Filling vending machines is the bread and butter of any vending business. This is a step by step guide for what to do when you go to any location as well as how to modify these instructions to suit different combinations of machines and methods of servicing them. It's recommended that you also read our article Filling Vending Machines: An Introduction

This guide only covers snack vending machines and beverage vending machines and assumes you drive a roll-up delivery truck. The basic process can be used and modified to fit any type of machine and any type of vehicle.

General methods for servicing vending machines

In this guide, you will see that there are many ways of servicing a location. Once you become comfortable with the different options, you can modify them on the fly to suit the needs of the location and your own equipment. Here are the variations this guide will cover:

  • Finding out what you need when you get into the location. Here you carry in just your collection and change bags, write down what you need, and return to the truck to get your product.
  • Predicting what you'll need when you get into the location. This consists of wheeling in a cart with pre-loaded snack trays, a cooler, or beverages that you're fairly sure you'll need at the location and then writing down whatever else you need once you finish filling those items.
  • Knowing what you'll need before you get to the location. This means you wheel in a cart with pre-kitted product that matches exactly what you need. This works if you've been to a location recently or have some form of telemetry.

Vocabulary I use when filling vending machines

During this article, I'm going to refer to a few specific terms. If you get confused, refer back to this list:

Bill stacker : The box that stacks the dollar bills where you collect the cash from the machine. This is often removable from the bill validator.

Bill validator : This is mounted inside the machine, reads the dollar bills, and then stacks them in the bill stacker. This is where most bill jams occur.

Cart : The handcart you use to transport product to and from the truck.

Cases : These are the form in which the product is originally bought or delivered. A case of chips is usually a cardboard box of 64 chips. A case of soda is in a cardboard flat or box and is in a count of either 12, 24, or 36.

Coil : The metal spiral in a column that holds snacks and rotates to vend snacks.

Vending machine coil

Coin box/Cash box : This removable box is where the coins that customers insert into the machine fall, so you can collect them later.

Coin slot : The slot where the customer puts coins into the machine in order to buy product.

Column : The entire line of snacks of one selection. The coil winds through the column to hold the snacks.

Collection : The money in cash and change that you collect from a vending machine.

Collection bag : The bag you use to store your collections when you service a machine.

Count : This refers to how many items you can put between the coils in a column or, more generally, the maximum amount of items that can be contained in a given object. An example is, "That shelf is a 9 count."

Crates : Also called milk crates, these are deeper and narrower than snack trays, but still stackable. In these you usually load product sequentially in a pile on top of other product.

Pre-kit : Loading only the product you need for a location before you even get to the location. This works if you've been to location recently or you have an electronic inventory system in the machine.

Selection : One specific product location. An example of a selection is 'A1', or, "The first selection on the top shelf."

Shelves : Horizontal sections in a vending machine. For a snack machine, you can usually pull out the whole shelf, like you can with a dresser. For beverage machines with shelves, sometimes you can pull out individual shelves and sometimes you can't. Either way, shelves are used to identify where product is stored.

Short-dated : Product that will expire soon.

Snack trays : Also referred to as baskets.These are wide, shallow plastic trays that stack onto each other. In these you "pre-load" or store snacks in rows by type or defined sections. The trays are usually too shallow for you to put product on top of other product.

Spacer : A removable plastic piece that can fit into the side of a column to give weirdly shaped product a more snug fit. Sometimes, in a snack machine, a spacer will be on a hinge.

With these in mind, what follows is a detailed breakdown of each step.

Parking at the location

When you pull up to the location, park in a place where:

  • You can easily access the back of the truck.
  • You won't block traffic.
  • You are as close to the location as possible.
  • Your truck can easily get out or back out.

If it's the summer time and you're worried about product melting or thawing then never park with the sun facing the back of the truck. This is important not just to keep your product safe, but also because you don't want to overheat yourself when coming back to the truck for more product.

Loading product from the truck

Make sure to have your phone, vending keys, and collection bags.

Go to the back of the truck and open it.

If you need to find out what product the location needs

Simply grab your change bag and walk into the location. You don't need the cart yet. You can also do this if you don't have pre-loaded snack trays.

If it needs more than you can carry

Grab your cart and set it on the ground. Ideally, use a cart that has two positions.The first position is how you store it. This position has just the two large wheels touching the ground.

