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Hot Drinks Vending Machines: Buyer's Guide

Hot Drinks Vending Machines Buyer's Guide

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Once you consider the range of office environments, it’s easy to understand why there is such a wide variety of hot drinks vending machines to choose from. In large offices there may even be a number of different coffee machines; from large, high capacity vending machines capable of servicing a whole floor, right down to the much smaller coffee machines designed for meeting or conference rooms, where the demand is lower. Depending on the vending machines’ location, you may want the user to bear the cost and as such have a machine that works on either a cash or cashless basis or alternatively you may simply want your clients to be able to get a complementary coffee at their convenience. All these considerations will narrow down your options to a more manageable size and thus make choosing a hot drinks vending machine and supplier that much easier. Hopefully too, reading this guide to buying a hot drinks vending machine will give you a better idea of the questions you need to ask and to which type of vending machine your answers naturally lead.

Let’s start with some basic factors to consider:

  • How many people will your hot drinks vending machine need to service?
  • What types of beverage would you like it to provide?
  • Would you like people to pay for their own hot drinks?
  • Do you want to purchase the vending machine or would you like to arrange a contract with a supplier?

If you don’t immediately know the answers to these questions, the following sections should help you further.

Vending Machine Capacity

It’s important to have a rough idea as to the number of people who will be using the vending machine, as vending machines’ capacity can vary greatly. If you get this wrong, your machine will constantly need to be refilled, which will project the wrong image to clients or create a source of friction with your staff. Inversely, getting a needlessly large coffee machine will be a waste of money.

How to Judge Capacity?

Capacity is normally judged by the number of cups a machine holds when full as it can obviously only supply that number of drinks without needing to be refilled. However, depending on the type of hot drinks it supplies, you also need to consider how often the consumables will need refilling (hot drink consumables being: syrup, coffee granules, tea, etc). To work out the capacity you require, ascertain how many people will be using the machine and then assume that each person will want two or three drinks a day in a normal office, provided that they don’t have to pay for them of course. That number is the number of drinks your vending machine will have to supply on a daily basis and for ease of use your vending machine should be able to last at least a couple of days in between refills.

Hot Drink Options

It wasn’t so long ago that one could only expect a very limited range of drinks from a normal hot drinks vending machine but thankfully, those days have now passed. Instead of only coffee “with” or “without milk” you are now likely to be able to choose from freshly ground coffee versus instant and have the option of cappuccinos, lattes, herbal teas or even such exotic beverages as hazelnut lattes or chai tea. Obviously not all hot drinks machines are able to supply such a wide variety of drinks and the more exotic the drink, the more expensive it is likely to be. A further consideration is that if your vending machine needs to be capable of coping with a very high capacity, it may be untenable to offer such a wide selection of hot drinks. However, what sort of drinks you want to offer will certainly have a bearing on the vending machine you eventually choose. Don’t forget also that it’s not uncommon for vending machines to be branded (Cadbury’s, Kenco and PG, to name but a few) and this will certainly have an effect on the range of drinks options available to you.

Payment Options

How much your coffee machine eventually costs you will no doubt be of greater concern than whether it offers both hazelnut and caramel lattes. When discussing cost though, there are several options and it makes sense to look at the subject from both the perspective of the office and from the machines’ eventual user.

From The User's Perspective

A user has two options; either the hot drink is free, or it’s not. If it’s free, then the whole price of the hot drink served is borne by the office itself and we shall discuss that under the next sub-heading. If the vending machine's user is required to pay for the hot drink on the other hand, then that cost can be managed in two ways.

Free Supplier Contract

The first option is that the office has nothing to do with the vending machine at all and the total responsibility for its maintenance lies with the vending machine supplier. In that case, the machine will be supplied (usually free of charge) and the supplier will regularly visit to refill the machine and empty it of cash. This is certainly the most convenient way to provide hot drinks, however, you must bear in mind that the cost of this convenience is paid for by the user and as such, the drinks are usually more expensive.

Cost Management

The other alternative is that a vending machine which is owned or rented by the office and would otherwise be free, is fitted with a payment device. This can be coin operated or, as is often the case in many modern office canteens, it can be a cashless system where a card has money put onto it and is then swiped at the point of use. The benefit of this system is that the office management can retain control over the price paid for the hot drinks. As such, the cost of the machine and its consumables can be entirely covered or the price of drinks can be set at a heavily subsidised level. Heavily subsidising the price of hot drinks is a popular option as this usually prevents staff frivolity, whilst keeping the costs transferred to them at a bare minimum.

From The Office's Perspective

If you would like to provide free hot drinks to your staff or clients, then there are a couple of options open to you. The agreements do vary between vending machine suppliers though, so make sure you check the small print before committing to a service agreement. Here are three of the main options:

Buying Your Machine Outright

You can, of course, buy a hot drinks vending machine outright. Although this can be rather expensive initially, if you are unlikely to change your vending machine for some time, it can make economic sense in the long run. All new hot drinks machines should have a warranty agreement and the supplier should be able to arrange delivery of consumables on an ongoing basis. Most good vending machine suppliers should also be happy to leave you a demonstration machine (much like test-driving a car) so you can make sure you’re purchasing the right hot drinks machine for your office.

Renting or Leasing

With this option the vending machine is not bought outright but rather you sign into an ongoing agreement with a vending machine supplier. Agreements vary but will usually involve a fixed monthly fee and a cost per drink served. This arrangement offers greater convenience than buying your hot drinks machine outright, as almost all contracts will cover the cost of the machine's maintenance. However, you will be committed to stay with the same supplier and the minimum contract length is usually about a year. Also, over a number of years the rental costs will eventually add up to more than the cost of the vending machine. So it is wise to think about your long-term needs before committing to a rental agreement.

Pay-Per-Cup Options

It is now also possible to enter into agreements where you pay nothing for the coffee machine itself in the way of rent but pay per drink served. This is very similar to the direct payment option discussed earlier, where the vending machine is free and your employees pay for the drink themselves. The only real difference is that the employer, rather than the employee, now bears the cost. Carefully consider the price per drink and your likely usage before committing to this option though, as the cost per drink is likely to be far higher than when you buy or rent a machine.

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