Trying to find a profitable and safe location for a vending machine? I interviewed five vending machine owners with routes of at least 50 machines. These are the best vending machine location ideas these entrepreneurs shared with me. I also explain what to look for in a safe vending location. Let’s do this!
- Free Places to Get Vending Machines Placed
- Vending Machine Locations for Rent
- How to Find Vending Machine Locations
- List of Vending Machine Locations
Free Places to Get Vending Machines Placed
If you want to lease a space for free, one of the best locations to do so is an office. Employees love the option of a vending machine in their break room. In turn, businesses might allow you to place your unit free of charge to keep the staff happy without needing to refill the machine. Basically, you’re looking for locations where you can position your vending machines as a service to the business owner.
Another option are co-working space. More people than ever are working from home at the time of writing. With the ability to work remote, more companies and individual employees are deciding to setup their workplace at a co-working location to get out of house and hopefully be more productive. These spaces are ideal for vending machines since employees will be spending long periods of time in the same location.
Another option for getting into free locations is pulling at people’s heart strings. Two of the vendors I spoke with donate a portion of their proceeds to local charities. Assuming your business does contribute to worthy nonprofits, let the business owner or manager know about it. If you can truthfully state that the proceeds from the machine will benefit kids or at-risk communities, it’s a compelling reason to allow you into a location.
Vending Machine Locations for Rent
Some businesses will want you to pay rent in prime locations. The busiest of retail store, shops, and corporate offices understand their value. On average it will cost $50 – $200 per month to rent a vending machine space. The reality is that it won’t make financial sense to pay rent for most vending locations.
Instead of renting at a flat rate, see if you can negotiate an arrangement where you pay the location a certain percentage of profit. It’s not uncommon for business owners to demand 10% – 20% of revenue in exchange for a vending machine being placed. After all, the business will incur a certain amount of expense to store the unit like covering the electricity.
Just like all other food-oriented or retail businesses, location is key for success. With vending machines, it’s essential to find a location with significant foot traffic. This means finding a place where plenty of people are coming and don’t have an easy alternative to get snacks or refreshments elsewhere. Big corporate buildings or college campuses are classic examples of this of places that charge rent.
If you decide to rent, try to negotiate a short term in case the spot doesn’t work out. A 3-month maximum lease would be ideal. This provides more than enough time to figure out if a location will be profitable or not. Never overpay for a single location.
How to Find Secure Vending Machine Locations
Security is a top priority for a vending machine business owner. For vending machines, the security risks need to be ruled out as early as possible to ensure that your investment stays intact. These risks include theft, vandalism and weather damage. Fortunately, there are simple precautions you can take to minimize threats.
- Using a security cage – This is not the most aesthetically pleasing method, since it makes your machine look like it’s in jail, but it does the job. A security cage can protect against all three security risks mentioned above.
- Ensure it’s in a visible location – As mentioned earlier, food traffic is required for a vending business. If your vending machine is in a location with a lot of people around, it’s less likely to be messed with.
- Install a security camera – This method needs approval from the property owner or manager beforehand. Having a camera will help decrease potential theft and vandalism. Plus, if your unit does get vandalized or broken, the chances of catching the suspect are significantly higher.
Now that you know how to secure your vending machine, let’s move on to the list of potentially profitable location ideas that the entrepreneurs I spoke with shared.
List of Vending Machine Locations
First on the list, we have gas stations. Most often then not, these locations have an attached convenience store. But they might still need a vending machine when the store closes for the night. Even if the gas station is closed and does not have an attendant, customers can still fill up their tank with a credit card at the pump. These same customers might want to swipe their card for a snack or beverage too.
Now that air travel is on the road to recovery since the start of the pandemic, you can expect a lot of traffic at airports as people make up for lost time making this an ideal location for a vending machine. There are plenty of people that go to the airport hours before their flight. Now, airport food is quite expensive, so where do they look for affordable snacks? That’s right. Your vending machine.
Some may ask “why would you place a vending machine in a location that serves food?” Well, you might have employees that would like to use it. Another option is for customers to grab a beverage for the ride home. Just make sure what you stock in the machine doesn’t compete with the menu.
Colleges are packed full of students with big appetites. Vending machines placed in the right school property can be quite lucrative. In some locations, hundreds or thousands of people can walk by your machine on their way to class every single day. In fact, one of the best locations is in a college dorm. Students are always staying up late studying or hanging out with friends and they don’t want to go far away for some food. So, a vending machine is the way to go.
Speaking from experience, I used to visit the vending machines all the time in in dorm. After a shift waiting tables at a family restaurant, my pockets where usually flush with small change and quarters to make these purchases.
Much like colleges, high schools are ideal for vending machine locations. They are perfect for students that are doing school work in between classes. I used to pick up the occasional 20 oz. soda on before jumping on the bus to go home.
On top of that, school boards and parents would love it if your vending machine sold healthy snacks. School administrators and the parents of the students want to ensure kids have access to better, healthier options. Fortunately, there are all sorts of healthy snack options like freeze dried fruit packs, granola bars, juices and water that can be sold via a machine. Not just sugar-filled sodas.
