At Sonic Automotive stores, cold beverage and snack machines serve patrons in the waiting areas and employees in the employee areas. Wilhoite said it’s important to have good quality refreshments available to both groups of people — at reasonable prices.
“It’s not a matter of if they (the individual stores) will have a problem or not; it’s how they resolve it,” Wilhoite said.
This is why Sonic Automotive opted to work with a vending management company at one point, only to change course and return the responsibility to regional managers. When they gave a management company a national contract, stores reported high levels of dissatisfaction with the vending service. “I don’t think a national contract is the way to go,” Wilhoite said.
The coffee service, on the other hand, is handled through a national contract.
In situations where locations have committees to evaluate the vending, more thought typically goes into what the service provides and who provides it. A case in point is Green Bay Packaging Inc., which has 122 employees in Fremont, Ohio. The company offers 15-minute breaks for the hourly employees, meaning the vending bank is the only source of refreshments.
Green Bay Packaging formed a committee two years ago that came up with some new requests, and as a result, a new vending company was hired.
Sandy Clark, human resources manager at Green Bay Packaging, said the committee was concerned about a cold cup machine, which was often dirty. “In the spring you’d have fruit flies,” Clark said of the postmix cup machine. The committee also wanted to see more product variety.
When a competing vendor offered more product variety and some new technology, the committee opted to switch operators.
The new operator provides a frozen food machine in addition to the hot beverage, soda, snack and refrigerated food machines.
Instead of a cold cup machine, the new operator provides bottles in addition to cans, bringing more beverage variety. Clark noted that many of the younger employees like things like vitaminwater, which is only available in bottles.
The new operator also provides a debit card that the employees can add value to using a revalue station.
DRIVER PROFESSIONALISM ALSO COUNTS
New technology and products aren’t the only criteria, Clark noted. The route person must be professional. “That route person can make or break an account,” she said.
As already noted, the complexities that have emerged in recent years have caused some customers to hire management companies. And while operators overall resent management companies, it is often the management companies that introduce new technologies, such as remote machine monitoring.
Lowe’s Home Improvement has found vending management a beneficial resource, noted Ron Morton, procurement manager. Vending serves both public and employee areas. He said about two thirds of the vending machines serve employee areas. The vending management company was instrumental in equipping the vending machines at Lowe’s store with remote machine monitoring, which is now mandated in the operator contracts.
Morton said the contracts vary by geographic region. The company surveys employees to decide what products to offer. He said the offerings are designed to be competitive with what’s available at competing outlets, such as convenience stores and fast food restaurants.
For the employee vending areas, Morton said Lowe’s wants employees to have the option of staying onsite for meals. The vending areas have refrigerated food, snacks, beverages, and in some cases, ice cream.
Judy Chick, general manager of two Comfort Inn hotels in Alexandria, Va., said her company has also found it beneficial to have a vending management company. “Our primary goal is to sell rooms,” she said. “We don’t have time to spend on it (vending).”
If it weren’t for the support of a vending management company, Chick said she doubts the company would even offer vending. While the hotels get a commission, Chick said, “We’re more concerned about customer service.”