SAN FRANCISCO -- An article on business technology in the Aug. 3 edition of The Wall Street Journal offers an overview of the vending industry's efforts to bolster sales and revenues by adopting innovative information and payment concepts. The piece is headlined "Restocking the Snack Machine," and among the new approaches cited prominently is Cantaloupe Systems' Seed wireless remote monitoring and reporting service.
An operator quoted in the story, John Mitchell Jr. of Treat America Food Services (Merriam, KS), explained that the persistent recession requires imaginative approaches to vending.
"It's only natural that, when times get tough, people search for new and better ways to do things and take risks on doing things they might not have done when times were going well," he said.
Treat America runs some 12,000 vending machines in the Midwest. Since January, Mitchell has equipped about 40% of them with Cantaloupe's Seed wireless monitors that record and transmit real-time sales data for each of a snack machine's slots. This information revealed that about 40% of the slots are "dead spirals," dispensing less than one item per week.
The WSJ report noted that Treat America's drivers formerly stocked machines with the most popular snack products in their market areas, based on categories rather than individual items.
However, the line-item tracking made possible by the machines' DEX data capture and its nearly real-time reporting over the Seed wireless network has shown that location tastes differ widely within a market. The most popular snack in a Kansas City call center does not appear among the top 10 favorite items vended in a hospital only three miles away.
"You're catering to a population that might be as small as 30 or 40 people," the veteran operator told WSJ. "The unique preferences of that population can drive sales significantly." Armed with this information, the operator can implement a new approach to route ordering and machine menuing.
Information on Cantaloupe Systems and its Seed wireless technology may be found at cantaloupesys.com.