On further investigation, he learned that the route served an exclusive territory for M&M’s ice cream machines, which included some large retail stores and an air force base. The route included some M&M’s candy machines as well. Mike visited the owner’s operation in Columbus, Ohio and rode on a route to learn more about the business.
With the ice cream accounts already under contract with some locations and the affiliation with a well known brand, Mike reasoned that it was a good opportunity. “We had to have something to latch ourselves onto,” he said. “That’s what helped us get in the door to a lot of places; it gave us instant credibility.”
One thing that the Glimpses had going for them at the outset, in addition to strong sales experience and a fair amount of capital, was confidence in their ability to grow the business quickly.
The couple was willing to invest in technology at the outset. They realized that software would be important for managing vending routes, and asked an industry contact for some references. They were put in touch with Cantaloupe Systems.
They outfitted some of their machines with Cantaloupe’s SEED units on a test basis, and were pleased by the results. They were particularly concerned about being alerted in a timely manner about machine malfunctions since ice cream melt downs are very costly. Cantaloupe’s telemetry provided this ability.
The ability to determine machine inventory needs based on real time machine audit was another obvious benefit. Many of their accounts were spread out across a large geographic area. Hence, return on labor is especially important.
Cash accountability was still another benefit they saw. The SEED unit is constantly pushing data, which includes how much money is in the machine at any given time. This information is relayed via cellular signal to the main computer, which allows the office manager to compare the cash audit against the cash collected at the end of the day.
A SENSIBLE INVESTMENT
The investment in outfitting the existing machines with Cantaloupe was hefty for the small company, but the Glimpses didn’t question the benefits of having all of their machines sending data wirelessly to their desktop computer. “I thought it was a great idea,” Mike said.
The Glimpses had no idea how fortuitous their timing was when they made the commitment to install SEED in all of their newly-deployed machines. Their small business was about to expand quickly, and with the efficiencies afforded by the SEED units, they were destined to expand in a cost efficient manner.
Each day, the Cantaloupe system gives them the amount of product needed to fill machines to par level when serviced. Since the schedules are made at the end of the previous day, it is sometimes necessary for the driver to make an adjustment to fill to par level when he opens the machine. This hasn’t been a problem for Camelback Vending; the driver simply notes the adjustment and reports it.
SCHOOL ACCOUNT BECKONS
Soon after buying their initial route, the Glimpses got a call from a school district that was having service problems with its ice cream vendor. This added another 10 machines to the existing 20-machine route. They selected the multi-selection Fastcorp machines. Jodi serviced the machines herself. At the end of the school year, the school district asked Camelback to bid on the snack machines in addition to the ice cream machines.
In 2006, many Arizona school districts were adopting the “35-10-35” nutrition standard, requiring products that are less than 35 percent fat, less than 10 percent saturated fat, and less than 35 percent total weight in sugar.
A NICHE EMERGES: SCHOOLS
The school district noted that its existing vending provider was not eager to meet the new standards. The Glimpses did some research on available products, and determined that there were enough snack items that could meet the standard. They won the contract, which covered 60 machines in 10 different campuses. In addition to snack machines, they provided milk and ice cream machines.
“That was our first big jump,” Mike said.
He noted that there are sufficient selections in all types of products to meet the nutrition rules. In the ice cream and milk machines, there are products with reduced sugar content. The milk machines also carry some teas, waters and sports drinks.