Thinking about investing in new equipment this year? With populations and customer demands changing faster than ever, versatility ranks high on many vending operators' list of considerations. Many of the new glassfront combination machines address the need for greater variety in smaller locations.
New units offer more versatility
Combo machines are not new. What's new is the versatility that some machines are offering. An operator can buy a machine configured to vend cold beverages and, with some adjustments, turn it into a combination snack and beverage machine.
Some of today's new glassfronts offer perishable food, cold beverages and candy and snacks.
Locations that are not large enough to support food machines in addition to beverage and snack machines continue to ask for food. This article will address combo machines that do not use separate openings for different product groups.
In situations where both ambient and refrigerated products are in the same machine, operators have to pay attention to how much time it takes for the machine to cool down the ambient product. There are other operational issues as well. When there are products with different shelf life in a machine, it becomes harder to know the most opportune time to service the machine.
Nevertheless, many operators are finding a need for more versatile machines that will allow them to vend a greater product variety.
Darren McKeever, who operates McKeever Vending in Watertown, S.D., serves a lot of locations that are somewhat isolated and don't have an abundance of meal choices. He has placed combination food, snack and beverage glassfronts in accounts with less than 80 people.
Faster cool-down time arrives
McKeever recently began using a food/bottle/snack combo machine from National Vendors that offers faster cool-down time than the combo he was previously using. This allows the machine to be filled faster.
Machines with health timers will automatically shut down after a set time period if they are open for too long, or if ambient product, such as soda, is put in the machine and the machine does not cool down within that period. The new Refreshment Center 1 from National Vendors has a compressor that will cool the machine faster than many other machines.
Food in smaller locations
Versatility is important to McKeever because a lot of marginal accounts ask for food. With the combo machine, he can let the location have food on a test basis. If it isn't profitable, he can replace food with snacks.
"It (the combo) can get you just about any location," McKeever said."It's a great selling tool."
Some of the newer models allow operators to add temperature sensitive products as needed by the account. If the account's needs change, the operator can reconfigure the machine.
Randy Seright, owner of Seright Vending in El Reno, Okla., likes the first-in, first-out feature of the Refreshment Center 1 because the machine always looks full and, because he can have ambient products in addition to food, there is less waste. "It actually works at a low volume account that still requires food," he said.
"Now it is possible to vend fresh food, bottled beverages, snacks and candy within the four walls of a single machine for the smaller account sizes of the service industry," said Steve Harkins, director of national accounts at National Vendors.
"Specific feature capabilities that are unique to the Refreshment Center 1 include the ability to field configure the health and safety operating mode. Operators can choose to operate with or without NAMA health and safety control, depending on product requirements. This feature provides the flexibility to tailor the operating mode to ever-changing account circumstances."