Is it difficult to find a location for a Vending Machine?
It can be difficult to find a location for a vending machine because you need to find businesses that do not already have vending machines operated by your competitors. You cannot put a vending machine just anywhere.
However, there is ample opportunity of you just cold call or go to businesses in person, because it is very unlikely that every great potential spot for a vending machine is already taken in your city or town – especially if you’re looking to place a more specialized machine like an ice cream vending machine.
What are the first steps to find a location?
First, you need to analyze the product and market fit for a specific business or location. Is there a barber shop that always has a long wait time and people might want a drink or snack? Is there a gym that doesn’t have a convince store nearby, so drinks, protein powders, and healthy snacks might be attractive to gym-goers?
Is there a bar that is kind of boring and a photo booth or luxury alcohol or CBD vending machine might spice it up? These are quick examples of product-market fit for vending machines.
You could also go the highly specialized route – maybe design a vending machine that sells boxing gloves (at various price points), powder, tape, energy bars, etc. specifically for boxing gyms. The great thing about specialized vending is that there is unlikely to be a similar machine already at a specialized location. Snack machines will already be in most gyms, but a boxing glove machine could be plopped right next to a snack machine without fear of competition.
As you may have guessed, one drawback to specialized vending machines is that the items are likely going to be at a higher price point than snacks or drinks. This means more money is required to initially stock the machine. This can be mitigated by using a smaller vending machine, so that the smaller amount of inventory doesn’t make a full size machine look empty.
The other drawback is that sales might be slower for a specialized machine, unless you’ve really done you’re research and surveyed the clientele of the location. For example, a well established boxing gym that has a small amount of turnover of it’s patrons isn’t likely to produce as many sales of boxing gloves as a new boxing gym or a established boxing gym that has lots of people just trying it out, and hence a high turnover rate and regularly gets new customers.
Fortunately, you can also fill a snack vending machines with healthy snacks like packaged fruits or applesauce or similar items that could still work right next to a candy and chips vending machine. While you might think there would be too much competition, a fruit vending machine and a candy vending machine next to each other would cause the potential customer to ask themselves, “Which snack do I want?” rather than “Do I want a snack?”.
After you find something to vend and a general idea of what business you want to contact (see my top 5 places to put vending machines), you should scout out those types of businesses. For example, you should visit all the gyms in your area and see if there are any that are really busy – let’s just say they have full parking lots at all times of day.
Then you should contact the manager of the gym to ask if they can help you find a location for your vending machine. For some people it may be easier to do this in reverse – contact all the gyms in your area and then scout out the ones that agree to let you put a vending machine there.
The only issue is that it might be difficult to walk away from a low traffic spot when you’re already been trying to make an arrangement with the manager. You just have to be strong, and don’t get yourself into bad deals where it will take a long time to pay back your initial investment of buying the vending machine and stocking it with goods.
Once you get a location, you will obviously need to buy a vending machine. Make sure that it either has a credit card reader, or that one is able to be installed – otherwise you’ll miss out on sales, and credit card readers also provides sales data that you can use for insights to increase your sales.
Don’t forget that vending machines weigh a lot, and you’d probably need a professional mover or a few strong buddies.
You need to hunt to find the best locations
If you don’t like this hunting process or are having trouble closing a deal, then you could turn to a vending machine locator. Leptonic, Inc. is not a vending machine locator, but the Micro Real Estate website is essentially a site for listing vending machine spots and other micro-properties.
There are several established vending machine locators across America, so you could just google “vending machine locator + your zip code” and find a number of vending machine locators that could help you out.
You could also reach out to a commercial real estate consultant or a commercial real estate agent and ask them if they work in the micro real estate field or are interested in becoming a micro real estate agent.
There’s also the possibility of joining a local business association and asking the members if they would like to have vending machine on their properties for a cut of the profits. You probably would have to dole out about 5 % to 15% of your profits for a good location, which allows the business to make some ancillary income as incentive for hosting your machine.
What if there are truly no locations available in my area?
Though this is very unlikely if you live in a decently populated place, if all else fails, you could sell your vending machine. If you’ve decided that operating a vending business is not for you, the it might be wise to at least upgrade your vending machine to make sure it has a credit card acceptor (which also reads debit cards) and possibly even a hidden security camera, so that you can get the best possible price for your machine.
The other way to make sure you get the best possible price for your machine is to list it on the Micro Real Estate marketplace for vending machines.
I hope this helps, and I wish you luck on your entrepreneurial endeavors.