How to Start a Vending Machine Business

How to Start a Vending Machine Business

You know you have an entrepreneurial spirit, but you aren’t in the position to dedicate all of your time or financial resources into starting a business. Maybe you’re comfortable with your full-time job, or you already own a business but are looking expand upon your income streams. What you need is something simple, primarily hands-free and a low initial threshold to get started.

Enter: Vending machines.

Most businesses will require significant upfront costs to secure a location, staff, equipment and merchandise. Even low-cost business models like home-based businesses will often require a constant marketing and sales grind. Vending machines offer a distinct middle ground that make them a terrific investment for new or seasoned entrepreneurs.

What Makes a Vending Machine Business a Smart Investment

Low initial cost: Whether you’re buying used machines for as low as $50 or top-end models for $5,000, there are options available for every budget to get started without the typical overhead costs of running a business.

Proven concept: The concept of a dispensing machine was first actualized as early as 1615. Now you can find vending machines virtually anywhere with enough reliable foot traffic. As we continue to streamline our interactions as a society, vending machine use is continuing to grow in popularity.

Potential for growth: Two recent trends are opening up entirely new avenues for the vending machine industry: 1) technology and 2) health. The global perception of vending machines is changing, making room for vending machines to work with more niche or luxurious products and locations. Now may be the time to take a chance on a new vending machine venture.

Stable scalability: Machines and products can be purchased very affordably, making it easy to scale your vending machine business as you see fit.

Consider Your Vending Machine Options

As you get excited about the potential for operating a vending machine business, think about the types of machines, products and locations you want to represent.

If it’s all about the numbers, research is going to be key to find out what areas are ripe with potential and what kinds of goods consumers in those areas are looking to conveniently purchase.

Another alternative is to work through a franchise or acquire an existing network of vending machines. If you want to branch out on your own, consider an angle that speaks to you — healthy snack alternatives, toys that are going to make a kid’s day, hot and fresh pizza or cool tech.

From Scratch vs. Tried and True vs. Franchise

Starting a vending machine business can go one of three ways: 1) from scratch with your own machines and products, 2) acquiring machines that are already positioned and contracted out or 3) franchising a more name brand vending machine like Healthier4U Vending.

Product Types

Another decision you’ll have to make before your vending machine business is ready to launch is which types of products you’ll be stocking.

You’ll want to consider how each type of product and even specific brands perform in the areas you’re considering (i.e., what’s affordable may not be what performs).

  • Snacks
  • Drinks (hot and cold)
  • Healthy
  • Gourmet
  • Clothing
  • Tools
  • Sanitary products
  • Toys

Research Is Everything

With a business structure as passive as vending machines, you can’t rely on marketing draw in or persuading customers. This means that getting your machines in the right location, with the right products to intrigue the right people are ALL musts.

Location, Location, Location

Ideally you’re already familiar with the area(s) that you’re looking at placing your machine(s).

  • Shopping centers
  • Stores
  • Malls
  • Airports
  • Medical practices
  • School
  • Workplaces
  • Hotels/apartments

What’s Performing?

Running a gumball machine business sounds like a blast until you find yourself stuck with a lifetime supply of Dubble Bubble and a bunch of (empty) machines.

Make sure you have a comfortable understanding of the demographics of your area and the data surrounding what vending machines are selling in your region. This data is likely going to vary drastically within your city, depending on the types of locations each machine is placed.

Maintaining Equipment

How hands-on do you want to get with your vending machine business? If you’re looking to save money, you may want to learn how to perform general maintenance tasks yourself. Otherwise, you’ll want to find a reliable maintenance technician to repair your machines so that they don’t develop a reputation as “that vending machine.”

Restocking Machines and Collecting Coin

Operating a vending machine business can be more passive than a traditional 9-5 business structure. However, its lower startup threshold often distorts the reality of how much continued maintenance is required for vending machine owners.

Based on the types of products you’re working with, maintaining your vending machines can take a bit of heavy lifting. Eventually you’ll become more comfortable with the cadence of when your machines need to be restocked so that you can streamline this process and maximize your ROI.

Speaking of ROI, you’ve probably been wondering just how profitable a vending machine business can be. As with any business, the more informed you are, the better investment you’ll be able to make in order to put yourself in a position to thrive.

Vending machines can turn profits of between $30-$100 per month. Typically, this means that a machine will pay for itself within just one year. Utilize this data and any further data you may find to plan out your ideal sweet spot of machines to maintain vs. the money you hope to make each month.

Once you’re confident in a concept, work with Incfile to make it official. Starting a business is enough work. That’s why we make incorporating it easy!

Chris Keller

Chris Keller

Chris Keller is a veteran the in business finance industry. Prior to starting his own business, he managed product lines at two Fortune 500 companies focusing on their Profit & Loss statements.
Chris Keller

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