When you put it on the ground, it transforms to its second state, where there are now all 4 wheels on the ground. This is much more preferable to a simple handcart, because it allows for a larger variety of loads and a larger volume of product.

If this location has a smaller volume or only one type of product, a handcart is fine.

If you predict what it needs

Load some default items onto your cart. Here is an example of what I might load to start, but you don't have to put these items on the cart:

  • Snack trays in a stack in the back of the cart closer to the handles.
  • Your candy cooler loaded in front.
  • Your gum tray on top of your baskets of snacks or cooler.
  • Your change bags on top of the snack basket or clipped to a carabiner on the cart.
  • A case of any beverage that sells every time. An example of this is a case of Coke in most places.

If you service multiple snack machines that have the same product

You can bring full cases of the chips you know you'll need instead of preloaded snack trays. You can stack these cases on top of each other such that their cut openings are all facing the same way. You can easily stack 10 cases of chips on a cart this way and use a bungee cord to make them secure.

If the location has high sales and a snack vending machine

You can bring in a crate with any short-dated chips or other snacks so you don't lose money on them.

If the location has low sales and a snack vending machine

You can bring an empty crate with you to store short-dated or expired chips.

If your items are pre-kitted

Simply carry them or load them on the cart with your other default items.

Now close up and lock the truck and walk in or wheel your cart towards the location.

Entering your location with a cart

Wheel the cart evenly pushing – not pulling – and take care to avoid potholes and maintain control when walking up ramps. In addition, turn slowly to keep your product from sliding sideways off the cart. To enter a door, either ask someone to hold the door open for you, or turn the cart 180 degrees so that you're pulling it. Now you can hold the door open with your body and pull the cart past the door.

First contact with your customers

Say hello to your customers when walking in the door.

This allows them the chance to tell you anything on their mind about the machine, such as if it hasn't been working or if they want a new kind of product. This is much easier than trying to figure out either of these things yourself. Think of your vocal customers like they are vending machine detectives. People will often have a lot to say about machines. For such innocuous things, some people focus just as heavily on the goings on in a vending machine as you do.

Setting up your workspace at the machines

If you don't have a cart

Skip to the next section.

If you have a cart

Wheel the cart to the where the machines are placed. Let's assume you want to service the snack machine first.

Place the cart such that it faces the machine and it's just far enough away that it allows you to open the machine.

Open the snack machine and wheel the cart a little closer.

The exact position and orientation of the cart may vary depending on the shape of the room. These are the three best positions, ranked in order of their efficiency:

  1. If it's a large space, the best possible position is to have the left edge of the cart just to the right side of where the shelves slide out of the machine. This is assuming the door opens towards the left side. The cart is placed perpendicular to the front of the machine, facing it. This allows for maximum accessibility to both your cart and the shelves and it minimizes your movement during the filling process. If you had the cart the opposite way (flipped 180 degrees), then the handles would get in the way of your filling the machine.
  2. If you're in a narrow hallway, rotate the cart 90 degrees counter clockwise, so that the back of the cart is the farthest away from the machine. Here, since the cooler is lower than the snack trays in front, you can have the front edge of the cart a little bit closer than in the previous position.
  3. If even this isn't possible, then you can have the cart turned 180 degrees from the first position with the side of the cart flush against the right side of the machine with the cart facing you. In order to get product from your snack trays you'll have to reach to the right side of the machine.

Accounting and money collection

Once the machine is open, collect the sales and vending information. You can do this by writing it on a small notepad or using your phone. Collect this data along with the location name, machine type, and date. If you have multiple machines of the same type in the same location, put some kind of identifier. We use terms like "East"/"west", "showroom", "left"/"right", "outside", etc. The full name would then be "Bev right", "Bev west", "Showroom bev", etc. Create a consistent name that makes sense for the location and the machines.

Ignore this step if you have an electronic accounting system. Crouch down and transfer this information to a slip of paper inside the machine that has a list of vends and sales by date.

I recommend calculating the difference between this service and the last service. This is not only useful for knowing how much money you have, but also for calculating the sales you make per hour which in turn is useful for everything from increasing efficiency to deciding whether or not to promote your employees.

You can also refer to the Vending Machine Business Plan article for more details on why this is so important.