Apartment complexes are also teeming with activity. People are always moving around every single day. These buildings often have their laundry rooms, gyms, party rooms, mini parks, or common areas where tenants gather. All of these locations are ideal for you to place your vending machine. Apartment buildings with more than 100 units can be an enormous opportunity.
One thing to take note of when it comes to hotels or motels is that people who check in to a hotel are there for a considerable amount of time. Now, most hotels have a restaurant, however, there are times when they don’t want a full meal or want a small snack outside of service hours. After all, hotels have guests checking into rooms in the early morning until late at night.
But, the positioning the unit inside hotels is key. Guests don’t want to go all the way to the lobby to grab a snack. Make sure to position machines on each floor, near the pool, and the lobby as well for maximum revenue. Keep these units well-stocked before weekends so you can maximize sales.
I recently visited a hotel in the Disneyland resort at Anaheim, California, that only held vending machines. You could purchase sandwiches, drinks, fruit and cheese snacks, and more. There was no attendant present to accept orders. You just scanned the food, payed with a debit / credit card, and wont on your way.
24-Hour Convenience Stores
As what their name implies, 24-hour convenience stores never close. Customers can simply come and go whenever they feel hungry or thirsty. Even though there’s food and drinks inside, people don’t always want to wait in line. Hence, having a vending machine just outside the door makes the convenience store even more convenient.
Health Food Stores
Nowadays, people are looking to get healthier, which makes them visit food stores that have a variety of healthy options. On top of that, customers always seek comfort when it comes to purchasing products. So, having a vending machine that offers healthy snacks and/or drinks is a fantastic choice for people.
Banks have plenty of food traffic. People are always doing plenty of transactions inside. Plus, these transactions can sometimes take a while to finish. As a result, people get hungry. Good thing there’s a vending machine right outside. Therefore, making banks a suitable place for your unit. Not only can you profit off of the customers, but the tellers who work at the banks as well.
Most pharmacies aren’t always open for 24 hours. However, there are a few in the U.S. that do, including Duane Reed, CVS and Walgreen. If your community has its own local 24 hour pharmacy, you might want to place your vending machine there. Since it’s always open, you can expect some foot traffic even in late evenings or early mornings.
Workplace Break Rooms
Employees get hungry or thirsty throughout the workday. As we’ve covered earlier, vending machines in office break rooms can make employees happy, as it gives them another option for a quick snack. Ideally, these rooms should have at least two vending machines. One that offers snacks while the other offers drinks. And a second that makes it convenient for employees who don’t bring their own lunch, snacks or drinks.
Now that the restrictions for the pandemic are much lighter, malls are once again teeming with activity. People are always going to malls to shop, and after a couple of hours of walking around, they will most likely look for food. Having one inside a food court or close to the entrances and exits is a suitable location for a vending machine.
Most museums today have small cafeterias and cafes to make their visitors’ stay more enjoyable and comfortable. Plus, they also make people stay longer. But not all museums are large enough to offer food service. With vending machines, you can put one or two within the cafeteria or cafe so visitors have the option for a snack or drink. You can also place one near the entrances where most of the traffic will come from.
People that go to hair salons to get their hair done often sit around for hours depending on the treatment. If that’s the case, salon-goers can get pretty hungry or thirsty over time. A vending machine is just the thing they look to to fill up the tank.
Before you can place a vending machine inside a park, you must find out if it’s a private or public park. If it’s a public park, you must get in touch with the local government and ask for leasing requirements and permits. The same goes for private parks, except you only need to contact the group managing it.
Now, parks are an excellent location for a vending machine to generate revenue. Particularly, those that often frequent these places go there to exercise. Having a machine that offers cold sports drinks could be a welcome sight to visitors.
Hospitals are always open. Plus, you also have the advantage of three kinds of buyers. First, the patients who are looking for different food other than the usual meal. Second, you have the workers of the facility (nurses, doctors, etc.). Lastly, you have visitors who, while waiting for their loved ones are looking for a pick me up.
These sites often employ hundreds of people that can take charge over multiple shifts per day. These facilities are required by law to give short breaks. Meaning, employees won’t have enough time to go out and eat at a restaurant. Placing a vending machine inside their break rooms gives the staff more options, which means you can have a steady flow of income.
Beaches or Resorts
People love to go to the beach. However, spending time under the sun can make someone really thirsty after a while. A vending machine that provides customers with cool and refreshing drinks can certainly mean well for business. Especially now that resorts are welcoming tourists back again.
People go to the gym to get into shape or to live a healthier life. So, breaking a sweat can leave everyone from weigh lifters to runners thirsty. This is the ideal to place a vending machine offering energy drinks, sports drinks, water, and shakes to restore nutrients. Also, don’t forget that a good workout means a big appetite. Hence, if you are planning to place a vending machine in a gym, make sure that you’ll be offering healthy and protein-rich snacks like nuts, berries, and meat snacks like beef jerky.
