The basic benefit that vending provides locations — convenience for employees and customers — remains the leading benefit that account decision makers cite when asked what’s important about vending.
But as consumer preferences have become more diverse, nutritional options have taken on greater importance, and energy efficiency has become a bigger issue, account decision makers are increasingly recognizing there is more to consider in choosing a vending provider than “clean, filled and working.”
Since most account decision makers have other areas of responsibility besides vending, most also recognize that a vending service provider who offers products that employees and customers want at a reasonable price — reliably — is a great asset.
The traditional mantra, “clean, filled and working” continues to guide most account decision makers in selecting a vending service for their location. The desire for high quality, affordable refreshments on location remains as important as ever among U.S. businesses and organizations.
A recent, informal survey of location managers indicates that while vending is rarely their top priority, having a reliable service provider is not something most take for granted. While only a minority of location managers are aware of new technological capabilities — such as guaranteed product delivery, cashless transactions and remote monitoring — awareness of these capabilities is increasing.
Recognition of the complexities of vending has, in large measure, resulted in the development of vending management companies. While many vending operators view management companies as parasites who exist to maximize location commissions, account decision makers who work with management companies say their expertise is needed to ensure a problem-free vending service.
The fact that most account decision makers are not aware of the more recent technological capabilities indicates that operators have an opportunity to improve this audience’s appreciation of their service. As noted by many observers in recent years, educating customers about new capabilities gives an operator the ability to minimize the importance of commissions.
Commissions were cited as more important by government and institutional account decision makers than private businesses. Vending contracts put out for bid by government entities typically require commissions.
A TYPICAL DECISION MAKER
A typical client perspective was offered by Randy Gaston, general manager of Learned Lumber, a lumber supply store in Hermosa Beach, Calif. with 28 employees. The store has a snack and soda machine for its employees. Gaston said he switched vending providers about a year ago when he was approached by an operator who offered more modern equipment. The soda is 60 cents for cans and $1.00 for bottles.
Learned Lumber does not pay any commission, and as long as there are no complaints about the service from his employees, Gaston said he is happy with the service. “I know that they (employees) have requested things, and he (the operator) changes them. It’s not anything I have to maintain,” he said. “As long as the employees are not complaining to me about it, I’m happy.”
Gaston said employees can also buy lunch from a mobile catering truck. He said the prices in the vending machines are lower than what the mobile caterer charges for similar products.
Dominion Plaza Apartments in Arlington, Va. has snack and soda machines for residents and employees. Management is most concerned about having fresh product, full machines and “reasonable” prices, according to Lawana Zink, property manager. When asked about commission, she said there is a 10 to 15 percent commission, depending on product type, but this is not a key concern.
Sonic Automotive Inc., based in Charlotte, N.C., operates auto dealerships in 15 states. Jeff Wilhoite, director of purchasing, said it’s easy for location managers to take vending for granted until they have a problem. “It’s a very emotional and personal item; you don’t know how much value it has until you’ve had an experience where it starts to affect something in a negative manner,” he said.