How to Scale Your Vending Machine Business: Tips and Strategies for Success

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  • Vending machines are welcomed in schools, hospitals, and many other establishments.
  • Joining a franchise is the easiest way to start working with vending machines.
  • You can get vending machines from another business that already has a batch of apparatuses.
  • Implement products that are not easy to find in the location, and update the payment options.
  • Be prepared to expand with saved income, market on social media, include new items, and maintain the machines.

A vending machine may be an underrated item in the office, but it benefits every workspace. Besides providing employees with tons of snacks, drinks and coffee, a vending machine is cost-effective for everybody at work! 

Opening up a vending machine business can be one of the best decisions you make for your future business endeavors. Not only do companies need a few in their buildings, but vending machines are also welcomed in schools, hospitals, and many other establishments! 

If you want to know how to start a vending machine business, give this article a read! We’ll elaborate on how to make the best of this practical, yet frugal business venture! 

The Basics of Starting a Vending Machine Business

They say vending machines are making a comeback, but some believe that they never left the trends. Starting a vending machine business venture has surprisingly more pros than cons. Before setting your machine at a preferred location, you have to choose the type of vending machine to work with. 

There are two places from where you can get vending machines, such as another business that already has an established batch of apparatuses or buying into a franchise. In a way you buy the vending machine business for sale. Breaking into the vending machine industry is easier said than done, and taking over an established batch may be a worthy step. 

Key Considerations for Starting a Vending Machine Business

Before you sign the papers to start your vending machine entrepreneurship, here are some of the key considerations to think about.

Choosing a Partner, Franchise or Start From Scratch

Partnering up with a brand that has an established batch of vending machines requires a lot of capital at start. Once that capital is invested, you inherit all vending machines from the previous owner and automatically get their existing customers and revenue streams. 

There are also some downsides to using someone else’s vending machines. Prior to purchasing the vending machine business from the previous owner, make sure to find out the reasons for their selling. Before you agree to the terms, investigate whether there are any issues with the machines, locations, or customer accounts. 

Another sure way to start a vending machine business and experience success from the get-go is to buy into a franchise. Joining a franchise is the easiest way to start working with vending machines because you already have an established framework. This means no difficult business decisions, yet you will gain valuable experience as a vending machine operator. 

A franchise does have its downsides too. The franchisor will take a percentage of your earnings each month and charge you upfront fees. 

If none of the above options sound good to you, starting your vending machine business from scratch might be what you are after. Besides the flexibility of starting-from-zero business, you also get control over your finances, products, locations, and customer relations. 

Legal Requirements

If you plan on opening a vending machine business, take care of the legal requirements in your state. This means registering the business in your residence state and setting up a legal entity. 

Business owners usually register their business as a limited liability company (an LLC) or an S or C Corporation. With a legal entity, you are protected from lawsuits and can open a business checking account. 

Prepare a Business Plan 

A business plan has to include an overview of the financial structure, your initial idea and it is the first step toward starting your business. Writing a successful business plan means doing market research, setting “SMART” objectives, and considering your goals. It’s a blueprint to accomplishing your goals and achieving success.

Measure Your Business Costs 

Identifying business expenses is crucial when preparing your business plan. There are lots of startup costs you need to keep track of, but start with a list of the things you need to buy first. These costs include the one-time expense like:

  • registering an LLC 
  • getting a license 
  • purchasing vending machines
  • products to stock the machines
  • ongoing expenses like tax and accounting
  • office supplies 
  • website hosting
  • marketing materials

Buy Vending Machines

Wondering how to buy a vending machine? Get them from a previous owner or buy into a franchise. Depending on the quality, vending machines can cost between $1,000 and $8,000, depending on the type of machine and the items sold. You will have to choose between a few types of vending machines: mechanical, electronic, and bulk vending machines. 

Decide the Items to Sell

Besides food, owning a vending machine can offer a range of products from skincare lotions, to tech accessories. Before choosing your products, conduct market and industry analysis. Tailoring products to your location-specific audience is key to success, so providing protein bars at the gym, or dog treats near the dog park may result in profits. 

Locate Product Suppliers

Having the right product suppliers is crucial when it comes to having a successful vending machine business. Choose original products and partner up with the suppliers so you can have a bulk in stock at any time. 

