Vending machines are low-cost investments that nearly anyone can get started with. While they’re easy to place if you own a business or location, that’s not the only way to invest in vending machines. Instead, many vending machines are owned by investors who lease placement with business owners and who pay rent or a portion of the revenue in exchange for placement. However, with pricing typically ranging between $1,500 and $10,000 per vending machine, choosing the best places for vending machines is crucial if you want them to pay off and start making a profit.
Depending on the area, vending machine spots can vary significantly. However, the key to a good place for a vending machine is always foot traffic. That means the ideal placement for a vending machine is always a high traffic area – such as a hallway, in front of a busy business, or outside of public transport. However, no matter where you place your vending machine, you’ll have to get approval or licensing for it.
Best Placement for Vending Machine Factors
As stated above, foot traffic is always the most important factor in good placement for a vending machine. The best vending machine spots are always within view of foot traffic going by. Once you have that, you can consider other factors like what’s the vending machine and whether it’s suitable for the audience.
Foot traffic will always be the primary influencing factor on sales. The more people who walk by your vending machine, the more likely you are to make sales. That’s true whether you’re investing in a hot beverage vending machine or are selling candy. More people means more profit. That might mean choosing busy break rooms, hallways, waiting rooms, or even street areas in front of shops or waiting areas. The important thing is that people frequently walk by.
The second most important factor in placing a vending machine is that you choose an area where people want to buy the product. E.g., you can buy a cigarette vending machine but you wouldn’t want to place it outside of a school (and you couldn’t legally do so either). Here, you want to consider the audience’s needs. For example, if you get permissions to put vending machines in outside of a taxi pickup you know people frequently want beverages and candy or other snacks when traveling. If you’re placing a vending machine in a break room, you probably want to focus on food, specific sodas, or hot beverages. Essentially, the vending machine has to suit the needs of the audience.
You never want to place a vending machine somewhere with a lot of competition. For example, if there are other vending machines. Or, for example, you wouldn’t want to place a coffee vending machine outside of a restaurant selling coffee. You’d have trouble getting permissions. You’d also have trouble making enough sales to make the investment worthwhile.
Location is the most significant factor in vending machine vandalism. Unfortunately, people can and will vandalize your investment and will rob it. Choosing a secure location, such as one with cameras or in a brightly lit area can reduce the risk. In addition, placing your vending machine indoors can greatly reduce the risk. However, it can also reduce exposure to foot traffic, so there are pros and cons.
If you don’t own rights to the property, you need permissions to place a vending machine. That normally means creating a proposal and having the business or building manager sign off on it in exchange for a lease or percentage of profits.
Best Vending Machine Location by Business Category
The best locations for vending machines are outside or in busy areas. The more people wait in those spaces, the better the sales and turnover will be.
1. Schools and Colleges
Schools and colleges allow you to install vending machines for everything from replacement pencils and paper to healthy snacks and drinks. While most schools will limit the types of goods you can retail (e.g., most will object to sugary sodas or candy) they have a lot of traffic, a frequently bored audience, and therefore are an easy way to drive revenue. Here, you might have to accept having all products in the vending machine approved.
2. Medical Centers
Medical centers, hospitals, and clinics are great places to vend snacks, hot beverages, and even convenience items like masks. Here, vending machines work outside in smoking and waiting areas or parking lots. However, if you can get permissions, inside waiting areas is also a great idea. Visitor rooms will always have traffic and often people will be anxious, and food and drink can help.
Most airports already have their fair share of vending machines. However, if they do not, it’s a big business opportunity. Airports are high traffic and people like having snacks and drinks when traveling. Outside in the parking lot, in hallways, and in waiting areas in front of gates are all good ideas.
4. Shopping Malls
Shopping malls offer prime vending machine placement opportunities, especially in long hallways, in areas with seating, and even in parking lots. Why? People like the option to quickly grab snacks or drinks after walking around and vending machines offer portable and small packaged products that are ideal for handing to kids or taking into a car.
Laundromats are always a good choice to place vending machines. Why? People spend significant amounts of time waiting in them. Drinks and snacks can be welcome to alleviate the boredom, to placate kids, or to hold off hunger. Here, you might also sell washing powder, detergent, or fabric softener – depending on your agreement with the proprietor and what they sell.
6. Office Buildings
Office buildings and break rooms are great places to install vending machines for everything from soft drinks to fruit to hot drinks like coffee and tea. Here, you’ll want to discuss options with the building or office manager, because many already provide vending machines. In addition, you might have to compete with a cafeteria or a free coffee machine. This means you should always check what’s already available and what’s in demand before buying and installing a vending machine.
7. Hotels and Gyms
Hotels and gyms can be good places to place a vending machine. However, you’ll have to consider the audience and when they will be using the vending machine. For example, selling soda and snacks might be less effective than a vending machine selling sandwiches or one offering hot beverages (although many gyms and hotels offer free coffee to guests). Check what’s available on the location, make an educated guess about what people are likely to want, and invest accordingly.
What Are the Best Areas for a Vending Machine?
Vending machine placement normally depends on a lot of factors like local traffic, competition, and permissions. You’ll also want to consider security. However, the following placement options are good choices for many vending machines. Good vending machine placement means visibility, accessibility, and offering desirable products.
Hallways, Entries, and Exits
Hallways are busy, high traffic areas where people often get hungry. While you’ll have to find higher traffic areas, such as in schools, colleges, hotels, hospitals, gyms, offices, etc., a well-placed vending machine near an entry or exit can drive a lot of revenue. That’s more true if people spend a lot of time in the building without anything to eat or with no easy access to beverages. For example, if people frequently stay past normal business hours, if there isn’t an on-facility cafeteria, etc.
Break rooms can drive significant sales for vending machines. That’s true whether you’re putting them in offices, warehouses, medical centers, or anywhere else. If a large employer is not supplying free drinks to its employees, you can capitalize on that while making work life more comfortable. Here, hot beverages, soda, and snacks are likely to be great options.
Waiting rooms are always a good place to put vending machines. This is true whether it’s in a hospital, car dealership, bank, or any other area. If people frequently visit and then have to wait, offering them something to buy can help. Even if you’re just offering coffee or gum or other light snacks. For example, Auto Trader suggests that if you walk into a dealership to buy a car, you won’t leave for 6 hours. Having the option to buy snacks or soda during the wait can alleviate some of the stress, especially if you bring kids.
In Lines and Queues
Lines and queues often have the same issues as waiting areas. The longer people stand in them, the more bored they get. Having options to get food, drinks, or entertainment can be a great option. The longer waiting lines are, the better off you are. For example, at the DMV will likely be a lot better than at a local tourist attraction.
If you still have questions about placing a vending machine, the following answers should help.
Can you place a vending machine anywhere?
No. In most cases, you need specific permission from the property owner. In addition, some cities have specific regulations about vending machines. You’ll also want to check your local state regulations. In addition, Florida, California, Arizona, Colorado, and Massachusetts require that vending machine operators have a license. You’ll have to acquire this before you can buy and install a vending machine.
Which vending machine is most profitable?
While this varies depending on placement and weather, profitable vending machines include branded sodas, snacks, refrigerated food, and ice. These are all different types of vending machines, however, all three have proven extremely profitable for many investors.
The best locations for vending machines are usually high traffic areas especially where people have to wait. However, even high traffic areas such as exit points can generate a lot of business for a vending machine. Therefore, the best option is to review traffic, see if people might get hungry or need things while on the location, and then supply a vending machine to meet the need.
Also see: Popular vending machine snacks list