Buying a vending machine can be an extremely profitable move for businesses of all kinds. First of all, it involves a low cost of entry starting at only $150-$400+ per machine plus inventory. If you are smart about the location you place your vending machine and offer popular snacks and drinks, you can ultimately make a huge profit. Plus, you get to offer snacks and drinks to people as they go about their day. It’s a win-win! Before buying your vending machine, you will want to have a plan for the location in order to make the best profit. We recommend considering the factors that determine the best locations, best business types, and best areas for placing your vending machine.
Factors that Determine Best Locations
Of course, you will want your vending machine to be located in an area where people visit frequently. A vending machine will be the most profitable when it is in a location that tends to get a lot of foot traffic. Think about areas where there will be pedestrians walking by on an everyday basis. The idea is for your vending machine to attract either habitual buyers (who walk past the machine regularly) or impulse buyers (who decide to buy once they see the machine). Either way, you will increase your chances at earning money from the vending machine by placing it in a location where many people will see it.
Outdoors vs. indoors
It’s a good idea to think about placing your vending machine outdoors vs. indoors. On the one hand, outdoors may be a good idea if you offer drinks, as people may want to hydrate while they are outside. On the other hand, if you place your machine in a remote outdoor location where people don’t often visit, you’ll risk losing money on your investment. If you decide to go with an indoor location, make sure it’s a place where people visit regularly. Additionally, it’s a good idea to make sure there isn’t cheaper or more convenient food/drinks located nearby. For instance, if you place your vending machine in an office building that offers food to their employees, you likely won’t generate a significant profit!
Think about your competition in terms of other food and beverage vendors, as well. For instance, are there other snack and drink vendors nearby? If so, you will want to offer a competitive edge over these vendors. You can price your vending machine items lower than other available snacks and drinks in the area. If there are other vending machines nearby, you consider their product selection, condition, payment options, and prices. For example, if you place a vending machine that is newer, provides exciting options, and allows cashless payments, you may win over more customers compared to other nearby machines.
Best Business Types to Locate Vending Machines
The next step to securing the best location for your vending machine is to think about types of businesses where you want to place the machine. Some business locations will definitely be more strategic than others. You want to choose businesses that will naturally generate buyer interest (ie. a location that does not offer food) and have a lot of foot traffic on a day to day basis.
Note: You can’t just place your vending machine anywhere without permission! Most locations will require you to follow state and local vending laws. You will often have to sign a contract with the property owner. Make sure to read up on state and local vending laws when doing your research.
Take a look at our list of ideal business types to locate your vending machine.
Amusement parks or festivals
Outdoor areas where people spend lots of time are ideal for vending machines. At an amusement park or festival, groups of people will likely spend hours or all day outdoors walking around. These tend to be good locations for vending machines because many people do not want to pay for overpriced snacks or drinks from nearby vendors. Offering competitively priced snacks and drinks at these outdoor entertainment areas can definitely help you win over buyers.
Hospitals or healthcare facilities
Most healthcare facilities have waiting rooms where patients and family members can wait for long periods of time. Especially at hospitals, many food and drink vendors will shut down at night, but people will be in the waiting rooms 24-hours a day. Adding a vending machine in a waiting room can be a great location. However, keep in mind that you need permission from the healthcare facility before you can place your vending machine there.
Indoor or outdoor shopping malls
Many people spend all day at an indoor or outdoor shopping mall and eventually want a snack or drink. While there are often food courts at malls, your vending machine can spark interest for people who just want something quick and on-the-go. Also keep in mind that many people will not want to pay food court prices. Additionally, there are retail store employees who might also utilize your vending machine regularly.
Schools and universities
Schools are a great place for vending machines because kids often want a snack during their school day! Whether kids want a snack or drink between classes or don’t have time for a full meal in college, you will likely attract interest from students on school grounds. Consider adding the machine in the cafeteria, recess or outdoor areas, or near the school’s entryways/exits.
Gyms and fitness centers
Oftentimes, people forget their water bottle on the way to their workout! Others may be hungry after finishing their workout. Adding a vending machine to a fitness center lobby can be very strategic, especially if you add fitness-oriented products. Consider stocking your machine with water, sports drinks, healthy snacks, and protein bars.
Apartment buildings (especially larger ones) are places that contain lots of residents and often do not provide food options! Adding a 24-hour vending machine on-site can be key. Residents will utilize your vending machine when they come and go from the building, when restaurants are closed, or they don’t feel like traveling to get a snack or drink. Consider locating the machine in common areas, nearby the buildings entryways and exits, or near the gym, pool, or laundry room.
When people don’t have on-site laundry at their place of residence, they often have to use a local laundromat. Laundromats are places where people wait around while their clothes are washing/drying, which can get boring! Plus, most people who use laundromats will spend over an hour a week there. This can be a great location for your vending machine, as it can attract both habitual buyers or impulse buyers.
Hotels or lodging areas
Another great location for a 24-hour vending machine is a hotel. There are tons of visitors coming and going on a regular basis, and oftentimes the food at hotels feels overpriced. Plus, people who are lodging might take advantage of your snack and drink options when nearby restaurants close. Vending machines can give them food and drink options around the clock.
Large office buildings will have professionals entering and leaving Monday through Friday. While business professionals will have other options for food, they may want a quick snack or drink while they are working or they may not have time to take lunch. If you are considering an office building as a location for your vending machine, consider whether the building has other food available and what the price is. If you are the only vending machine in the building, or if there are not a lot of food/drink options nearby, you have the opportunity to make a great profit!
Best Areas for Vending Machines
In addition to choosing an ideal type of business for your vending machine, you also need to place it in a strategic area within that business location. Remember that your goal is to attract peoples’ interest as they pass by regularly. Make sure to choose an area where the machine will be easily visible - ideally, an area with the most foot traffic or where people tend to spend the most time.
Entryways and Exits
It’s a good idea to place the vending machine near entryways and exits to the business. This will be likely to catch peoples’ eyes because they will see your machine at least twice a day - when entering and leaving. A great place to locate the machine is near a reception desk, lobby, or hallway.
Snack or break areas
If a business has a break area, be sure to consider this as a location for your vending machine. Snack areas are a particularly great location if there is little nearby competition. Think about picnic areas, playgrounds, cafeterias, and other places where people normally take a break and eat at a business.
Nearby lines or queues
If a business typically has a line that forms, consider asking the business to place your vending machine nearby the queue. This is the perfect way to grab buyer interest as they wait in line - they will likely consider purchasing a cheap snack or drink while they wait. For instance, lines at amusement parks or festivals are great locations for vending machines.
Similarly, waiting areas are one of the best locations for vending machines. Consider waiting rooms in hospitals or healthcare centers, or waiting areas at bus and train stations, airports, and more.
If you are looking into buying a vending machine or already operate one, make sure to look into the most popular snacks and drinks for vending machines.
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