Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo. was able to more than double its vending sales by enabling its machines to accept campus ID cards and integrating vending into its foodservice management system last year. The school was dissatisfied with the quality of its previous vending service. Machines were often empty, selections were limited, and machines only accepted cash.
To improve the quality of vending service, the school discontinued contracts with two vending operators and transferred the responsibility to its onsite foodservice director. A key move was enabling machines to accept ID cards for payment and integrating the vending machines with the software system that manages other retail outlets, such as convenience stores and the manual foodservice. This enabled students, faculty and staff to use their meal plan cards for vending purchases.
“Our faculty, staff and students weren’t satisfied with the vending on campus,” said Jackie Elliott, vice president of student affairs. She said the school regularly surveys its 6,500 students about the vending service, and learned that machines were frequently empty. Students also wanted to be able to use their meal plan cards in the machines, and they wanted more product variety.
Elliott said the school realized the previous vending service providers were limited in their ability to address these issues due to the fact that the companies are not based in Marysville.
One reason the machines were often empty was the school periodically hosts events, resulting in inconsistent use of the vending machines. “We have peak highs and lows,” Elliott noted. It was difficult for the previous vending operators to keep the machines stocked.
Elliott said the vending providers would have been able to offer cashless capability, but she questioned whether they could integrate their cashless systems into the school’s meal plan. Students, faculty and staff carry ID cards that are used in the food court and at certain retail outlets.
The school decided it made sense to take the vending in-house and have Aramark, its foodservice manager, oversee the vending machines. Fortunately, the school enjoyed a good relationship with Aramark, Elliott said.
“We want to be a leading organization,” Elliott said. “Customers today want to have lots of options. We want to be functional, agile and flexible.”
Being able to use their ID cards in vending machines was important, Elliott said.
In order to bring the vending service inhouse, the school needed to buy vending equipment and have machines that could accept the campus ID card. They also changed the official responsibilities of the onsite foodservice director to include vending.
FOODSERVICE SOFTWARE PROVIDER STEPS FORWARD
The school relied on the advice of its foodservice management software provider, Atlanta, Ga.-based Horizon Software International (HSI). HSI offers a variety of point-of-service and back-end management systems, including inventory management, procurement, menu planning, nutrition analysis, and warehouse distribution.
HSI, in turn, worked with the Wittern Group, the vending equipment manufacturer, to provide vending machines with hardware that would integrate with the school’s foodservice management software system. The machines include 21 dedicated cold drink venders, 19 dedicated candy/snack venders, and nine combination cold drink/candy/snack venders. The machines were in place at the start of the 2008 fall semester. There were previously 62 machines; 45 dedicated cold drink and 17 dedicated candy/snack venders.
The Wittern Group was able to install the necessary hardware and software fairly quickly at its factory, thanks to its longstanding relationship with Vendnovation, a vending software supplier. The Wittern Group has worked with Vendnovation in the past on its industrial supply dispensing machines that also utilize remote machine monitoring.