I realized the other day that I spend a fairly large amount of money on snacks and drinks from vending machines. I kind of laughed about it to myself, because it feels to me like vending machines are kind of old-fashioned things. When I think about how few people actually carry crisp dollar bills around these days, I have to think that vending machines aren't a big business anymore — right? What's the deal with vending machines?
Vending machines were exciting and new when they first began to appear in the early 1880s and then became more prolific in the 1930s. Soon, we had vending machines of all kinds: your parents and grandparents might remember cigarette vending machines in bars, modern airports have vending machines that sell electronics and chargers, and you've no doubt seen vending machines that make it easy to rent movies on Blu-Ray.
In fact, there are so many types of vending machines that we might forget that they all have so much in common. It's easy to think of vending machines as all being like the old dollar-fed machines we encounter in auto shops or at highway rest stops. But if you think about it, you'll probably recall seeing vending machines that take credit cards. That's an increasingly common feature on vending machines — it's industry standard for new ones — and the technology hasn't stopped there. Some vending machines take Apple Pay and offer other modern e-payment options.
So what does all of this mean in terms of dollars and cents? Well, as it turns out, you're not the only one who spends a little cash at vending machines. The vending machine business generates about $20 billion annually, and a single well-placed machine can make $100 a week — which can really add up, especially for a small business. The industrial vending machines market along is expected to be worth $1.43 billion by 2025.
And, of course, you should keep in mind that vending machines have some nice efficiency advantages. Self-checkout kiosks and automated customer service may still be spreading in grocery stores and other retailers, but employee-free operation has been a mark of vending machines for decades. With long-lasting contents and limited upkeep needs, vending machines are cheap to run and can generate impressive profits.
This makes vending machines a great investment for all sorts of businesses. Businesses can make profits even after hours with vending machines outside. They can offer relatively low-cost products and still make a profit because vending machines are cheap to run — take, for instance, an ice vending machine, which is a staples at hotels and gas stations, among other places. Vending machines are great for schools, where they can provide extra cash while making refreshments available to students in between classes and after school.
Of course, mileage will vary: smart businesses play around with the placement of their vending machines in order to maximize profit. But the good news for business owners is that even an inefficient use of vending machines can be mildly profitable, thanks to the sheer affordability of actually maintaining one. Vending machines offer a “set it and forget it” means for profit that holds special appeal to owners of small businesses, including small shops, gas stations, hotels, and restaurants.
Far from being outdated, vending machines are profitable and — in the case of modern machines — cutting-edge ways for businesses and nonprofits to make ends meet.
“I want to get a vending machine with fun-sized candy bars , and the glass in front is a magnifying glass. You’ll be mad, but it will be too late.” — Mitch Hedberg