I will be the first to tell you that vending is NOT a get-rich-quick business. Yes, you can make a lot of money selling gumballs, candy bars, chips and sodas, but it takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and smart thinking to be successful.
What I am going to talk about today is probably the most important thing you need to know about vending. As the business world says, the three keys to success in business are: Location, Location, Location! So what are the best locations for your vending machine? Obviously they will be locations with high traffic volumes – people traffic that is. Whether they’re customers or employees, they need to be frequently passing by the vending machine in order for it to sell.
When you first install the machine, you will typically experience the novelty effect where you see the peak performance for the machine within the first couple of months and then it will taper off. So if the machine isn’t performing well in the first couple of months, your chances of success with that location are not good.
Everyone knows that your large grocery stores, hospital waiting rooms, the high school, etc. make great vending locations, but let’s face it- those locations are already taken. Typically you will need to offer a commission of 10-20% of the gross in order to place your machines in the larger chain stores. The most difficult part is finding the right person to talk to in the large corporation, and then if you actually get to talk to that right person, you must prove that your business has the expertise to service all their stores in their region. More often than not, there are regulations in the chain stores that will only allow certain types of vending or none at all. I am not saying that it’s impossible, but it will take a lot of patience, time, money, resources, and nagging to obtain the large corporate accounts.
What most vending professionals prefer to do, especially when first starting out, is to tackle the local “mom & pop” stores. Being able to talk to the owner is key to getting into that location. Your larger full-size snack and soda machines will require larger businesses, or offices like schools, call-centers, office buildings, manufacturing plants, etc. Unless it’s a new building, the establishment will most likely already have a vending machine there but it may not be offering the food or drinks that they need or maybe the service, selection, prices, or commissions are not meeting their expectations, and you may be able to persuade the owner to switch to your services. Your smaller bulk candy machines will typically be located in smaller businesses. And once again, the local businesses will take the least amount of effort to get into.
My best performing locations for bulk candy machines have been in car lots, car repair shops, salons, hardware stores, thrift stores, dollar stores, restaurants and bars. Ironically, some of my worst locations were also in many of these same categories. The key is finding locations where plenty of people are constantly flowing through or waiting on a service. It’s also critical to get the best location within the right location. Too often the owner wants all the vending machines stuck in the back corner. You need to sell them on the fact that your machine is an asset to their customers and employees- not an eyesore. Get your vending machine located at the front door, or front counter if possible for maximum success. Finally, don’t be afraid to place your machine right next to your competition and then offer better, cleaner product than them. To succeed in the vending industry you have to be smart, persuasive, creative, and competitive too.