Coke Profile: Vic Pemberton, Pepi Food Services, Dothan, Ala.

Sept. 11, 2012
Southern operator aims for cashless payment accepted at all vending machines by 2012.

Pepi Food Services, based out of Dothan, Ala., is a leader in the vending and food services industry. They were founded more than 25 years ago and now service three states. Two years ago, Pepi set a goal to have 100 percent of their machines upgraded to accept cashless payments over the course of a five-year period. Based on outstanding customer response to the machines already networked, Pepi has implemented plans to accelerate that timetable, with full deployment targeted for the end of September, 2012.

"We like to say we're doing it because we have to 'feed the kids' -- that kids today -- even my own -- just aren't carrying cash. At the same time, many of our customers now get their paychecks on a debit card," said Vic Pemberton, president and founder of Pepi Food Services. Pemberton estimates that as many as one third of potential customers were unable to make a purchase because they are not carrying cash. Enabling customers to shop and buy conveniently can make a huge impact on the consumer’s experience with vending. “We want our customers to be able to buy with whatever is in their pocket," Pemberton added.

 This goal has been a win-win for customers and for Pepi. Most of Pepi’s equipment now have cashless readers. In a down economy, Pepi found that sales were up 33 percent on machines that used the cashless system whereas cash sales were down 10 percent during the same time period without cashless. In addition to having more transactions, their average sale per transaction is up an average of $.40 when a customer is using a credit card.

Vic Pemberton believes the significant investment is worthwhile. “We are seeing higher priced items actually sell better once we place card readers on our equipment. Cashless payments on vending machines are new to consumers. As consumers become accustomed to using a credit card, usage increases over time. Over the course of a year, the increases are dramatic,” said Pemberton.

 A recent industry study found that cashless sales were an average of 84 percent higher on installations in place for a year or more.1 In their work with customer focus groups and in new account meetings, people light up at the prospect of moving to a cashless option for payment. The trend away from cash to credit cards, debit cards and other technologies like Google Wallet for payment at vending machines is a game changer for the industry.   

1USA Technologies, 2012 Knowledge Base Market Study.