vending machine business
Below are some of the advantages of running a vending machine business:
- Variety of choices: There are different types of vending machines; from the ones that serve healthy foods to the gourmet options, and in some cases, options that serve items that are completely unrelated to food.
- Scalability: It has the capacity to be changed (grow) with time. In order words, you can start with a few machines and expand as your finances grow.
- Simplicity: Once you’re done setting up the machines, you’re only required to restock (and maintain) the machines when needed and collect the money.
- Little overhead costs: In most cases, there are little or even no overhead costs involved in running a vending machine business, especially if you’re running the business yourself. This is possible because the business doesn’t require many employees or even office spaces. So you don’t have to worry about making payroll or having to spend on rents.
- Flexibility: The vending machine business is very flexible, in the sense that you can easily train someone to help you manage it. You can train your spouse or children to assist with tasks like bank deposits, stocking, accounting and others.
As I always tell us, anything that has an advantage also has a disadvantage. These are some of the cons of running a vending machine business:
- Theft and vandalism: Due to the nature of this business, it tends to become an easy target when it comes to theft and vandalism. Kindly ensure that your vending machines are located in secure areas to avoid making losses to vandalizers.
- Time-consuming: While some aspects of the vending business can be automated, it still requires human attention. You’ll be required to restock, service and collect money from your machines regularly, which is committing.
Steps to starting a vending machine business
Why do you want to venture into a vending business?
You must have perhaps, done a little homework and possibly, seen how a big industry this is. Considering the many advantages, and how you don’t necessarily have to bother about paying your employees or other bills that come with running your own business.
This perhaps sounds like a perfect escape from your 9 to 5 jobs and you’ll now have ample time to interact with your neighbours and impact your community.
It is however important to note that this business, just like other businesses, has its own challenges. The last thing every entrepreneur would ever wish to himself is having to invest a lot of time and money in a venture that wouldn’t work.
You need to do your homework properly before venturing into this business. Find out the challenges other people face, and plot on ways of tackling them.
2. Choose the right equipment for your business
The machine is the most important thing in the vending machine business. I’d recommend you search both locally and from the national dealers, so can easily get an idea of the different vending machine offerings and price points.
To find the vending machine of your dreams, start your search with these three types of sellers:
- Manufacturers or wholesale vending suppliers: They have the widest selection of vending machines for sale, the newest technology, and the most end-to-end services for delivery, repairs, and training.
This is, however, the most expensive option, though—equipment through vending franchises might require a minimum order of multiple machines or other fees that go toward machine servicing and entrepreneur development programs.
- Secondary market sellers: The Secondary market sellers (or specialty online retailers) allow you to browse multiple brands and models of vending machines and often have helpful resources for business owners.
- Consumer-to-consumer platforms: Platforms like Amazon, Craigslist and eBay have thousands of vending machines for sale. You can save time by filtering by merchant or owner location, so you don’t have to worry about major shipping costs. This may be the best option for first-time vending entrepreneurs who don’t want to spend thousands on a new or refurbished machine.
If you shop on Amazon, you can check out the machines listed below. Endeavour to check out the reviews before making your choice to avoid making mistakes.
3. Find and secure the vending machine locations
Your location plays a major in the success of your business. For instance, upscale food and beverage vending machine might fail in a strip mall full of restaurants, but that same machine might flourish in an office park.
Before choosing a location, check out areas you’ve personally purchased something from a vending machine, as well as the times when people are most likely to purchase a snack, beverage, or other items.
Some good location ideas for your vending machine include; hospitals or medical centers, schools, apartment complexes, airports and shopping malls, grocery stores, manufacturing plants and laundromats.
4. Choosing the products to put in your vending machines
What is the point of choosing a good location if you don’t get the right products? Endeavour to research the area and target market. While some products will sell well in most public areas, you’ll notice that there are products that are very much dependent upon locations.
- Personal items like hygiene products and over-the-counter medications may be suitable for restrooms in public transit facilities, malls, and service stations.
- Hot drinks like tea, hot chocolate and coffee may sell well in most locations.
- Candy, toy, and other specialty machines may be suitable for malls, supermarkets, play parks, and other locations that are frequented by families.
- Snack machines vending products such as water, chips, sodas, chocolate bars and candy may also do well in most environments.
- Hot food and sandwich machines may do well in schools and business environments.
5. Provide great customer service.
Providing top-notch customer service is one of the best ways to increase sales and improve your business reputation.
Below are some of the tips you need to apply as a vending machine operator:
- Schedule regular visits to your locations to keep the machines fully stocked.
- Treat your customers like business partners. Be proactive in your communication. You can, instead of waiting for your location to reach out to you with feedback or comments, reach out to them.
Most importantly, provide your contact information in the machines so your customers can report any issues, or drop feedbacks.
- Endeavour to keep your machines clean and in good repair. Dirty, poorly maintained machines are a turn-off for customers.
- Maintain good relations with the contact person at the machine locations, as they might be on the receiving end of complaints or demands for refunds.
- If applicable, rotate products by sell-by dates so that the oldest inventory sells first.
Just like every other business, running a vending machine business has its own challenges. The good thing is that understanding these challenged before time will make you tackle them properly when the need arises.
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