There is a lot of money to be made in the vending machine business. According to a study by the Hanna Group vending machine company, the vending machine industry is worth close to $50 billion a year in the United States alone. However, while vending machines have the potential to be lucrative, potential owners must know their local market before jumping in. To get started in the vending machine business, you must find a machine distributor, a food supplier and a space provider.
Find locations in your area that have high pedestrian traffic and few vending machines. Check the level of pedestrian traffic in an area by observing it at mealtimes or asking business owners in the area when they do most of their business. Pay close attention to malls, college campuses, schools and food courts. These areas tend to have high pedestrian traffic.
Ask the location managers in promising areas whether they would be willing to let you install vending machines on their property in exchange for a cut of earnings. Fifteen to 30 percent for the location manager is standard.
Purchase a vending machine. Pick a machine that carries the kinds of products you are interested in selling. Gumball machines cost between $500 and $1,000. Vending machines for chips and beverages range in price from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on the size. There are many vending machine manufacturers in the United States to choose from. Shop around at these sites to find a price that's right for you.
Contact a food or beverage wholesaler and order your first supply of merchandise. Chips and candy bars can be purchased from any one of the many wholesalers doing business in the United States. Soda and other beverages can be purchased directly from bottlers, or from wholesalers. If you want to wholesaler to fill up the machine for you, you may have to pay them a fee.
Install the vending machine in the area you and the location manager agreed on. Vending machines come pre-assembled, so this is a simple matter of putting the machine in a conspicuous position and plugging it into an outlet.
Stock the machine with food and/or drinks. Use the keys to open the front door of the machine and place products in the rows. Fill front to back.
Check on the machine intermittently and decide whether you want to invest in more machines. Use your keys to open the coin counter and check your earnings. Order a new supply of merchandise whenever something runs low. Use your own judgment to determine whether the money you've earned justifies investing time and money in an additional machine.
Based in St. John's, Canada, Andrew Button has been writing since 2008, covering politics, business and finance. He has contributed to newspapers and online magazines, including "The Evening Telegram" and cbc.ca. Button is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Memorial University in St. John's.