How operators are surviving and thriving with new economic and environmental challenges

June 6, 2023
This session from the 2023 NAMA Show explored how some operators are taking a proactive strategy and finding ways to thrive with technology as the driving force to overcome the challenges.

With many issues facing operators, from supply chain problems to labor shortages, to endless price increases and possible recession, a group of industry experts explored how some operators are taking a proactive strategy and finding ways to thrive, with technology as the driving force to overcome the challenges. Panelists included: Jeff Dumbrell, chief revenue officer, Cantaloupe; Justin Packrone, director of operations, James Vending; Kyle Murphy, business development director, Buffalo Rock; and Tim McAra, senior vice president of the Refreshment Services Group, Continental Services.

This article is part of a series from Automatic Merchandiser and that recaps some of the sessions from the 2023 NAMA Show. 

The value of remote price changing

Tim McAra of Continental pointed to the ability to remotely change prices on vending machines as a major positive, allowing his company to raise prices quickly without a great deal of location fanfare. Everyone agreed that price increases are happening so frequently at the location level, that remote price changing is quite helpful.  

The importance of data

Kyle Murphy of Buffalo Rock and Justine Packrone from James Vending both agreed that data availability has helped them with location analysis, allowing them to streamline services, routes and weed out unprofitable locations. 

With staffing challenges, technology helps

While every panel member agreed that staffing shortages have been an ongoing problem, technology has helped by cutting service calls and making routes more efficient. Staffing has required reassignment of existing employees to meet needs and hiring new employees from outside the industry. 

Micro market technology is key

Murphy said operators have benefitted greatly from the ability of micro market technology to adapt to customer’s buying habits.

Instant results from vending technology

“Card readers, telemetry, drivers taking pictures of the machine on location – we are seeing instant results,” Murphy noted. “Full vending machines, without empty columns, is what you want to see and if the driver leaves the location that way, I feel like we have accomplished something,” he added.

Cashless devices – A no brainer

“Cashless devices on a vending machine are a no-brainer,” McAra said. Following an acquisition, his company saw a 22% to 30% lift in sales by installing credit card readers. “We couldn’t believe we could see that type of increase in sales. It is an investment, but man, does it pay off.”

Make payment easy

“Customers want to pay how they want to pay,” McAra said. “Make it easy as possible. We are now 70% cashless and about 58% contactless.” 

Murphy added that in a recent sales meeting, he was surprised to see that the first thing the prospect asked about wasn’t the food, the products, or the pricing. It was instead, “Do you accept Apple Pay?” All panelists agreed that technology and payment options are a top priority for customers. 

Make micro markets engaging

“Introduce new lines of products in your micro markets, add essentials and keep the products exciting. You can’t just turn a bank of vending machines into a micro market and bring back the same products,” said Justin Packrone, director of operations, James Vending. “You have to make it engaging.”

What value means

“It is important that we create value for our guests,” McAra explained. “Value is not about being cheap, it is about providing something excellent for our guests. That comes with an investment and that comes with getting the price that the product warrants for the service. We need to stand by that and be proud. Rather than undercutting, let’s deliver really good service and offerings that meet our guests where they are, and give them what they want, when they want it.”

Technology will only get better

Jeff Dumbrell, chief revenue officer of Cantaloupe, led the discussion, and he made it clear throughout the presentation that despite all the challenges faced by operators, the future is bright, because technology in our industry will only get better.

Check out Automatic Merchandiser’s Vending & OCS Nation podcast, hosted by Bob Tullio, for more comments on the education sessions.


Bob Tullio is a content specialist, speaker, sales trainer, consultant and contributing editor of Automatic Merchandiser/ He advises entrepreneurs on how to build a successful business from the ground up and specializes in helping suppliers connect with operators in the convenience services industry – coffee service, vending, micro markets and pantry service specifically. 

Subscribe to Automatic Merchandiser's new podcast, Vending & OCS Nation, hosted by Tullio and designed to make your business more profitable.

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Tullio delivers this promise to any company that hires him for a 30-minute or 1-hour Zoom call: "One short session with me will elevate the performance of your sales team.”


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