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Vending machine

How to Run a Vending Machine Business

From location to product, learn what you need to know about running a vending machine business!

You’ve probably already noticed the benefits of running your own vending machine business. Not only is it a multimillion dollar industry — with 4.6 million vending machines in the United States alone — it’s also a rewarding business that allows you to be your own boss while benefiting your community.

Just because it’s a thriving industry doesn’t necessarily mean any machine stocked with gum is going to succeed. Running a successful vending machine business requires a strategic understanding of your location, audience, and product that may not seem obvious to new business owners.

Above all else: location

When you’re ready to buy more equipment or upgrade current equipment, many business owners make the mistake of buying their machines before knowing where they’re going to put them. Your location should be your first consideration, as it will dictate the type of machine you’ll need and the product you’ll stock.  

When scouting new locations, remember that this partnership needs to work for both parties. While trying to grow your business, it may be easy to accept any location that wants to use your products. However, your business will only be profitable if the location aligns with your business goals.

Take into consideration

  1. How much foot traffic does this location bring in?
  2. Do they already have a food service provider? If so, what types of food do they offer?
  3. Does the location expect to make a commission off sales? If so, how much?
  4. What is the target demographic for this location?
  5. Do people who frequent this location frequently use cash or cards? 

Overall, the location determines the needs for the machine, and then you can provide the technology and product that fulfills those needs.

Staying on top of maintenance

Just like any major piece of equipment, vending machines require regular, preventative maintenance to operate properly. If you wait until something breaks to get your machine serviced, you’ll likely lose a significant amount of revenue from unplanned downtime.

When buying a machine, check if the manufacturer offers training to help you become better acquainted with the equipment’s needs. If not, ensure you’ve hired an experienced vending professional to check your machines until you get a good understanding of what to check for and at what frequency.  

Growth opportunities


When you think of vending machines, you likely think of chips, candy, and soda. After all, these have always been vending machine staples. However, it’s undeniable that people prioritize healthy eating now more than ever before.

With companies like Whole Foods getting bought for $13.7 billion and 88 percent of survey respondents stating they would be willing to pay more for healthier foods, vending machines have untapped potential for fulfilling health-conscious needs. It’s also a good financial decision to sell healthier snack options, as it’s been shown that healthier snacks sell three times more than traditional snack foods.

If you’re not sure which healthy snacks will resonate with your customers, try offering free samples at locations before stocking your machines. Not only will this give you valuable market research on your customers, but will also show that you care about your partnerships.

Providing healthier products in your machines will not only benefit your bottom line, it’ll also help expand your business to locations that require healthier food in their facilities. Locations like schools and hospitals are prime candidates for vending machines, but both have unique needs for what types of foods and snacks they can offer.  

For example, as of 2014, the USDA announced the Smart Snack in School initiative, which limited the amount of calories, sugar, and sodium that snacks could contain when sold within the school.

The food industry is gravitating towards healthy food to match customers’ needs, and vending machine business would be wise to follow suit.


In addition to providing products that excite customers, incorporating new and innovative technology is also essential for staying up to date with customer needs and expectations.

One of the largest growing needs for vending machines are credit card readers. With the growth of debit and credit cards, people are less likely to use cash for day-to-day purchases. In fact, in a survey, 80 percent of respondents said they used their card for daily purchases, as opposed to cash.

Plus, many machines with card readers also include remote monitoring, which allows you to check stock levels and cash flow without going to the physical location, saving you valuable time and resources.

Another innovation in the vending machine industry is the use of digital LED display screens. These tech-savvy machines prominently display snack and beverage options on a digital screen with touch screen functionality.

Not only does the appearance of these machines set your business apart from the rest, there’s also space for advertising on the screen, which could add a new source of revenue for your business.

Running a successful vending machine business requires more than just operating your machine; it relies on a deeper understanding of how the food and technology industry is evolving, and how you can meet your customers’ ever-changing needs simultaneously.

For more advice on running your business as efficiently, strategically, and profitably as possible, trust as your number one source for industry information.

Bruce Hakutizwi

About the author

USA and International Manager for, a global online marketplace for buying and selling small medium size businesses. The website has over 60,000 business listings and attracts over 1.5 million buyers to the site every month.