Vending Machines 101: Understanding the Basics.

Are you curious about what vending machines are and how they work? Vending machines have been around for decades, allowing customers to buy products quickly and conveniently without the need to queue at tills.

Vending machines are now used to provide access to a wide variety of items from snacks to electronics and have become an invaluable tool for businesses looking to offer products 24/7, and without costly human resources.

In this blog post, we'll explore the world of vending machines, explain the basics of how they work and help you understand whether vending is something you should introduce in your workplace.

What Are Vending Machines?

A vending machine is a device that dispenses products such as food, drinks, and snacks to customers automatically without requiring a salesperson or cashier to operate it. Vending machines were first introduced in the late 1800s as a way to provide convenient access to goods outside of traditional store hours. They were initially installed in train stations and post offices to cater to commuters and travellers looking to refuel and recharge on the go.

Today, vending machines are a ubiquitous feature in public spaces including shopping centres, airports, and hotels. They have also found their way into workplaces, schools, and hospitals, making it easier for people to grab a quick snack or beverage when consumers are at their busiest. Vending machines are effective in these environments because they require minimal space compared with catering setups, can be stocked and serviced quickly, and are accessible around the clock.

The History of Vending Machines

Vending machines have come a long way since their humble origins in the early 1800s. The first examples were simple devices that dispensed postcards and stamps to London travellers. It wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century that vending machines became a ubiquitous part of daily life in the UK, popping up in workplaces and public spaces in countries around the world.

In early machines, the focus of technology was on delivering high volume drinks and snacks, with the quality of dispensed goods coming as a secondary priority. Coffee was available as an instant only offering, with powdered milk and cocoa powder making a limited range of drinks and soup often available as an alternative lunchtime offering.

Fast forward to the present day and vending machines are smarter and better than ever. Modern vending machines can accept cash, credit cards, mobile payments and prepayment from NFC fobs. Innovations such as smart fridges and micro markets also include weighted shelves and camera tracking to monitor which products a consumer removes from a machine.

In recent years, there has been a push towards healthy vending machines, with many companies offering fresh fruits, nuts, sushi and other nutritious options, as well as providing gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options. This has grown in popularity as the proportion of UK workers with special dietary requirements continues to rise.

How Do Vending Machines Work?

Vending machines are complex pieces of machinery that are designed to dispense items automatically and with as little impact on the packaging or contents of food and drink items. The process starts with the customer selecting the desired product through a keypad or touchscreen. Once the selection is made, the vending machine checks the inventory to ensure that the product is available for purchase. If the product is available, the machine prompts the consumer for payment, which can be completed by inserting coins, notes or a contactless card payment.

Vending machines use a variety of technologies to dispense products. The most common method for snack machines is through a spiral mechanism, which rotates to dispense the product to the customer. These spirals are usually configured as single spirals for smaller products, or double spirals that rotate together to dispense larger items.

Another common technology is the use of a collector that moves up to a specific item bay, which a product is pushed into. This technology is most common in cold drinks machines where the drop from height would otherwise cause drinks to become damaged or become too fizzy to open. Having a motorised collection that brings the item close to the collection bin before dropping, helps reduce the chance of this.

Dispensing for commercial smart fridges and other machines is as simple as unlocking the fridge or other device with a credit card or debit card and taking items straight from the shelves, before scanning and checking out to finalise payment.

Types of Vending Machines

When most people think of vending machines, they probably picture the classic drinks and snack vending machines commonly found in offices and public places. But did you know that there are actually many different types of vending machines available on the market? Here are just a few examples of the different kinds of vending machines you might come across:

Fresh Food Vending Machines: These machines offer fresh and healthy meal options, such as salads, sandwiches, and wraps. They’re a great choice for people who want to grab a quick and nutritious lunch on the go.

Hot Food Vending Machines: For those who prefer something a bit heartier, hot food vending machines offer hot meals such as pizza, burgers, and even burritos. These machines use innovative heating technology to ensure that the food stays warm and tasty, and are available at a limited number of locations around the world.

PPE Vending Machines: In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, PPE vending machines became hugely popular. These machines dispense personal protective equipment like masks, hand sanitiser, and gloves, making it easy for people to access the gear they need to stay safe. In businesses with high staff numbers and lots of physical touchpoints, these were important sources of protective materials.

Automotive Vending Machines: In one of the strangest demonstrations of the varied applications for vending machines, you can buy cars from vending machines. These machines are incredible rare though and you’re unlikely to come across one of them on the street or in your closes railway station.

These are just a few examples of the many different types of vending machines available on the market today. No matter what your needs or interests may be, there’s bound to be a vending machine out there that can help you satisfy your cravings or solve your problems!

In summary, vending machines are a highly versatile and effective way of providing drinks, snacks, hot food, fresh food and other products in settings that are either unsuitable for another method of sale, or that need a true 24/7 presence.

Vending machines in the workplace are a prime example of how to deliver a great range of products that staff will enjoy, whilst boosting staff happiness and productivity. Whether it’s a snack vending machine, cold drinks machine or coffee machine, there are many different approaches to bringing vending to a business.

If you found this article interesting and you’re curious about introducing vending in your business, why not reach out to our team of sales experts by calling 01865 341011 or by sending us an enquiry. We’d love to hear from you.