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How to Start a Vending Machine Business

How to Start a Vending Machine Business
Caucasian woman wearing pink top using a coin operated modern vending machine. Her hand is placed on the dial pad and she is looking on the small display screen.
kasto80/Getty Images/iStockphoto

🕒 Estimated reading time: 3 min.

The vending machine industry is appealing to many entrepreneurs across the UK for a variety of reasons. A vending franchise is a cash-only business that requires minimal maintenance and little storage. It is quick and easy to get started once you have an excellent product to market.

In Japan, where vending is almost an indispensable part of life, the vending industry is booming. The country has approximately 4.8 million vending machines and this figure is set to keep rising. The Japanese are well known for their long working hours, so a quick drink or snack from a vending machine is ideal for those with little time to spare. With their nose for innovation, the Japanese are even teaching their young about nature through vending machines. In Tokyo, where wild habitats are disappearing, a company has started selling live horned beetles to teach children about these insects.

Vending is doing well everywhere right now, after a sluggish few years during the economic downturn. In 2017, the UK imported 67.7 million pounds worth of vending machines, which was a slight decrease from 2016. Continuing advancements in technology will help the development of new vending machines such as those with cashless or touchscreen technology. Less and less of us are carrying cash on a daily basis so a vending machine that operates without cash is the next obvious step.

For entrepreneurs, vending machines offer low-cost entry into a business that can potentially earn revenue 24 hours a day – with the right location and right product. With new businesses popping up every day, there is plenty of room for a savvy vending entrepreneur. The major advantage of vending franchises is that a vending machine usually doesn’t require much of your own time, so you will be able to have a second job. On a typical day, you might just need to check your machine once to pick up your money and refill stock as necessary. Customers always pay in cash so fraud is never an issue and the industry has a very low cost of entry in comparison with businesses that involve retail space.

It’s important to bear in mind that there are some downsides too. Theft and vandalism could be an issue, and you do risk being saddled with a product you are unable to move. The key is to ensure that you have a marketable product.

Before you invest

Step 1

Start out by thoroughly researching the vending industry. Check out the wide range of vending franchises and business opportunities currently on offer in the UK here. Franchises such as Tubz Brands Vending, With Thanks Vending and Hurley's International Foods Limited have very low investment levels so it is really easy to enter the lucrative vending franchise industry. Antoine Cameron’s How to Start a Vending Business is a good read for those interested in opening a vending business and Planet Vending is the main magazine for the industry. 

Step 2

In the vending machine business, it’s all about location. A vending machine stocking mediocre merchandise in a prime location will actually make more money than one that is full of wonderful goods that nobody ever sees. So, compile a list of potential locations and vending options in your area. There are loads of options such as establishing snack vending machines in a local office or an energy drinks vending machine in a local gym. 

Step 3

Visit your potential locations to check the customer traffic, the demographics of the customers and to ensure that the business currently doesn't have a vending service. Write down all of your observations to utilise in your pitch to the owner of your chosen venue(s). 

Step 4

Develop a personalised presentation to pitch to each owner and make sure to include any specific details about each particular business. This will show that you have done your research and are serious about the endeavour. You might need to give them an incentive to allow you to place your machines in their venue. This is usually done by offering them a percentage of your earnings.

Once you’re up and running

Consider getting training in the mechanics of vending machines. If you are able to repair the machine yourself, this will save you the cost of hiring a technician each time it breaks down.

Experiment with different products in your vending machines. If you can come up with items that sell well and provide variety, you will reduce the competition from other vending machines and make more money. 

You might also consider branching out from food items to offer personal care items, small toys, stamps or basically anything that could potentially be sold from a machine. Be imaginative!

Keep your machines consistently stocked and maintained or you will end up losing sales.

Take the first step to running your own vending franchise business by browsing through our list of opportunities here.

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