The commissary as community resource
There are other advantages. A busy commissary may employ seven to 15 people in his kitchen, which is good for the community, good for business, and good for the operator. The vending operator who operates a commissary becomes an asset to the community, and this is good for the operator's public relations.
Of course, the operator has to provide a good quality product. Like the commercial sandwich maker, the local vendor faces certain challenges inherent in vending. That is, the customer cannot touch the item before it is purchased. The old adage that "people buy with their eyes" is especially valid in the vending industry.
When a customer buys a product from a vending machine, he has to know that the price charged is worthy of his money and his taste buds.
When the button is pushed, he expects to get a product just as good as he perceived it before the sale. That goes for a commercial sandwich or a locally made product. Trust is a must, and it must be fulfilled.
Who's the real competition today?
For years, the vending operator thought his closest competitor was the vendor across town. This is no longer true.
The main competitor to today's vendor is the convenience store, where the customer can view and touch and closely examine the very same sandwich that the commercial sandwich makers are producing. The commercial makers sell to everyone.
The local commissary gives the vending operator the ability to offer a sandwich that the convenience store does not carry.
The commissary enables him to meet the onslought of new competition.
So how does a small operator do it?
Some start literally in their home kitchen, making sandwiches one at a time for a single cold food machine in their first location.
Operators can begin small
A beginner can still do this cheaply. A small Teflon-coated sealer costs only $80, and the cellophane wraps with an FDA-approved board attached costs only 4 cents each. And the product has a 3-day shelf life before it needs to be changed.
You can still get cellophane (or polypro) sandwich bags for about a nickel each. The hot plate to seal it costs about $120. Square cellophane and poly sheets with a backing board are about a nickel as well.
All things considered, it is not a great capital outlay to begin a commissary. In most states, however, you have to produce an identification label, which could add another 2 cents. You can do those on your computer. But all of this is for the beginner.
As the volume increases as well as your income, demand will grow for product variety. A lidding machine might become necessary to meet product requests. For about $1,200 plus the cost of containers and film, you can get an "all-in-one" manual lidding machine that with a plate change, you can put in several different containers.
Your vending machines now have sandwiches, a salad or two, and a two-compartment meal entr?e, and your commissary is still small by industry standards.
Consider your community role
As you increase your business and add a few more routes, your commissary will grow to the point that it is as large as some of the commercial kitchens that service your area. You are now becoming a significant employer.
You have joined the local chamber of commerce, and through leads and your new status as an important local businessman, you get more leads for even more business.
Now you can confront the issues that bothered you during the time that you were starting out.
Consider expansion opportunities
During a chamber meeting, you meet the man who just happens to own a chain of convenience stores you have been competing against. It seems he has been having trouble this season because his customers are asking for a "pepper and egg sandwich" that his commercial sandwich provider does not offer.
You can do it. Because you are local and know your market, you have what the c-store guy needs. You begin to deliver your sandwiches on your routes to the small c-store chain.