This is a response to a question from a visitor to the site about snack machines:
I have a question about menu mix and product selection. Is there a guideline number for sales per spiral? How do you make a determination about discontinuing a slow moving product. Is there a percentage of sales, etc? Finally how do you track inventory, category, individual items, other?
This is actually two separate but related subjects. This article is about product selection in vending machines. The article about increasing profitability at an account can be found here.
I do not know how much experience you have in vending, so I will give some general guidelines and I hope it will be useful to you without being too basic. Unit sales are not as important as profitability and customer satisfaction. Merchandising is also important.
First of all, be willing to dedicate some spirals in each machine to meet requests for special dietary needs at an account (gluten free, Kosher/Halal, Vegan, sugar free items, etc) or have the managers' favorite item always stocked. This is good customer service and it shows you listen and you care.
If a customer asks for "food" items that are more substantial, put in items like tuna lunch kits, oatmeal bowls, soul cups, Mac and Cheese, etc. You may find sales increase because these items make it more socially acceptable to use the machine. You probably won't sell many of these units, but people will go to the machine because of the selection, and then they will probably buy a candy bar and chips. ;-)
Also consider the demographics of the clientele in the location, the type of work they do, the hours they work, and what other options they have for snacks and beverages.
Once you have created menus for the machines at an account, you need to track unit sales DOLLAR SALES per spiral. Spirals which do not generate dollars nor customer satisfaction need to be refilled with items that do. Look at your best sellers in the machine and then put different but similar items in the under-performing spirals. By offering similar items you can decrease sales pressure on the fast moving spirals and thereby enable you to increase the amount of time between services. This will allow you to increase your dollars per collection while increasing customer satisfaction.
Following these guidelines will lead to greater customer satisfaction, better account retention and your overall dollars collected per service will go up. An unexpected bonus has been that we receive calls from people standing in front of our machines who ask us if we can put machines with similar selection in their place of business! We have picked up some great new accounts this way.