While crouched, ready your collection bag and collect the coins from the coin box. The best method is to wrap the opening in the bag around the opening of the coin box and flip the coin box upside down over the bag. This will result in a satisfying cascade of coins and no mess. You want to collect the change first so the cash can sit neatly on top of it in your collection bag.

Filling the change fund in the machine

Check the change tubes to see if any change (nickels, dimes, quarters, or dollars) is needed. If it is, get your change bag and insert the necessary change into the tubes. You can usually do this all while crouched, to avoid bending over.

  • If the tubes can be taken out of the coin mechanism without difficulty, take the tubes out first and place them on your cooler or other platform for an easier transfer of the rolled change into the change tubes. Then, place the coin tubes back into the coin mechanism.

If the tubes need change, note the amount of change that you take out of each change bag. Only then, take the cash out of the bill stacker. This is so you don't forget to put change in the change tubes as this is an easy but devastating thing to overlook.

To fill the tubes, start with with the largest coin that needs filling first. This is so you don't accidentally drop the coin into the wrong change tube. If you're filling quarters, they won't be able to fall into the dime slot, whereas a dime can fall into an empty quarter slot very easily.

Tear the change roll

Tear the change roll by cracking it once or twice like an egg against a metal corner.

Tear the change roll

Tear the change roll

Since it's nearby, the inside lip of the compartment where the snacks drop works fine.

Open the roll further

Once the roll is cracked, hold the roll with one hand while pressing both of your thumbs in a smoothing motion to slightly separate the coins, while still keeping them in their stack. The hand that holds the roll should be cupped to receive the coins. If necessary, tear the top of the roll and pour half the roll of coins or whatever is comfortable into your hand.

Coins in a stack in hand

If you've done it right, the coins should still be in a line in your hand, slightly overlapping.

Pour the change into the change tube

Press your fingers and palm together to form a funnel for the coins and place your hand above the coin tube. If necessary, use your other hand to cover the tubes where you don't want the change to fall. Tilt your palm so it opens towards the coin tube and let gravity slide the coins. Though you are using gravity, you should be able to control the speed of the coins' slide by the tilt of your palm. If the coins are overlapped the correct way, they should slide off your palm and fall neatly into the tube.

  • "Correctly overlapped coins" means that the coin closest to the tube and farthest down your palm is on the top of the stack of coins in the funnel in your palm. The next coin is under the first coin but on top of the coin behind it and so on.
  • Incorrectly overlapped coins are when the closest coin to the tube is underneath the other coins. This will cause the coins farther down the stack and higher up your palm to fall first, which will likely result in those coins falling on the floor. This is because there is less friction between two pennies than there is between one penny and your palm, so at a higher angle, a penny will slide faster off another penny than it will off your palm.

Collecting the cash

Take the cash out and count any necessary cash that you need to put into your change fund. Then, put the rest in your collection bag. Don't mix up the orientation of the bills. This is so you can easily put them into a money counter later. If you use a ziplock bag, collect the change first and then set the cash neatly on top of it. Finally, if you have a paper slip, put it in the bag facing out, so you can easily identify which bag is from which machine. Use a fancier technological accounting system, if you have one.

Immediately hide the money in a place like the chocolate cooler or any other innocuous place that usually has extra space and you don't usually pick up in the machine filling process. If you don't have any other stuff with you, you can hide the collection in your change bag.

Generally, it's a good rule to keep the money you collect out of plain sight to avoid any unwanted attention. Also, keep an eye on your change fund for this reason. Especially with quarters and dollars, someone can easily steal a couple hundred dollars from you just by grabbing a money bag.

Check for errors and problems

Check for errors from the machine and take a look at any issue that a customer may have brought to your attention. If you don't know how to fix the errors, browse our section of vending machine repair videos. After fixing all the errors that you can fix and noting the errors that you can't fix, then check the machine's cleanliness. If the glass is dirty, clean it with a glass cleaner and a paper towel. You can store these in the top snack basket or clip them to a carabiner on the cart. After the machine has been collected, fixed, and cleaned, move on to filling the machine.

Filling the snack vending machine

Now the actual filling process starts. These instructions are for the filling of a Dixie Narco model vending machine. Adapt them to suit your particular snack machine.

This may sound complicated, but once you get all these actions integrated into your filling process, it becomes a flow and you make these decisions without consciously thinking about them. Much of this becomes automatic as you do it, but even so its important to outline each single element of each step so that you learn good habits.

