Hot Food Vending Machines
Prior to improvements in heating technology, hot food vending machines simply weren’t feasible due to concerns over food spoilage. However, vending machines with coin- or card-activated individual slots or carousel-style hot food vending machines are becoming increasingly common. The monetary and time investment demanded of an operator tends to be higher with hot food vending machines; however, because these machines stock higher-priced items, they also have the potential to bring in bigger profits.
Typical Offerings from Hot Food Vending Machines
Though the types of foods available from hot food vending machines will vary significantly, depending on the design of the specific machine you’re using, they generally include:
- hot dogs
- panini sandwiches
- mini pizzas
- macaroni & cheese
- grilled cheese sandwiches
- chicken fingers
- french fries
Prepared Hot Food and Heat-It-Yourself Vending Machines
Typically, vending machines which contain ready-to-eat hot food items are found in stores where the facilities to prepare the food ahead of time are easily accessible, with convenience stores and gas station food marts being two of the most common locations. Operation of these vending machines can be more costly, not only because of the higher price of the sophisticated heating units that the food is sold from, but also due to the additional personnel required to maintain them. Typically, hot food vending machine operators are expected to at least subsidize the cost of the employee whose job it is to ensure the machine is properly stocked with the right items.
More common are refrigerated units that stock food items for sale coupled with a microwave oven provided so customers can heat their own food on site. These vending machines are usually comprised of a selector plate mounted on an axle or other mobile mechanism which responds to customer input when a selection is made. After the correct amount of money is inserted in the machine, the purchased items is sent down a chute and delivered to the customer, who then heats it using easy-to-follow instructions on the accompanying oven.
While that might seem to be a complex operation to maintain, the fact is that most locations that can support a hot food vending machine can support heat-your-own machines as well. Normally, both the vending machine and the microwave oven can be run off a single power outlet. Operators are simply responsible for ensuring that the refrigerated storage area beneath the unit is stocked, and that new products are rotated into the display case once current supplies have sold out.
The same payment technology which breathed new life into the vending machine industry as a whole is also available with hot food vending machines. Operators who wish to offer their customers the convenient option of paying using a bank or credit card can do so, and can offset the higher cost of electronic payment by padding the prices of their products. However, as with any business, location, location, location is the key to success. Most hot food vending machine operators have enjoyed the greatest success by cooperating and sharing revenues with store owners who want the ability to offer their customers access to hot food without installing the cumbersome facilities needed to prepare it on site. Finding a partnership is, in fact, often the first step to success in the hot food vending machine business.