Making the business case for a new vending machine
It’s a good idea to conduct some sort of employee research - how many people want a vending machine? Do they want a coffee vending machine or snacks and drinks? How often would they use it? What products do they want to buy from it? Getting a feel for demand will help with the business case to invest or not, and ultimately could save you from making a costly mistake. Beware stated intentions vs. actual demand - it’s sensible to scale down estimates of consumption by 10% or 20%, to get a feel for best vs. worst case scenarios, and to be sure the numbers stack up in both instances.
Also think about any changes in behaviour that a vending machine might bring about. Will the machine replace a staff kitchen? Or are people using kettles/mini pod machines at their desks? Think about how you “sell” the vending machine to staff, and make it as attractive a proposition as possible. For example, never having to go out in the rain to get your caffeine fix is a lovely thing to offer, and sounds much more appealing than “Now we have a vending machine - please use it”.
Choose the right location for your new vending machine
Think about where you want to put your vending machine/micro market. Given that most vending machines need to at least pay for themselves if not bring in an additional revenue stream, it’s important that the unit is going to be in a place with a lot of footfall and demand for the products it offers. Corridors or communal areas will work better than a closed-off meeting room or disused office.
If possible, it’s a good idea to have some seating or a rest area around the vending machine. People will naturally want to chat and congregate as they drink their coffee or eat their snacks, and having a few chairs or a table to encourage this helps to create a relaxed, collaborative feeling. It fosters inter-team relationships and breaks down hierarchical barriers, all good things for networking and efficiency in large teams.
One area that people tend to overlook is signage and communication. Options here include actual signs on walls, or decals on the floor leading people to the coffee vending machine/snack area. This is particularly useful in workplaces where not everyone is familiar with the layout, e.g. a head office where remote staff might be visiting but not usually based.
What type of vending machine is best for you?
Think about what you want to offer, bearing in mind budgets and demand levels. Do you have a problem with people spending a lot of time out of the office getting lunch? In which case, a snack vending machine that can serve baguettes or salads might be a source of revenue as well as a tangible reduction in time lost at work.
If you are in a very built-up area, for example on a high street with lots of options for lunch, a coffee vending machine is probably sufficient, as there’s a better range of food available within a short trip of the office. You might just want a very swanky coffee vending machine that lets people get their morning cappuccinos for a fraction of the price of a Starbucks, meaning people are likely to get into the office earlier and not pop out as frequently.
Or maybe you are weighing up the cost of kitting out a staff kitchen vs. investing in a micro market or express hub. Offering a full range of drinks, snacks and food via a vending machine set up can be a cost efficient and better solution than a staff kitchen or canteen which is only open during certain hours.
Bibium will help you get a number of quotes for vending machines and compare them side by side. The vending machine suppliers will be keen to win your business; there are hundreds of vending machine suppliers in the UK, and competition for each deal is fierce. The first price you get quoted can probably be beaten, though people will tend to compete on different elements of the deal - a cheaper coffee vending machine cost might have been funded by a more expensive service package, or coffee consumables agreement, and vice versa.
A top tip is to get one quote and then use it as a benchmark; try to get the quote as itemised as possible and (as long as there are no contractual reasons why not to do this) then show it to competitors to see where they can beat it.
It’s not all about price though - unless you’re buying a machine outright, it’s likely you’ll be locked into a contract with the vendor you go with for a number of years. You want to feel confident that whilst you’ve got a good deal, they’re going to keep looking after you once the deal is done. Sometimes the cheapest quote can mean that corners have been cut in the after-sales care.
Vending machine maintenance and upkeep
Depending on the type of vending machine you go with, there will be a recommended schedule of care from a daily clean of a coffee machine to an annual service, like a car’s MOT. Whilst not the sexy part of getting a vending machine, the upkeep is vital to making sure it lasts as long as possible and works correctly, avoiding any expensive repairs. Make sure that you have a clear process for maintenance; whose responsibility is it, and who is in charge of reporting errors.
In terms of your supplier, check who your post-sales account manager will be and try to get some commitment to service level agreements. If something goes wrong, how long will it take to get a solution? What are the rules about replacement vending machines if yours needs to be repaired offsite? Will you be compensated for any down-time? These are all things that should be covered in your contract but it’s important not to overlook them.