Before you start, grab your menu at the bottom of the machine and keep it in a place that is easy to reach. This section assumes you you've brought snacks with you, whether they are stacking snack trays, crates, or pre-kitted products. If you haven't brought any snacks, skip to the section "After Filling" below.

Loose items

Start with any loose items that you've brought. This includes gum or a specific item that a customer requested that you don't usually put in the snack tray. Fill the gum first because it is by far the lightest item you have. Then set the gum aside so you can easily reach your next items. Often times with a high volume snack location you'll have a crate/box of short-dated chips or other items on top of the stack. Fill these next, making sure to put them at the front of each column.


Open up your candy cooler and pull out the first or only tray in the machine that holds the chocolate bars. If there are only a few of each, bend down and grab a few of each, but if you need to fill an entire 24 count with a type of chocolate bar, pull out one whole box at a time. Ideally you only want to bend over or crouch only a couple of times to fill all the chocolates. After that, push the chocolate shelf in and either grab the next one, or finish filling your chocolates by closing your cooler.

Machine load order for stacking snack trays

Assuming you have 6 snack trays, the best order for trays are:

  1. Soup and other light single-serving items like oatmeal, popcorn, tuna boxes, etc.
  2. Chips
  3. Chips
  4. Smaller chips/ trail mix/jerky
  5. Cookies
  6. Non-chocolate bar candy like M&ms/Red Vines/Skittles, etc.

If you don't have 6 trays or you use milk crates instead, this is a good overall sequence. This is because the lightest items tend to be placed nearer to the the top of the machine, whereas the heaviest are placed nearer to the bottom. This is to help both you - so you don't have to lift the heavy items as high - and your customer - so heavier items don't fall as far as lighter items when vending.

Why 2+ trays of chips?

Chips are both large and popular items, so they often take up 2 or 3 shelves in a snack machine. If each chip shelf has 5 columns, and each tray can hold 4 rows of chips, you'll need around 2 trays or crates of chips to fill a machine. This is assuming that your machine only has a few empty columns. If it has more, you will likely need more chips than this.

Generally, the snack trays should correspond to the rows in the machine. There are two chip trays on your cart and usually 2+ chip shelves in a snack machine, but these are principles and often times machines won't match your trays, unless you pre-kit them.

Load your snack trays so that they are stored on the cart, when servicing, from lightest objects at the top to heaviest objects at the bottom. In the truck however they are stored lightest at bottom and heaviest at top. This is so you only restack them once going from truck to cart and you don't have to lift the heaviest tray from the bottom when it's at its most full (when its being lifted from the truck onto the cart.) If you did this the opposite way, you would have to lift the heaviest tray above your head onto the stack of other trays.

Soups and other light objects

The coils for large light items like these will likely be in 4 or 6 counts. When you load a soup or oatmeal onto the shelf, alternate orientations so that both soups in the same row and soups in adjacent rows don't catch on each other when the coil is moving to vend a product.


First, look at the chips that are already in the machine, assessing the date and amount in each row to decide whether or not you need to remove them. If you do, put these short-dated chips into an empty crate, or if you don't have one of those, put them in the bottom of the machine so that you can return with a crate to get them.

  • When loading chips, try to grab as many chips as possible each time you grab from the snack tray or crate.
  • When loading onto the shelf, properly orient each bag before putting them between coils.

Proper orientation of a chip in a snack machine

Proper orientation is when the bottom right hand of the chip bag enters the coil first so that it fits squarely between coils. Sometimes the chips bunch up at the bottom of the bag and prevent you from placing the bag in properly. If this happens, give the bag a little shake upwards and lightly smooth the chips towards the top of the bag with your thumb. Don't break the chips though. Your aim is to better distribute the chips in the bag. The bag should now easily fit into place. This motion should take less than a second.
* Feel the bag to make sure the chips haven't been squished and look at the bag to make sure it doesn't look too squished.

Some snack vending machines have columns that contain two coils. In these, you want to place the bottom right and left edges of the bag evenly underneath each coil.

