Innovate or Perish

July 29, 2011
vending operators have the technology and services, but aren't positioning themselves as innovative.
The time has come for vending operators to look at their operations and compare them to the businesses of 20 years ago. If they are nearly identical, then it's going to be a bumpy road ahead.Why? Because the world isn't waiting for operators to offer great solutions. Instead, it's coming up with them independently. Redbox is one example. But a more recent one is the Facebook vending machine that dispenses computer accessories via payment by employee ID card. In an article on, Darryl Ohrt called the Facebook vender "a solution so innovative that it even landed them press on CNN Money."I took one look at the CNN video of the machine and thought, it's not that innovative. Operators have been able to reconfigure shelves and offer cashless payment options for years. However, having the ability to do something and actually doing it are different. Could it be that operators aren't telling customers they can do more than offer food? Are they not selling "innovative" services and solutions?Facebook reconfigures one machine internally and touts it as a revolutionary idea.The healthy dilemmaA further example that's already affecting operators is healthy vending. Traditional operators can offer products to meet nearly any dietary need, but small independent healthy vending-focused companies continue to pop up nationwide. They get newspaper press championing them as heroes of the obesity epidemic and demonizing the traditional vending operator. It's just a matter of time before one of these small operators figures out the winning combination of healthy products. With their good press, operators who shouldn't lose accounts, will.Vending operators are losing ground. Innovation and "good ideas" seem to be coming from outside the industry, sometimes bypassing it all together. It's going to take some proactive thinking, the sort of "what I can do for you" attitude over bottom-line focus, to get vending back on track.