Set up in High-Traffic, Busy Areas 

Set up your vending machines in a busy area with a lot of foot traffic. Some of the most profitable places are streets where people shop or in parks where they go for walks. Malls have had vending machines since the dawn of time, and it’s an excellent idea to put a few there. 

How to Scale Your Vending Machine Business

Scaling your business means growing the business infrastructure for better reach and profit maximization. There are many ways to scale a vending machine business, like upgrading the system, adding new locations, or new items. Ultimately, your business gets all the benefits so it’s worth the effort. 

Here are a few benefits of scaling a vending machine business: 

  • It puts you ahead of the competition
  • It helps your business expand 
  • It helps you increase profits in the long run 

Scaling Strategies for Vending Machine Businesses 

To accomplish the set goals, business owners must implement a few strategies for scaling a vending machine business:

  • Keep your machines well-stocked and in proper working condition. 
  • Set machines in high-traffic areas like malls, office buildings, and airports. 
  • Offer one-of-a-kind products that people can’t buy anywhere else. 
  • Include a variety of different products, from sweet to salty to savory. 
  • Promote your business on social media. 
  • Add more vending machines to different busy locations. 
  • Offer discounts or membership cards. 
  • Upgrading and incorporating one electronic vending machine. 

Scaling Challenges for Vending Machine Businesses 

Every business venture can face many challenges when scaling a business. Some of the most common ones are: 

  • Scaling too early – if your business has not seen significant profit yet, it may be too early to start scaling. 
  • Don’t confuse growth and scaling – If your business grows, it does not mean that it necessarily scales. A company can grow and expand, but if they are able to handle an increasing workload and sales, while providing quality services, then they are scaling. 
  • Missing the product-market fit – Your vending machine business won’t see its effect if placed “in the middle of the desert”. So make sure the products you choose in your vending machine fit to the demands of the surroundings. 
  • Failure to adapt to changes – A business needs to adapt to changes, otherwise it will fail. What made a company successful in the past might not work today. Businesses and people should change and cater to development. 
  • Inability to identify a working marketing channel – If your business is using all the marketing channels, it can look desperate. The best way to do it is to choose a relevant channel like social media, email marketing, TV, radio, catalogs, etc. If you don’t determine the right marketing strategy, you are wasting money, resources, and time. 

Leveraging Technology for Scaling

We witnessed many technological upgrades in the last decade and vending machines are no exception. Inventors created a smart vending machine that comes with sensors, cameras, microphones, and more! Besides giving smart insight to operators, smart vending machines are a whole attraction! 

Implement products and snacks that are not easy to find in the location, and update the payment options. It’s high time you say goodbye to coins, and pennies and incorporate scanning options, NFC payment, QR codes, etc. 

Technology and Scaling a Vending Machine Business 

Technology helps to scale a business by offering the owner multiple sources to market their product. Social media reaches a wide audience, so having your image plastered in every sphere helps in recognizing and remembering your product. A touchscreen interface is also a new technological product some vending machines use that improves the customer experience. 

Some examples of technology that can be used for scaling include:

  • softwares and apps that help find the best solutions for vending machine maintenance 
  • right locations to place a vending machine 
  • top-rated items, etc. 

Marketing Your Vending Machine Business

Marketing contributes to scaling, especially if you are in the vending machine industry. With marketing, you identify new opportunities for success like sales and operations to drive customer support and expansion. 

With a vending machine business, you must optimize and expand your business strategies, operations, and logistics. Some examples of fruitful marketing strategies include:

  • Spread the word through local social media.
  • Advertise on billboards, road signs, or vehicles.
  • Talk to local businesses to implement your vending machines in their offices. 
  • Giveaways, for instance, a 30-day supply of chocolate bars, and other items. 
  • Research unique items popular internationally and include them in your supply. 
  • Hand out fliers or hire someone to spread the word about your awesome vending machines.
  • Offering free vends for established businesses. 

Successful Vending Machine Marketing Campaigns

Even business giants like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nokia and Nestle have their own vending machine ventures. Coca-Cola’s interactive Happiness Machine in 2010 was a successful marketing campaign conducted on a college campus. They transformed a vending machine into a “happiness machine” delivering various items of happiness or sodas. Since it was placed, the Happiness Machine has had over 11 million views on YouTube and inspired the Coca-Cola Happiness Truck. 