Using chips with stacking snack trays or crates

As I said above, I recommend filling two trays of chips, and setting them side by side on your cart. Having access to both trays cuts down on the amount of times you have to pull out another chip shelf, because all of the chips you have on the cart are accessible. If you stack them right, then both chip trays should be at about the same level to each other and near waist or chest-high to you. This drastically increases your efficiency, since you don't have to bend at all and you only have to make a quarter turn with your torso to bring chips from their crate or tray to filling them in the snack machine. This kind of setup can put you in a machine filling flow state.

If you have six trays, set the soup tray aside. If you've also brought a candy cooler, set it on there. Then stack the first chip tray on top of the soup tray. The chip trays should now be side by side.

If you only have a couple milk crates, bring in an empty crate so the first chip crate is 3 crates high. This will put it at a good level for filling. If you have 4 crates, you can put two empty crates below for height, and stack two crates atop the second crate sideways. This will achieve the same height as the three crates, but now you have two crates you can access at once.

Why doesn't the chip bag fit?

Larger bags of potato chips, such as Doritos and Ruffles, go in a 10 count coil. Smaller chip bags, like Cheetos or Fritos, can go in a 12 count coil. Thinner and even smaller chip and snack bags, like Cheezits or Gardettos, can go in a 12 count or 15 count coil. If you put something that's too large for the amount of coils, you will have problems vending and it may result in chip bags bursting. If the bag seems too squished or narrow or the chips are facing out too much to the left, then you haven't loaded it correctly or it's in a coil count that is too high or a column that is too narrow.

  • At this point, you may also want to check the date just to make sure the chips you've placed in the machine are fresh and that they are arranged from most short-dated to most long-dated from front to back.
  • When you're done with a column, adjust the sticker in the column accordingly or apply a sticker if there isn't one. Always apply a sticker, even if the column is filled to its maximum. If the column in question is empty, check your menu to see what you've put in there in the past and glance at the chip trays to see if you have it. If you don't have it, see if you have a replacement chip.

This may seem like a lot to remember, but once you practice (and you will practice a lot!) you'll do all of these actions in seconds.

Once you've finished filling an entire row, then push that row back into the machine and lock it into place, pushing the white clips on the sides of the tracks into the down position. This will keep the shelf from sliding out.

Trail mix, beef jerky, cookies, and pastries

There is a key distinction in filling certain items like jerky, fruit snacks, or trail mix. These items have slicker packages and can fall out too easily from behind a coil, giving your customer a free item and not allowing other customers to purchase items from that column until you return. They also might not vend at all.

To stop this from happening, you need to set the lower right edge of the item on the curve of the coil behind where the product is placed, instead of underneath the coil in front of it such as you do with chips. In addition you need to put a spacer in the column so that the narrower packaging fits snugly between the spacer on the left side and the right wall of the column.

For machines with two coils in each column, this rule doesn't apply, since there is no way that the package will slide out from behind two coils.

You need to use spacers with all narrower items than chips if you want them to vend correctly and consistently. That goes for pastries as well.

If you do this right with the slick item, it should be slightly more oriented to the right than chip bags and the bottom of it should cross the curve of the coil diagonally with the left side in front and the right side in back.

Chances are if you have problems vending an item, either you don't have the correct spacing or you don't have the correct coil.

Using stacking trays with these items

These trays are filled by the same process, but as you stack more and more snack trays on the cooler, the heights between the trays and the shelves will start to vary a lot. This means you'll have to do more bending or crouching as a result. This is fine, as the next couple of trays hardly ever correspond to items on multiple shelves.

If you use stacking crates, where you put items in a big jumble, you should load the candy bars and smaller items in the crate first so they sit at the bottom. This is because these items are both the heaviest and also the smallest so, in transport, they will naturally want to sink down to the bottom of a crate. Do this especially if you have pastries, so the candy items don't squish them.

Candy, bars, and smaller items

Candy in a snack machine The chips, slicker packages, pastries, and cookies go on the shelves with 4 or 5 columns, whereas chocolate bars and the smaller candy items go on shelves with 8 or 10 selections.

When filling these shelves, you want to fill each candy bar and snack item in the same orientation as the chips. You want them facing straight ahead and snugly into each coil, with the packaging facing the same way. The orientation we use is the text that moves left to right sits in the machine from bottom to top.

Problems with vending candy or chocolate

These items can fall out of their coils or jam the side of the coil. To fix this, use a spacer. Ideally there will be a spacer attachéd to two hinges that can be moved towards the candy item allowing for a more snug fit. If not, the machine should come with some removable spacers which are usually stored at the bottom of the snack machine.

