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Hiring, leasing or buying a vending machine

Hiring, leasing or buying a vending machine doesn’t cost as much as you think, and can be a useful way to make money for a variety of settings such as colleges, universities, offices and public spaces.

Why invest in a vending machine?

Vending machines are a useful way to offer snacks and drinks in a low-maintenance, low cost way. They typically are found in public settings such as train stations, hospitals or education centres, but are growing in popularity in workplaces as the trend towards self-service continues to gather pace.

From coffee vending machines to alcoholic drinks, as well as the more typical snack vending machines selling crisps, chocolate bars or healthier equivalents, there’s more and more variety in service offerings and commercial arrangements to make procurement of a vending machine an easy and popular choice.

The benefits of having a vending machine in your workplace

  • Increased productivity; snack vending machines can hold sandwiches and baguettes, so employees don’t need to leave the office to grab lunch, reducing trips to the high street and increasing time spent at work
  • 24/7 service; having a coffee vending machine in your place of work means staff have a refreshment option available any time of day or night. Perfect for shift work or offices that have to be open at unsociable hours (e.g. call centres)
  • Employee morale; being able to grab a coffee shop standard coffee at any time of the day is a real perk and can lead to increased retention and better hiring prospects
  • A new revenue stream; vending machines allow you to sell food and drink at a small mark-up, generating a new P&L Reduced costs; replacing a staffed canteen with something like a micro market (sometimes called an express hub) or snack vending machine can represent a significant cost saving both in salaries and running costs

The types of vending machines available

Coffee vending machines

From a Costa or Starbucks express to a paid-for bean to cup machine, serve up cafe-style drinks at the touch of a button. Payment mechanisms can vary from pre-loaded staff cards to typical ePOS systems taking cash or card payments. The choice of drinks on offer can go from a super economical instant tea/coffee vending machine to a top of the range bean to cup machine serving customisable flat whites

Drinks vending machines

As well as coffee vending machines, you can offer a range of bottled juices, soda and flavoured waters. These machines can be refrigerated so you can ring the changes with the seasons, for example offering iced coffees during the summer

Snack vending machines

You can choose the selection to offer, from crisps and chocolate to healthier options such as fresh fruit and natural snacks.

Meal vending machines

Some machines are like chilled rotating cabinets, and can be stocked with lunch options such as salads and baguettes and sandwiches. They can also hold drinks to make it a complete food and drink offering.

Micro Markets or Express Hubs

These are relatively new to the UK, and are almost like having a mini convenience store in your place of work. Three or four vending machine solutions might be placed alongside each other, e.g. a coffee vending machine, a cold drink machine, a fridge of baguettes and a rack of snacks, so people can come and help themselves on their breaks but without the need to staff or equip a full canteen.

How much do vending machines cost?

The cost of the vending machine

Each solution is highly customised to the end user, so it’s very difficult to get a feel for how much a vending machine costs without going through the full quote process, and it will depend a lot on the purchase route you choose (hire, lease or buy outright, see more on this below).

As a very general ballpark it’s estimated that you can get second hand cold drinks vending machines for as little as £300, although of course this doesn’t include any of the extras like warranties or service cover. At the budget end of hot drinks machine, something like a Nescafe instant coffee vending machine can cost as little as £190 to buy outright, whereas for a decent bean to cup coffee vending machine you’re looking at closer to £1,500-£4,000, but of course the margins differ as well - the better quality the unit, the more you can afford to charge.

Comparing quotes from different suppliers can be a tricky one, as often pricing isn’t transparent and it’s difficult to make direct comparisons. Things to look for include the overall cost of the vending machine, the service level included and the commercial arrangement around consumables (food and drink sold via the machine).

Other costs to consider

On top of the cost of the vending machine itself there is a number of other costs to consider: The cost of the products The cost of power *The cost of service and maintenance

To find out more about the costs involved in buying a vending machine check out our latest piece on vending machines, How Much Do Vending Machines Cost.

Buy a vending machine, lease one, or hire a vending machine service?

Now you've decided to invest in a vending machine, and you've chosen which vending machine you want, it’s time to decide how to pay for it. There are generally three options:

Hire a vending machine service

Commercial arrangements will vary, but hiring prices are usually quoted weekly and are invoiced monthly or quarterly. Usually, the business owner will have a full service, paying a set price to have the vending machine onsite and will get a cut of the gross sales of the products, anything up to 20% is fairly standard. The cost of maintenance is usually covered in the hire price, but it’s worth checking the terms of this and also the quality of the machine you’ll be getting - is it a new machine or refurbished, as its age and previous use will have a direct bearing on its reliability.

Lease a vending machine

Again, the way these machines are stocked and who keeps the proceeds will depend entirely on the commercial agreement with the supplier, but what makes leasing a vending machine different to hiring a vending machine is that at the end of your lease period you will own the machine outright. Typical vending machine lease lengths are 3 to 5 years, but can be more or less, and rates will depend on your credit rating. Service levels are again something to be negotiated with your supplier, but it’s usual to have a fairly high standard of cover during the lease period, and an annual service might be included as part of the lease deal.

Buy a vending machine outright

In the long-term, buying a vending machine might be the most economical option but requires a substantial investment upfront. It also usually means that you’re solely reliable for the post-purchase service, paying to fix faults yourself once the machine is out of warranty. If you’re choosing to buy outright, see if the cost of the vending machine can be negotiated based on the consumables agreement - for example, if you agree to buy a set amount of coffee per month (which you’d need to buy anyway), you might be able to get a decent discount to the overall quote.

How it works: Tips for buying a vending machine

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.

Shop around

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.

Coffetek Neo commercial bean to cup coffee machine left side view black model

The Coffetek Neo is a beautiful hot drinks vending machine with a smoked glass aesthetic, and its touch-screen system makes for a premium customer experience. The coffees, teas, an chocolates are fully customisable, and it can even be configured to dispense coffee jugs.

The digital signage function lets you engage with customers and coworkers with either corporate messaging or advertisements.

Westomatic Sigma Touch bean to cup coffee machine close up display screen

The Sigma Touch's beautiful 19 inch touch screen is the standout feature on this hot drinks vending machine. It's infinitely configurable for dozens of barista-style drinks including a wide variety of coffee syrups, hot chocolates, loose leaf tea, and milkshakes.

Uniquely, the Sigma Touch also features built-in audio speakers that can play messaging on a loop when customers interact with the vending machine.

Necta Diesis 700 Main Image

The Necta Diesis cold drinks machine is incredibly easy to use and features slick aesthetics. It dispenses both cans and bottles using its patented cooling unit to keep drinks at the optimal temperature in an environmentally friendly way.

Necta_Melodia_Main_Image

The Necta Melodia is a classic vending machine that holds up to 344 products at a time across 27 separate product lines.

One of the industries slimmest machines, coming in at only 717mm wide, the Melodia fits into smaller spaces than most of its rivals.

Its bright LCD display offers the option of branding the vending machine as well.