Is a Vending Machine Route the Right Small Business For You?

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Answered by: Cynthia, An Expert in the Small Business Info Category
Owning and operating a vending machine route has many benefits. The basics of operating a vending route are quite simple to learn, and in time, it is possible to earn a handsome income working 20-30 hours per week. There is a lot more to owning and operating a route of vending machines than just going to collect the money and replacing inventory. The major areas that you will need to be proficient in are:

1) Finding and soliciting new locations for your least performing equipment. It's a never ending process as you are always looking for a new home for your lowest performing unit.

2) How to do basic service on the equipment, including basic coin-mechanism troubleshooting on-site. A couple of hours in the service department of the retailer will go a long ways to saving you time not taking equipment in for repair.

3) Vending Machine Route Collections. This is the visible aspect of being a Vending Route Operator. You will need to learn how to negotiate contracts and how to keep your best accounts happy.

If you are thinking of going into the vending machine business, here's the best way to test the water:

Go to your local phone book and look up "Vending Machines". Call and talk to a couple companies and get a feel for the different brands of machines and the product they carry. Be up front and ask for information as to what is HOT and what is not. The sales department will be a huge help in getting you started in the right direction. Ask for brochures of all pieces of equipment that you think you could afford to buy. There may be used machines that the retailer is aware of, but buy new if you can because the service warranty is gold.

Take the glossy brochures and put them in a nice 3-ring binder in plastic sleeves, then hit the street. See if you can find locations for the equipment in your brochures before you actually spend a dime on inventory.

The phone is a good way to develop warm leads by calling straight from the phone book and asking when the owner or general manager will be on site and available to look at a new product at no cost to the owner. Businesses get this kind of request a lot so they will give you this information without much difficulty.

If you get an immediate yes and you need to negotiate a split on the fly, remember this: All inventory and licensing fees come "off the top" and the remaining monies are split 50/50. You provide all the service and will restock on a regular schedule. If you get any takers, move forward.

It's best to buy several machines at once, and you should have all your locations lined up in advance. If possible try to place your equipment in the same geographical area so you are not driving long distances on your route collections. Vending machine routes afford a lot of flexibility and opportunity. Take it slow, and this just might be the right small business for you.

Next, about what makes a "good location" and where in the location is the best place for you to "place the equipment" in order to take advantage of the natural flow of pedestrian traffic walking by your equipment. Also, where NEVER to place your vending equipment if you don't want it stolen.

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