Culinary Ventures Vending (CVV) in Union, N.J. is dedicated to vending — specifically vending machines. The 23-route vending company, which serves the tri-state area of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, has declared a commitment to adding technology to its machines that places CVV ahead of the innovative curve within the vending industry and helps the company succeed in the highly competitive East coast market.
Co-owners Jack Yuppa and Tom DiNardo use some of the latest hardware and software the vending industry has to offer to run their business. This belief in innovation in business is especially interesting considering that DiNardo has avoided using a personal computer for as long as anyone can remember. “I, Tom DiNardo don’t turn on a computer,” he said, “but I can’t let that stop me from running my business.” This commitment to technology is shared by others at CVV.
“You have a bunch of dinosaurs in the industry that don’t want to become extinct,” Vikan Manoukian, CEO of CVV said. “Many of the operators want to stay in the dark ages, but Tom has the foresight to embrace the new technology.”
A recent example of CVV embracing technology is its announcement to install Crane Merchandising Systems Currenza Navigator boxes on 3,000 vending machines. Completed by the end of 2013, CVV believes the technology will better serve customers while also increasing sales and efficiencies in the entire operation.
CVV officially started as Culinary Ventures International in 1994 when DiNardo and Yuppa, along with three other individuals decided to purchase what was then Vendicraft. Each of the five partners had all been a part of the vending or food service industry, but had never owned their own business.
Yuppa recalls first getting into business with DiNardo. “Tom and I lived in the same town and he happened to be in the vending business as well,” Yuppa said. “It made sense for me to ask him to be partners and he agreed.”
The company began as a cafeteria service provider that dabbled in vending. It stayed that way until 2000, when it switched its focus to strictly vending. Two of the co-owners left and one retired, leaving Yuppa and DiNardo to run the operation, now called Culinary Ventures Vending, as president and vice president, respectively.
Early focus on technology
Not long after switching to vending, Yuppa and DiNardo adopted Crane Streamware vending management software to help run their commissions and inventory and help them track their products. By adopting Streamware they were also able to provide route drivers with handhelds, which allowed their drivers to more efficiently provide refunds and keep track of revenue after routes were run.
In 2006, Yuppa and DiNardo made the decision to hire someone to head up their march toward technological innovation. They hired Doug Longworth, a 35 year industry veteran, to be director of technology. He became responsible for operating CVV’s software systems and deciphering the data received from Streamware. It didn’t take long for him to make his presence heard.
In the spring of 2010, Longworth suggested that CVV begin pre-kitting on a few routes based on the forecast information they got from Streamware. According to Longworth, Streamware had built-in algorithms that would “forecast” the amount of product needed in a given machine. They did this for a few months and noticed a positive trend and wanted greater efficiencies, so in fall of 2010 they integrated LightSpeed into the Streamware VMS software. According to DiNardo, Longworth was instrumental in the implementation of LightSpeed.
“We originally went to pre-kitting because it was part of our VMS software,” Longworth said. “We quickly made the decision to use LightSpeed for packing orders because we had heard positive feedback across the industry.”
DiNardo noticed a difference in the way his business was run after beginning pre-kitting. It not only saved CVV money, but allowed the company to run more efficiently. “Pre-kitting has saved us a lot of money,” DiNardo said. “It gives us a better idea of how much product needs to go out so we don’t always have to fuel up big trucks and we can use vans instead.”
In July of 2011, CVV began installing Crane Currenza Navigator boxes to its machines. The telemetry boxes allowed CVV to condense its routes while maintaining the same amount of business. “Before telemetry, a good route was between $8,000 and $10,000,” said Manoukian, who once ran his own vending company before selling it to CVV. “Now we wouldn’t bother with a route that size. Our routes range between $17,000 and $20,000 because of technology.” CVV is able to run 23 more profitable routes, as opposed to the 28 it had to run before telemetry.
“Telemetry has allowed operators to take back their operations,” Manoukian said. “For a long time vending operations were run through route drivers. All of the information about the machines came from drivers and operators were helpless. Now the operator can be more hands-on than ever before.”
The added responsiveness that telemetry offers, according to Manoukian, is very valuable. He recalls an instance when not having technology hurt his business. “One of my more popular machines, which collected about $200 a week, had gotten jammed early in the week,” Manoukian said. “Because it was our responsibility, nobody called to let me know the machine wasn’t working and I lost all the profit I was expecting for that location.” Manoukian explains that this situation is now completely avoided by having telemetry boxes. The boxes have alert systems that let CVV know if anything on the machine is not functioning properly, thereby giving CVV the opportunity to fix it before profit is lost.
The 2012 telemetry box roll out was so successful for CVV that management recently committed to the installation of 3,000 new Crane Currenza Navigator boxes to be installed by year end 2013. “The push toward technology not only helps us better serve our customers, but also helps us grow our business and increase our own sales and efficiencies,” Longworth explained.
Longworth also stated that the transition was made easier because CVV currently uses Crane equipment and VendMAX software, which is easily integrated with Crane’s telemetry units. “Once we realized how much telemetry would benefit our business, it made sense for us to commit to Crane because of how easily it correlates with our existing equipment,” Longworth said. “We’re looking forward to growing our business using the DEX data we receive wirelessly to our VendMAX software.”
CVV has also begun making a commitment to cashless payment options. “People just don’t carry cash anymore,” DiNardo said. “In order to survive in this industry you have to be willing to accept that reality.”
Manoukian added: “As more young people enter the business world, the emphasis on cashless is growing. When I was younger I always had cash on me, but today it’s all on credit cards and college identification cards.”
CVV currently has less than 10 cashless vending locations, but has seen success with them on college campuses where students can use their identification cards to make purchases. This alternative payment option, DiNardo explains, works with the students on campus dining plans and opens the door to new profit margins.
CVV will continue to invest in cashless and internet connectivity on machines as a way to accommodate the millennial consumers and gain profitability.
CVV has a coffee service division and has started exploring micro markets, but for now, vending is what drives the heart of the business. Increasing efficiencies and using technology to make that part of the business better is the vision shared by DiNardo, Yuppa, Manoukian and Longworth. They see a future where vending will be a telemetry-driven industry, operators are more in touch with their equipment and consumers are once again excited to use an automatic merchandiser.
Profile: Culinary Ventures Vending
Owners: Jack Yuppa andTom DiNardo
Headquarters: Union, N.J.
Number of routes: 23
Number of employees: 48
Hardware and software suppliers: Crane-Streamware, LightSpeed
Main equipment suppliers: Crane
Annual Sales: Not Revealed