Vending machines are primarily found in larger break rooms that serve 50 to 100 or more employees. The machines provide an easy source of snacks or beverages for the workers and help keep them focused and engaged during the day, since they don’t have to leave the office to fulfill their snack cravings.
There are numerous types of vending machines, from gumball machines to crane games. Listed below are the most common food vending machines that may or may not appear in an office break room:
- Most popular type of vending machine.
- Can hold anything from candy bars to bags of microwave popcorn.
- Provide employees with a mid-morning or afternoon snack to get a boost of energy to finish out the day.
- Come in two varieties, Coca-Cola or Pepsi.
- Can be used for popular soft drink flavors as well as water, energy drinks and sports drinks.
- Save employees a trip to the gas station when they need a caffeine fix and are tired of drinking coffee.
- Dispense regular and/or gourmet coffee drinks.
- Individual cups of coffee are freshly brewed in less than a minute.
- Ideal for breakrooms that serve a hundred or more employees and want to offer gourmet coffee throughout the day but don’t want a full-blown coffee shop.
- Fresh sandwiches are stocked on a daily basis.
- Heated or refrigerated chambers keep the sandwiches fresh all day.
- Not ideal for most break rooms because the sandwiches usually go to waste before they are eaten.
In addition to these basic machines, there are simpler and more complex vending machines on the market. The simplest types of vending machines are gumball and similar machines. On the more complex end of the spectrum, there are vending machines in Europe that actually make fresh pizza. These types of machines are too complex to put in an office break room, however, because they will require daily service to replenish ingredients.
There are two ways you can acquire a vending machine for your break room. You can rent one, or you can buy one. Here is a basic breakdown of what each method entails, so you can decide for yourself which option is best for you company:
One option for vending to your employees is to simply buy the machines and stock them yourself. With this option, you control the cost of the snacks and charge your employees only enough to cover the costs of the candy and operating expenses. This should be less than the going rate for vending machine snacks. The major drawbacks to this method are the initial cost. New, full-size vending machines can cost several thousands of dollars, and since you own the machine, you are responsible for any maintenance issues that come up. You have to make sure it is stocked, too.
The more popular option for vending to employees is to simply contract with a local vending machine company. This option provides fewer headaches since the vending company restocks and maintains the machine. Also, the vending company is responsible for handling any lost money claims. The only potential drawback to renting a vending machine is that you will usually have to enter into a leasing contract that is difficult to get out of should you find a better vendor.
Offices that want to buy their own vending machine should start with www.vending.com, an online retailer of vending machines. The company will even help you find bulk candy and vending items at a better rate than your local grocery store. For renting a vending machine, you can try the local yellow pages or go to www.vendingconnection.com, which is an online directory of vending machine businesses.
Whether you are buying the vending machine yourself or contracting a vending machine company, the machine will still be plugged into your building’s power, so you will want it to use as little energy as possible. Luckily, there are a number of ENERGY STAR® qualified vending machines on the market that can save you close to $150 a year on utility bills.1 Vending machines that have earned the ENERGY STAR have the following characteristics:
- Efficient lighting. Rather than using incandescent or standard fluorescent lighting, energy-efficient vending machines will incorporate LEDs and/or CFLs in the menu display and back lighting, which use less energy than standard lighting options. >>Learn More
- More efficient compressors and fan motors. The compressors and fan motors found in ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerated vending machines maintain the proper serving temperature while using less energy.
- Low-power mode. During periods of low or no activity, ENERGY STAR rated vending machines have a low-power mode that uses less energy for the lighting and refrigeration. It’s a lot like the sleep mode on computers.
All told, ENERGY STAR qualified vending machines are on average 50% more energy efficient than standard models.2 When speaking to a machine vendor, ask for machines that are qualified by ENERGY STAR, since this can save you money and help reduce pollution.
Salty snack foods and sugary soft drinks are the most common items found in vending machines. However, with growing concerns over obesity, companies are looking for healthier foods to put in their break room vending machines. Healthy items include energy bars, soy nuts and low sugar/low calorie fitness drinks. >>Learn More
1 ENERGY STAR, “Vending Machines: ENERGY STAR,” http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=vending_machines.pr_vending_machines (accessed October 26, 2009).
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