As the greater Washington, D.C. economy expands further into neighboring areas, a new regional vending player has emerged in the West Virginia/Virginia region, aided largely by state-of-the-art vending management software.
In just four years, Sure Bet Services, the full line vending division of an established cold beverage bottling company, has become a leading player in a fast growing region. The double digit annual growth for the Ranson, W.Va.-based company has been largely facilitated by the implementation of DEX handheld computers.
Sure Bet Services has become a major player in educational, government, health care and business and industry accounts. It is the first independent vending operation to win some major government accounts that the nationals and big name beverage bottlers have historically dominated.
Sure Bet Services was launched four years ago by Royal Crown Bottling Co., based in Winchester, Va. Brothers Scott and W.E. Bridgeforth, third generation owners, recognized the need for a dedicated focus on vending. Like many cold beverage bottlers, the company operated vending machines for many years in addition to supplying beverages to third party vendors.
Need for a Dedicated Vending Focus
Scott Bridgeforth said that the need for a dedicated full-line vending organization became obvious a few years ago. Until that time, the company’s vending machines were serviced by its direct store delivery (DSD) trucks, the same trucks that delivered case loads of beverages to retailers and foodservice establishments.
As the retail outlets had grown in size over the years, the vending machines became more of a distraction to Royal Crown Bottling Co.’s DSD drivers. These drivers were paid partly on commission, and the vending machines were small volume compared to the retail super stores. As a result, many of the vending machines did not get proper attention.
“Their (drivers’) focus was being lost on vending machines,” Scott Bridgeforth said.
As bottlers, the Bridgeforths were aware of the fact that vending is a viable business. But as observers of successful vending operations, they also recognized that vending requires a dedicated focus to be successful. They decided it was necessary to develop a dedicated vending organization.
In 2003, the brothers hired a sales manager and a driver to focus full time on vending. Around this time, the company also opened a warehouse in Charles Town, W.Va. to expand its bottling operation into the West Virginia market.
Meanwhile, Scott Bridgeforth got to know Rodney Moore, a business development manager for one of the major vending equipment manufacturing companies. Moore struck Bridgeforth as very knowledgeable about vending. Moore was also someone who had contacts in West Virginia, a market that the Bridgeforths wanted to develop.
Scott Bridgeforth reasoned that Moore, given his vending background, could build Sure Bet Services into a larger company.
Acquisition Jumpstarts the Vending Business
At the time, Sure Bet Services only had a few customers. After talking with Moore and reaching an agreement, the Bridgeforths decided to purchase an existing vending company in the West Virginia Eastern Panhandle and hire Moore to develop and run the business.
Moore, for his part, welcomed the opportunity to build Sure Bet Services. Having worked as a business development manager for an equipment manufacturer, he was aware of the capabilities of new machines. He also had extensive operational knowledge, having worked with vending operators and bottlers nationwide.
“I felt confident in the ability to take advantage of the knowledge I’d gained with my past experience working directly with operators and bottlers in the industry. I would apply that to this business, picking out the good methods and not using the bad,” Moore said.
Owners to Invest in the Business