Just within the last week, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have released their newest models of countertop fountain dispensers, focused around low- and no-calorie options, customized beverages and user engagement. Both companies released these items with the foodservice and vending industries in mind, however, the debate of fountain beverages remains murky. Do fountain dispensers increase profits in the vending and micro market channels or are they simply an unnecessary offering?
The root of the debate
Last week, I attended a Webinar put on by Three Square Market’s Patrick McMullan who gave a piece of advice to operators looking to succeed: stay away from fountain soda. Then, three days later, both of the largest beverage manufacturers in the U.S. came out with, you guessed it, fountain dispensers. Now it’s unclear to me: where do fountain beverages fit within the industry?
VendingMarketWatch has reported before on countertop, fountain dispensers (cold beverage dispensers) and how they could be used as an opportunity to please customers and diversify offerings. So why stay away from fountain dispensers now?
Neil Swindale, owner of VendCentral, told VMW through social media that fountain soda can be a pain. “It can become a big pain to the facility managers because someone has to keep it clean, they have to switch over the lines, they probably have to start storing back stock as well as CO2 tanks. Not to mention they might need an ice maker either built in or manual,” he said.
McMullan said that fountain soda can end up being a code issue, as it can be considered “live” food. “It requires routine cleaning and maintenance to prevent issues of bacteria and other pieces,” he said.
However, one operator disagreed. When asked what he thought of putting fountain soda in locations, he said his experience has been positive. “The location is paying for their employees to have free drinks. So far we have made more money on the fountain than we have with the machines,” he said via social media. “We currently have three locations. Two large and one small. The small location is still doing better than the combo machine we have in their break room. But it is going to take significantly longer to pay off the fountain machine in their location.”
What’s your experience with fountain soda?
Operators: have you offered or do you currently offer fountain soda in any locations? We’d like to hear from you on the pros and cons of that offering. What made you decide to stop offering fountain soda or, on the other hand, what made you decide to start?