Step 1: Consider Your Possible Products
Food vending machines are popular and simple, but there are also options for vending machines that vend items in bulk or vending machines that provide specialty products.
If you’re starting food vending machines, you can choose a theme for your machines. Providing healthy snacks in schools could be a good road to go down because schools want to provide students with good nutrition. In general, you can tailor your offerings to the market space you want to break into.
Step 2: Find the Right Location
Depending on what kinds of machines you have, you can start to find space in commercial businesses and craft a route. Since it will be you or an employee refilling and repairing the machines, you’ll probably want them to be not too far away to start. As you expand your business and bring on more employees, you can start to cover more territory.
Placing vending machines in local businesses means you’ll want to start making connections with local business owners and talking up your services. If you’re looking for a contract with a school district or a business that has several locations, you’ll want to get in touch with a regional manager or whoever does larger-scale location management projects.
Step 3: Choose the Right Type of Machine for Your Business
There are three types of machines: bulk, electronic and mechanical. Bulk machines hold a single product in bulk and dispense a certain amount for a quarter or a dollar. You often see this in restrooms, dispensing sanitary products for example. These can cost $50 to $200 to start.
Mechanical machines are the classic break room vending machines. They provide multiple products and cost about $2,000 initially. However, they do have higher profits than bulk machines.
Finally, the most sophisticated version is an electronic vending machine. These cost at least $3,000 per machine, often have touch screens and can take credit card payments easily. The more drinks and food offered, the higher the cost of the machine. They are incredibly reliable and intuitive, and the ability to use a credit card often means they receive a lot of business as fewer people carry cash and coins—just make sure you choose a payment gateway that doesn’t charge exorbitant fees.
Step 4: Find the Right Market
Your vending machine should be in an optimal place for the kinds of customers you want to serve. For example, vending machines with microwavable foods and other meal-like offerings do well in places where people are spending a lot of time and don’t have the ability to cook, like offices, hospitals and universities.
Snack vending machines are also great for offices. However, vending machines that dispense novelty trinkets or small candies can do well in specialty small businesses, if you are interested in making those connections.
Finally, vending machines that dispense medicine or electronics are great to place in airports, highway rest stops or train stations. These are necessities for travelers and these machines could therefore have a high profit margin.
Step 5: Stocking Products
For food vending machines, some states mandate a certain percentage of healthy options to be included. Be sure to have sources for healthy snacks if this is the case for your region.
When looking into food stocking in general, you should make connections with wholesale suppliers so you can get the lowest cost per unit. Saving money on the upfront costs of food will help you get more profit from your vending machines in the long run.