The Easitrax route accounting also allows Frankel to review how long the driver spends at each location. Because of this, he sees no need for the satellite vehicle monitoring systems that some vendors are using to monitor their vehicles.
Technology is evolving on the equipment front as well.
Frankel welcomes the Triton bill validator from JCM American Corp. that recycles bills. "I think it's going to really increase sales," he said. He has converted most of his validators to accept up to $20 bills and pay out dollar coins.
He also anxiously awaits the new, first-in, first-out glassfront beverage machine from Vendo Co. "It's got every problem thought out," he noted. Glassfront machines allow him to meet the demand for more beverages.
The management team evolves
Frankel recently hired a general manager, local industry veteran Steve Thornburg,
who has relieved Frankel from much of the day-to-day management to focus
more on customer relations. Thornburg is currently focusing on two areas:
overseeing the recruiting of new employees and streamlining inventory.
"We bring in good people first and then make them high-quality drivers," Thornburg said. He reviews motor vehicle reports, criminal records, and asks for references. A good driver needs to be personable, physically fit, and capable of multitasking, Thornburg noted.
Thornburg is less clear about making changes in managing product categories. The concept of category management makes sense for a company with 17 routes, and with Easitrax software in place, the company has the tools to do it. Category management is a data-based approach to product selection that simplifies decisions at the route level and places more responsibility in management's hands.
Machine menuing presents a challenge
Thornburg has conflicting ideas about machine menus, also known as planograms. "Purchasing has become a very important part of vending, and it didn't used to be," he noted. At the same time, "if you planogram, you're limiting your selection to your customers. You need to address different customer segments."
Thornburg said the strength of the management team is that everyone can focus on what they do best.
Frankel is proud of the fact that the company turns down as much business as it takes on. "I reward John (Brewster) just as much for turning down business as taking business," he said. "I love to hear, 'I decided that wasn't good for us.' If your sales manager says it's not for us, there's a guy who's really looking out for your money. In this business, you've got to be careful. Your profit is razor thin."
Good service drives expansion
Frankel is also proud of the fact that the company's first geographic expansion -- to Atlanta, Ga. -- came at the request of an existing customer. One of his oldest and largest customers recently expanded to Atlanta and wanted Family Vending Co. to service its new locations.
To establish an operation in Atlanta, Frankel purchased an existing, two-route operation there, Diamond Vending Inc. He relocated one of his veteran employees, William Lewis, to manage the Atlanta business.
One issue that Frankel has to address is what to do about the Atlanta operation's OCS business. Frankel sold his own OCS business in 1986 to focus on vending. And while some of his employees would like to bring OCS back, Frankel sees both businesses becoming increasingly specialized.
The company does offer catering on a limited basis, and Frankel continues to run the local baseball park concession stand. He also provides hot dog carts for one of his large retail customers in the afternoons, but offers this only as a special service.
Maintaining a public profile
Frankel manages all of the city of Sunrise's concessions for special events, such as the Fourth of July festivities. Having a high profile in the community has enhanced his company's exposure to potential customers.
The future, however, will be on vending and not concessions or catering, as vending continues to become more specialized.