Another example of a profitable marketing campaign for a vending machine includes Nestle’s “ChocoLike”. Wanda Digital partnered up with Nestle and put a vending machine in the biggest mall in Turkey and connected the machine to its Facebook page. Every 15 likes the machine got online it resulted in a free chocolate gift, a tablet consisting of 15 pieces of the new Nestle Chocolate. The Facebook page saw 55,433 likes and the vending machine gave out 3,695 Chocolike gifts. 

Streamlining Operations for Efficiency

Scaling your vending machine business means implementing efficient operations. This will help you focus on planning and managing your business. Here are some tips you can try out for streamlining your operations:

  • Use freelancers to search for best quality products, items that increase revenue, captivating marketing tactics, etc.
  • Outsource tasks like restocking or taking the money out of the machine. 
  • Use softwares to speed up the workflow and deliver results at lower costs. 
  • Create a clear and efficient system for managing the business.
  • Have a well-defined schedule for tracking sales, customer response and maintenance.
  • Conduct a clear and effective plan for advertising and marketing. 

Businesses with Successfully Streamlined Operations

A case study of a vending machine business that has successfully streamlined operations includes Venpay and its connectivity issues. A reliable web connection is the core of the market proposition, and you need it to make payments, retrieve alarms, and sales. Since Venpay had trouble with connections, they turned to an advanced connectivity solution that provides 100% connectivity to devices all over the world. By turning to serious web solutions, Venpay streamlined operations and realized a competitive advantage through digitalization. 

Another case study of a vending machine business that streamlines operations is Spirit Box LLC which supplies custom vending machines to high schools as an alternative to their local stores. With Spirit Box’s vending machines students can supervise the machines, and sell school merchandise, notebooks, electronics, and shirts. The goal was to provide a less expensive variant to the traditional brick-and-mortar spirit stores that are built around schools. 

Financing for Scaling

To scale your vending machine company, you need to have additional financial options for those scales. It may be pricey to scale your business immediately, so when it comes to finances you can pick between different options.

Small Business Loan 

If you are just starting your business, you must be frugal with your finances. New businessmen have limited financial means and to meet their ambitions, they can consider a small business loan. Examples include short-term loans for startups that require repaying in the next 18 months. Unlike long-term loans, short-term ones have higher monthly withdrawals, but with lower interest. 

Pros include:

  • You get the cash immediately
  • The interest is lower
  • Helps you build credit for future investments

Cons include: 

  • The monthly withdrawals are higher
  • You have a fixed period to pay back 


Companies often lease their vending machines. These contracts last from two to five years and it’s a great way to start and get the vending machine you are looking for. The monthly payments are fixed to the leasing business as long as the contract lasts.

Pros include:

  • You settle on a contract and you pay for its entirety 
  • Great way to get the vending machine you want without looking too much
  • Monthly payments are fixed 

Cons include: 

  • Leasing can be more complicated than buying. 
  • At the end of the day, you don’t own the machines. 

Equipment Financing Loans 

Equipment loans are given by lenders to buy business-related machinery for your startup. They work by charging interest and considering the cost of your vending machines. But, there’s a catch that if you default on loan payments, your bought machines will act as collateral. 

Pros include:

  • You get financial help to find the right vending machines and items
  • Equipment loans are easily accessible
  • You can get an equipment loan even with bad credit

Cons include: 

  • The items you buy work as collateral 
  • Not very secure

A tip to secure financing options for a scaling business is to save money upfront or secure a short-term loan that you pay back as quickly as possible. If you save money before starting with the vending machine business you have a safety net to spread when the workload increases. Experiencing surprise success can also be tackled with a short-term loan that can get you more vending machines, maintenance, labor work, etc. 


A vending machine business is the perfect opportunity to learn how to be frugal in the industry! This type of business is beneficial for both newbie and veteran entrepreneurs who are looking for profit. These machines provide passive income, are easy to maintain, do the selling for you, and have very low startup expenses! 

So, are vending machines profitable? If you play your cards right and be patient, you can experience great success with vending machines! 

You can choose between mechanical, electronic, and smart vending machines and optimize their contents. Like all businesses, scaling is important for a vending machine company too. This means being prepared to expand with saved income, marketing on social media, incorporating new items, and maintaining the machines. 

To conclude, opening up a vending machine business can be the best step in your business journey, whether it’s your first or millionth time. If you adhere to rules, have a license, and upgrade your machines and items, you too can become the new vending machine giant!

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