Batch card authorizations
The purchases are authorized in batches, daily. "Batching" the authorizations after the sale allows for faster purchases. If the authorization were done in real time, the purchase process would take a bit longer.
Conducting authorizations after the fact does carry the risk of fraudulent purchases, Lawlor noted. But to date, this has not been a problem. He minimizes his exposure by programming the card reader to limit each card to $10 per purchase session. He also has the option of limiting the number of purchases per card.
The USA Technologies' password protected website allows Lawlor to review all of his sales over the Internet, and not just his cashless sales. He can compare cashless sales to cash sales by location and by machine. Every cashless transaction is listed in chronological order.
The same information is also available in the machine controller board in most new machines, he noted.
Because Lawlor has offered cashless from the beginning, he has no way to determine how much this benefit has lifted his sales. To date, more than 15 percent of his total sales in machines with e-Port® are cashless. His card readers accept both credit cards and bank debit cards.
Cashless benefits high ticket sales
Lawlor has noticed that customers tend to use cashless more in machines with higher price points. Cashless sales account for as much as half of his frozen food machine purchases. "The higher the price point, the higher the percentage of credit card sales," he noted.
In beverage machines, 15 percent of the sales are cashless if the bottles are priced at $1.50; if the price point is lower, the percentage of cashless sales are proportionately lower.
Because of the customer's tendency to use a credit or debit card to buy higher ticket items, Lawlor has emphasized the use of cards on food machines the most. He has also been more willing to offer food to "mid-tier" accounts than many operators. He uses both dedicated frozen food machines and slave frozen food machines.
Focus on frozen food
Lawlor has made ample use of frozen food "slave" machines from Automatic Products international, ltd. and U-Select-It Corp. These machines allow him to serve food and ice cream in accounts with as few as 100 people.
The slave arrangement also allows the customer to use the card reader for both the frozen machine and the snack machine. "That slave just works out very nicely," he said.
He has noticed that the "slave" in many cases does as much business as the larger snack machine. One reason is the card reader.
Lawlor has some dedicated frozen machines in larger accounts. He uses no dedicated, refrigerated food machines, but he is offering dual zone temperature machines that will offer both perishable food and ambient products.
So far, Lawlor is directly involved in the servicing himself. Visiting most accounts once a week, he spends four days a week servicing machines and the rest of the time selling. This part of the job reminds him of his early days at Pepsi, when he rode vending trucks to learn the business from the ground up.
Lawlor has been able to order his product online from Anpesil Distribution Services in Gibbstown, N.J.
Focus on national brands
Even though Lawlor is servicing a geographic area that is known for having a large number of regional brands -- in just about all product categories -- he sticks to national brands. "The more brand names you put in there, the closer you come to providing automated retailing," he said.
Lawlor reports more success than most operators vending milk in schools. The foodservice directors view the machines as a way to alleviate pressure on the manual lunch line.
Lawlor has had no trouble meeting nutrition rules in his school accounts. There are no carbonated beverages or candy bars allowed in the schools he serves. He credits his supplier, Anpesil, for keeping him informed about products that meet nutrition requirements. He plans to continue adding more schools.