People spend a lot of time in laundry shops while waiting for their laundry to finish. While waiting, people will be reluctant to head out for a quick bite when they’re feeling hungry. This makes a vending machine a convenient option for hungry customers.
Like airports, train stations are also a place where people would often wait around. During this time, it would be likely that they might want to go for a snack. If you put a vending machine, your chances of gaining a steady income is great. Plus, these vending machines could also serve people getting off the train. The vending machine industry has earns more than $38 billion annually with a portion of the revenue coming through train and subway stations.
Most car washes today are done with machines for convenience. However, doing it by hand is still the way to go, even though it’ll take longer and is more expensive than a drive-thru. If you’re looking to place a vending machine at a car wash, make sure that they offer hand car wash services. This is to ensure that customers will have the chance to see your unit and be tempted while they wait.
Another great venue for a vending machine is a sports complex or arena. Games held in these locations take a few hours to finish. Now, most arenas won’t allow viewers to bring snacks with them. So, whenever they get hungry, a vending machine is one of the options. It’s best to position these units near the exits in the stands for easy access. However, the revenue for this location would depend if it’s used for a game.
RV or Recreation Vehicle parks are camping grounds where people with RVs can park overnight or longer. This makes them ideal for you to place a vending machine. People that go to these locations would often arrive hungry. Visitors often won’t know the local eating options either. So, your vending machine can give them a range of snack options that they won’t need to search for.
Amusement parks are a fun getaway for families. However, after all the walking, especially in a large theme park, it can certainly work up an appetite. So, take notice where most traffic is inside the park to find out the best location for your vending machine. It would also be good to place it near a benches or restrooms. There are even pizza vending machines these days that can serve a whole meal to the family.
Nursing Homes or Care Facilities
Much like hospitals, nursing homes or care facilities are always open. People who stay or work in these facilities love the variety of options that vending machines can offer. And, visitors look to find a quick snack from them so that they can spend more time with their loved ones. Not to mention, the staff can use these machines to re-energize them during their long shifts. All and all, the global vending industry is projected to reach more than $145 billion in value by 2026.
The average consumer spends about 3.6 hours at car dealerships. Aside from that, most dealerships have service centers to get cars fixed, which can take more than a few hours. Now, not only do their customers look to your vending machine for something to eat, but also their employees. As a result, these places can potentially be top-grossing locations for your business.
Government offices employ plenty of people that work together to serve others. That could mean long hours at the workplace. For these employees, a vending machine enables them to eat without the wait, saving them time, which they can use for more government-related work.
All doctor’s clinics have a waiting area for people to wait for their scheduled appointment. This could take a while, depending on each patient. Some might get thirsty or hungry, so having a vending machine is key. It’s important to note that since it’s a doctor’s clinic, you should only offer healthy snacks or drinks.
Golf Course Lounge
There are more than 9,000 golf courses in the U.S., most of which have lounge areas for golfers to unwind after a game. A vending machine that provides nutrient-rich snacks and cool energy drinks will attract plenty of customers. Many golfers will appreciate the opportunity to buy a snack or drink and place it in their bag while they’re on the course.
Saving a city or community from fires can certainly work up a huge appetite for our firemen and make them quite thirsty. Also, there are many fire stations that operate 24 hours a day. Many fire fighters work 72 hour shifts without going home to sleep in between. Placing a vending machine inside their station means they can grab a bite or drink whenever they return from doing their work. Plus, fire stations have dormitories, so rest assured there will always be someone buying from your machine.
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Another ideal location for your vending machine is at a seaport. This is a high traffic area, since several people go to seaports for various reasons. So, they would often stop by a vending machine for its convenience and considerably affordable prices.
Last but not the least, bakeries are also a superb place to put a vending machine. Consumers are always looking for freshly baked bread, donuts, , so you can expect a lot of foot traffic. So, if your vending machine can offer them cold drinks, such as sodas, water, energy drinks, and others, then it could make you a huge profit.
Nothing says convenience like a vending machine. Even though the U.S. isn’t number one in terms of vending machine unit volume, there are more than 5 million vending machines in the country as of 2019 racking up billions of dollars of revenue each year.
When it comes to vending machines, the machine itself can cost around $1,500 for a small candy machine to $2o,000 for a high-end digital unit with all the bells, whistles, and an ability to accept credit card payments or Apple Pay. Considering the price range, a vending machine business can be cost prohibitive to start when you consider you will likely need 100 locations or more to get close to earning a full-time replacement income between $30,000 – $40,000 annually. One way to cut cost is to find used vending machines that aren’t as expensive.
You’ve also got to consider product fit. For example, a vending machine sells all kinds of soda might not do so well when placed inside a gym. It would, however, find success inside an office or shopping center. As mentioned earlier, you need to inquire with the owner or manager of the property to learn about their contract for any location. Plus, the fees of each location will vary so it’s vital to conduct local market research to find profitable opportunities.