The second problem with not vending is one where an item may stick to an item behind it. Items that load close together and have slick plastic packaging often suffer from this problem. Items like Reeses Pieces or Red Vines will stick together without a plastic curved item that attaches to the end of the coil.

Often white, these items, called pushers, will make sure that the motion of rotating the coil scoops the item and lifts it up and out in such a way that there is no way for the item to get stuck to the items behind it. You can add these plastic scooping pieces on the end of each coil but it's not always necessary. If your customer calls up saying that a candy got stuck, most likely this is the problem.

One way to check to see if any selection is vending correctly is to simply test the entire column. This gives you a fast forward of what will happen in the period of time between services. It's easy to see if there are any problems that appear after 4 or 5 vends. If there's a problem, correct it.

Using a candy snack tray

When you get to the snack tray, the 4th to last, which is the cookie tray, will sit at about shoulder height. Leave the heaviest tray on the cart. Now you can crouch down and grab the remaining candy items without having to lift a heavy object from the bottom of the cart to the top of your stack of snack trays.

After filling

Clean up your area and put everything back on your cart. If you have them, put the baskets back in order.

If there's anything you're missing and you can't replace it with anything else or shouldn't because the customer requests it, then note that down on your notepad or phone.

After all the shelves are pushed in on the snack machine, update your menu and place it back in the machine. It's much quicker to be able to glance at everything after you're done filling, instead of doing it as you go.

After this, take a quick once over to check for three things:

  • Are all the chips and candy in the right orientation?

  • Are all the plastic clips that hold the shelves in the down and locked position? These clips are crucial, since having them up, or in the unlocked position, can lead to the shelf sliding out and making the machine, or at least that shelf, unusable. Most likely if the clips are up then the shelf won't automatically slide out (though it may if the machine isn't properly balanced), but the thing you have to worry about is people shaking the machine. A snack machine is relatively light and people have learned since the days of pinball that shaking a machine is the answer to all their problems. It is not, and it can easily make the shelf slide out, so make sure those clips are in the right position. Most likely if you were paying attention during the filling process, then you won't have to make any adjustments to the product on the shelves themselves, however putting the shelves in their proper place can show you if product is too tall to be on a certain shelf. This is especially true of tall bags like Doritos on the third shelf in AP snack machines. They will get caught on the shelf above and they won't vend!

  • Make sure that you didn't grab a bag for yourself or for a customer off the first coil position on any column and, if you did, correct that immediately.

This process of making sure everything seems right in the machine should take only a couple seconds.

Often times it's easier to simply look at the machine as a whole and see if it feels right. Then, close the machine door and take another look. Congratulations! You filled a machine and it looks nice!

The last thing you do is check to see if it's working. Simply put a coin in the coin slot and then press the coin return. If your coin goes into the coin return slot then the machine works and you're done!

Servicing the beverage machine

The steps are very similar, but often you won't have beverages with you as well, so there is an extra step where you write down everything the machine needs. You can also bring in beverages on the first trip into the location. If you do this, then you can open up the machine and fill it with what you have before collecting the money or servicing the snack machine.

Accounting and money collection for the beverage machine

Open it and write down the necessary accounting data. Many soda machines display errors directly after the sales information. At this point, before collecting the money, check the errors in the machine. This is an easy way to keep track of what you need to do next. Remember to follow the machine's lead. If there is an error, press the mode switch on the control panel and check for errors directly after recording the accounting information. If it's a simple error, clear it. If it's more complex and you have the necessary tools in your vending truck, go ahead and fix it (see Tools for Your Vending Truck).

After the errors are fixed, collect the money and balance the change fund, which is the same process as you did for the snack machine. When you collect the cash, make sure to take the bill stacker all the way out of the machine so you can check the bill validator for any burgeoning bill jam. Also remember to put the stacker back on its harness on the bill validator in the machine before continuing.

Write down what you need

Take inventory of what the machine needs. Write down everything you need, using the remaining product and menu as a guide. Be especially careful to note the dates of diet drinks. I always check the date on anything diet.

If something hasn't moved relative to its sticker, check its date. Most beverages have extremely long expiration dates (up to a year) so it's less likely you'll have short dated non-diet sodas, but it does happen. It's better to just get in the habit of doing this, since soda takes up a lot of space on the truck, and you can lose a good amount of money to expired product if you're not careful.

