As automation increasingly takes over in the retail services industry, people may be losing their jobs but this also provides opportunities for those willing to grasp that if machines are going to be replacing people, those machines themselves require to be serviced.

Therefore, supplying and servicing vending machines can prove to be profitable if the ground rules of business are followed. These are:

  • having the right product or service,
  • at the right place at the right time, and
  • building a critical mass of machines doing an adequate amount of business.

This last, of course, has to be achieved before your initial capital runs out. Where a vending business is concerned the requirements break down to identifying a suitable venue (one where a suitable number of potential customers are available) and a suitable product for the venue (e.g. candy vending machines in a school, soda vending machines in a sports club).

Note however, that more and more items are becoming available to buy from vending machines . You will also require premises to store your products and a vehicle for transporting machines and to refill machines.

Vending Machines – Choosing & Sourcing

To source your machines is relatively simple – most candy, soda, coffee and other manufacturers will have a division dealing with vending and all it takes is a phone call, a meeting and an acceptance of their terms and conditions.

Most suppliers will permit you to fill a limited space in their machines with other supplier’s products and this is vital as you can often source products from wholesalers at much lower prices than you get from the manufacturers, if you do a reasonable amount of research. Tying you down in this way limits your potential profit but these manufacturers do give you some confidence in that they will service their own machines. Machine owners will also charge you a rental fee for their machines

Used vending machines are available but these must be faced with an element of caution. Mechanically they are simple but the electronics are probably beyond the layman and parts may be difficult to source. Having said that most problems which occur (mostly jams) are simple to repair and even with the electronics a reboot solves most problems.

Venues – The Best Place to Put a Vending Machine

As stated above the venues selected must have a certain amount of footfall to be viable. These would include schools, factories and depots, sports and recreation facilities, hospitals and literally anywhere where a large mass of people are likely to congregate.

Machines can vary in size and capacity and finding the appropriate machine for the particular venue is important. Some of the big players such as Coca Cola are more than willing to help you select the right machine.

Before anything else, you should certainly have a list of potential sites before venturing into this business. The most likely venues are schools and universities, swimming pools and sports facilities, factories, office blocks and hospitals. In most cases a letter outlining your proposal to site your machine, or a phone call should lead to a meeting where your presentation should stress the benefits to the site owner of siting your machine there.

Some may require a percentage of turnover or profit as remuneration. Be prepared to negotiate on this, but remember to include this in your budgets. You must also insist on installing the machine for a trial period to ascertain business levels.

A vending business opportunity is viable if the above is taken into consideration. You must find fresh venues which do not have machines sited there already; you must have a deal with the machine owners which allows you to make a reasonable profit and the right to source your own products; and your agreement with the site owners must be based on the premise that you are providing a service to their staff or visitors and not solely to make the owners a profit. It would be quite easy to get squeezed between machine owners and site owners, effectively meaning you were working for nothing.

There is no way in the world you can get-rich-quick with vending machines (unless you pull a deal with Disneyworld!) but hard work and application could turn this into a long term, successful, business with a minimal outlay.

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