There are multiple businesses that are related to the vending machine industry, so I’ll briefly describe a vending machine business and then get into the related vending machine businesses in the industry. They are:
- Vending Machine Owner/Operator
- Vending Machine Artist
- Vending Machine Locator Service
- Vending Machine Repair Service
- Vending Machine Manufacturing
- Vending Machine Distributor
- Vending Machine Sales
- Vending Machine Training
Vending Machine Owner/Operator Business
A vending machine operator business is the traditional business you think of when you buy a vending machine and find a location to place the machine. This requires a jack-of-all-trades and/or a very good manager to do well in this type of business.
Ideally, you grow from a jack-of-all-trades into a very good manager of people, so that you can save money in the beginning by doing everything yourself, and then save time later by outsourcing some of your tasks that are not as important to you. Think about tending to your lawn vs. tending to your children.
Vending Machine Artist
From a purely profit motivated standpoint becoming a vending machine artist is probably too high on this list, but I’m a patron of the arts. You could be an artist that sells their art through a vending machine. Or you could make really cool looking vending machines. Or you could have vending machines as your subject matter in a painting or drawing. So, yeah, there are a few different opportunities for artists in the vending industry.
A vending machine locator service is often also called a locator or placement service. Basically, a vending machine locator will cold call several business to find a spot for your vending machine.
Many vending machine owners and operators find the spots to place their vending machines themselves, but this service is available to those who want a easy or quick placement. Instead of using a vending machine locator service you could also browse the locations that are available the Micro Real Estate website. Unfortunately, you can’t put a vending machine just anywhere, you need to talk to the owner of the property.
Vending Machine Repair Service
The quickest pivot from vending machine owner/operator to another aspect of the industry, is to start a vending machine repair service. A vending machine repair service obviously means that you’ll either need to know/learn how to repair machines yourself, or you hire someone to do it for you.
You could do field service where you visit vending machines in their locations to repair them, or you could buy non-functioning vending machines and repair them, and then put the vending machines up for sale on Micro Real Estate.
Of course, you’ll probably end up doing both field service and flipping vending machines. If you were already an owner/operator you’ve probably built up some knowledge of how to repair machines (at least clearing jams, I hope), so you can expand your vending industry services.
Not only will you repair many drink and snack machines, but you might also be asked to repair specialized vending machines (though some companies might require certification), like a pizza vending machine, or a vending machine with augmented reality features, or other cool vending machines.
Vending Machine Manufacturing Business
In this sequence of businesses – owner/operator, repair service, and manufacturing – manufacturing of whole vending machines or even just vending machine parts or retrofit systems, like credit card readers, is certainly the most capital intensive. Identity verification retrofit products for beer vending machines are also likely to grow in the future.
You’ll need a building, machinery to build the vending machine, people, inventory, HVAC, building repairs and modifications, and a whole bunch of other capital intensive systems to make the whole thing work. That’s not to say that you won’t have those same or similar financial and logistical challenges to solve with owning/operating or repairing vending machines, but the others don’t require much or any capital to get started.
You’ll also be competing against well established vending machine manufacturers, but if you’ve got an innovation (especially if it’s a patentable invention) then it might be worth getting into manufacturing.
I’d expect that you’d want to be a seasoned owner/operator before getting into manufacturing whole machines, but there are also accessories that you could create – who knows, maybe augmented reality will be coming to vending machines and you could sell AR coded products from machines that look really cool in AR. Or you could build AI software to analyze sales data.
Vending Machine Distributor
Distributors are basically between the vending machine manufacturer and the buyer of the vending machine. They may both sell and distribute or just distribute their wares.
I think it’s pretty uncommon for there to be a warehouse for vending machines without a sales group as part of the same company, but there are certainly a few. If you are looking to buy a vending machine you will likely want to reach out to a distributor for your preferred brand and model of vending machine.
If you want to become a vending machine distributor, you’ll need to apply to manufacturers to become one of their distributors. Some manufacturers have very strict guidelines of who they’re looking for to become a distributor (eg. former or current owners/operators, established sales teams, experience as a distributor for a competitor, you get the drift).
Distribution can certainly be lucrative, so if you have a lot of industry connections, empty warehouse space, and good sales skills, the you’ll be off to a great start. And you could also get into the vending insurance business through distributorship.
Vending Machine Sales
Sometimes a sales business does literally only one thing – sell a product and earn a commission on each of the sales. This is kind of the Workaholics model, but focused sole on vending machines and vending machine related products. So, if you are a salesperson, then this would be the easiest route to get into the vending industry.
Vending Machine Online Training
Of course with any profitable venture there is also money to be made in training people how to start a similar profitable venture. There’s tons of investing books, but reading them won’t make your rich – you need to take actions for yourself and implement lessons from the book when they seem appropriate to you. Just like all the books on stock market investing, there a many books on how to invest into your own vending machine business.
Each must be taken with a grain of salt, and bear in mind that I haven;t taken these courses myself (though I do plan to take them all in the future), but here’s a list of some interesting training courses:
Each of the training courses comes in at a few different price point, so if you just want to get your feet wet you could buy an ebook, or spring for a 1-on-1 consultation, or pretty much anything in between. I’d recommend an online video course, since they can be digested quickly.
Wrapping It Up
If you are looking at getting into the vending machines industry, there are a number of businesses that are tangential to actually be a vending machine owner/operator. The industry is wide open, and set to grow with a 3% to 7% (depending on which report you quote) CAGR over the next 5 years. That means there will be quite a few more vending machine locations cropping up and many more machines to service, refurbish, and sell.