You should also test vend the selection if hasn't sold, to see if the reason it hasn't sold is because it's having trouble vending.

Return to the truck

After you're finished taking inventory, close up the beverage machine and wheel your cart back to the truck. This whole process - meaning everything on this list before this step - should take 30 minutes or less ideally, but if you're not use to this or a similar process it could take significantly longer.

Come back to the truck and, if you utilize them, immediately start refilling your snack trays. Otherwise, put everything on your cart back on your truck, to get ready for the next cart load.

Take your collections and put them in a more secure location with the rest of the money you've collected that day. Otherwise, money can get lost in a lot of little hiding places.

If it's hot weather, put your candy cooler in the shade of the truck or inside the truck itself.

Refilling snack trays

If you are going to refill your snack trays, go through tray by tray. The lightest tray goes on first and you fill this one with soup or other random things you might need at the next location.

While doing this, visualize what you might need for your next snack location so you know which kinds of snacks to load. These subtle alterations can make a big impact. For instance, if you know you're going to need two rows of cookies in the next location, put two rows of cookies in the snack baskets.

  • When loading, put your snacks in neat lines so they are easily accessible when filling a machine. Often you can grab a bunch of one item and then arrange them in a line in your hands before setting them into a row in a tray. Then you can either drop or place them into the tray. Depending on the size of the chip, you can arrange 6-8 of them in a row and do this twice to fill an empty row in the snack tray.
  • Don't overfill or underfill the snack tray. Overfilling causes them to be unwieldy and heavy for no reason. Underfilling means you have to make excess trips to the truck.
  • Always step out of the truck and grab the next basket and place it on the previous tray before filling that tray. This cuts down on the running back and forth with snacks from the cases on the truck and cuts the overall distance considerably.

While you're here, you can now get any extra snacks that you might need to put in the snack machine. Put these in an empty crate. You can also wait until after loading your beverages.

Loading your beverages

At this point the cart should be empty. Before consulting your list, try to remember as many drinks as you can and stack them at the edge of the truck in a neat pile. This way you only have to refer to your list for the things you can't remember, instead of going down the list and grabbing each item one by one. Especially with long lists this process can be time consuming. The less thinking and referring to lists you have to do, the better.

Then, take your beverages from the stack at the edge of the truck and load them onto your cart.

  • Usually, soda flats are more structurally sound than other types of beverages so you can place them on the bottom of the cart. On top of that you can place water and other 20oz beverages like Powerade or 20oz sodas because the cases are wrapped in plastic and are much flimsier.

  • Start with full cases first and then add the speciality beverages where a full case is unnecessary. Put these in small plastic beverage trays and load them on top of the cart. You can also add your extra snacks to any tray with a few speciality beverages.

You should be able to get all your beverages on one cart load unless you're filling more than one machine and/or they are very empty.

After your cart is fully loaded, check your list and make sure you have everything. Coming in for a third trip is annoying. If you have everything, close up the back of the truck and head back into the location.

Filling the beverage machine

Open up the beverage machine and begin filling. You should have taken care of everything else, which means the beverage filling process should be quite smooth and efficient. You don't need to go in any particular order, but it's important to go with the things that are on top of your cart.

If snacks are on top, finish off filling the snack machine before tackling the beverage machine.

If there is one, pull down/out the metal shelf that allows you to set beverages on top of it. This means you'll only need to lift from the ground when transferring cases to this metal shelf.

Often times the speciality beverages are on top, so fill those first and place the plastic trays out of the way.

  • Fill soda that comes in twenty four packs and has rings on it first. This is because if there are any short-dated beverages, you can immediately use the now empty cardboard flat that this soda came in as a temporary holder for the expired soda. The same can be said of specialty beverages and plastic flats.
  • To fill the ringed soda easily, grip each six pack on top by the rings with one hand. You can then gently pull each can off the ring from the bottom with the other hand. This is much faster than taking them off the rings while they are still in their case and then grabbing them individually.
  • Then, in no particular order, fill the 12 pack soda cases, water, and 20oz beverages if there are full cases.

As you go you'll develop a lot of detritus. If you're saving cardboard flats for loading later, stack them neatly. If you recycle them, break them down as you go. It's much easier to work when your area is clear. This allows you to focus on what you need to fill next.

Depending on the beverage machine, you should also be aware if any beverages seem stuck. It's difficult to use examples without using specific beverage machines, but often times a soda can be out of place by less than an inch and create a jam within the machine. Simply being mindful of this goes a long way. However, if you followed the process in this article you should have diagnosed and fixed most problems before this point.

Having said that, if you see another problem, fix it.

  • If there isn't enough space on one row for one beverage, you can either make two rows for that beverage or put some beverages behind others.
  • For ease of changing rows, put excess beverages of one type behind an adjacent row of another similar type with the same price. If you have a 12 pack of lemonade that goes for 75 cents and each row holds nine cans, then you can put all but 3 of them in an empty row. If there is a lemon lime drink on the row next to it that only has 5 cans then you can put the extra 3 lemonade there behind it, provided that soda is also selling for 75 cents.
  • If you don't like having extra cans or beverages on your truck, you may find yourself doing this a lot, which is fine as long as the items are the same price. In high volume machines, you can have rows of mixed product that are remainders from the 9 count rows. Learning how to do the math of cases you have versus spaces you have in your machine will also aid in your ability to inventory the machine the correct way.

The closer your inventory is to the machines needed volume, the easier the process of filling it. If you bring too much, you may slow yourself down with thoughts like, “Which soda should I put in here?” If you bring too little, you will be slowed down by having to make an extra trip.

Put the heavier 20 0z beverages on the lower shelves if the machine allows for it. This decreases the amount of lifting from the ground that you have to do. Also, if you don't like to carry around excess beverages, you may elect to store some underneath your snack machine for next time. This is perfectly fine and in many ways can make your next trip faster. Don't do it with diet sodas or beverages that expire quickly as they may not sell fast enough, meanwhile your beverages sit under your snack machine where they can expire without your knowledge.

Final check on the beverage machine

After you're finished filling, do a quick check like the one you did with the snack machine to assess if any beverages are out of place or will have trouble vending.

Before you lock a machine, you should do a quick check with your hand to see if your keys are still in the place where you keep them. It's no fun locking your keys in a machine, and it's easy to do it in a machine that has a head-height shelf for extra product that is perfect for accidentally leaving your keys.

After this, close the door and take another look. Is the machine clean? Are all the beverages in their correct places? Pull on the machine after you close and lock it to make sure it locked the correct way. If it doesn't budge, you know you locked it well.

After this, check to see if the machine is working correctly by inserting a coin and pressing the coin return. If it works, load any remaining product onto your cart.

Throw away as much plastic at the location as you can and leave with only cardboard and plastic trays, ideally in a neat stack.

Preparing the truck to leave

Walk back out to the truck. Open the back of the truck and put the cardboard in the place where you keep it. It's good to use an empty chip case for larger pieces of cardboard. For the cardboard from the 12 count fridge packs, slide that on the inner side of the truck behind some shelf brackets. Anywhere is good, as long as there is a place and they don't impede your ability to get product out of the truck.

If you have remaining beverages, put them in a crate with all the other loose beverages. It's useful to keep one of these because then you can recycle those beverages into your next location when you bring your initial product. After you're finished with that, make sure everything is tied down and/or in a position where it won't topple when you drive.

Then, put your cart back into the handcart position and lift it back into the truck. Secure it with some straps, close up the back of the truck, lock it, and you're done.

Final thoughts

When you're starting out route driving, it's good to double check your notes of what you were supposed to bring in, and make sure you've taken care of everything. You may not be back here for a month.

If you fixed a problem with the machine or were unable to fix it, go and tell the person in charge of the business where your machines are located. It's at this point where you should use the bathroom, especially if you're driving long distances. Even if you don't have to go, dirt tends to accumulate on your hands, so it's good to at least wash your hands.

After you're satisfied at the job that you've done, head back to the truck. Then, get out of there and drive to the next location so you can do it all again.

That's the process of servicing a location, but many things can happen while you are on the route that can change the order I described above. This is fine, as long as you keep the customers happy and your business improving.

While this is a detailed list of how a location can be serviced, it's not the only way. Learn what works and then learn to improve upon it.

Chris is the editor and online marketing guy at Vending How. He can also drive more traffic to your website.


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