Vending Machine Business Plan Guide + Example

July 6, 2023

Adam Hoeksema

Welcome to our definitive guide on crafting a robust vending machine business plan, complete with a real-world example to get your entrepreneurial gears turning! Vending machines are silent salespeople that work around the clock, presenting a lucrative business opportunity that often requires minimal upkeep.  In this blog post, we will explore the ins and outs of developing a comprehensive strategy, covering key considerations such as location analysis, product selection, and financial planning. 

After talking to customers who purchased our vending machine financial projection template, we realized that many customers also needed a business plan to be able to present to a potential funder, so I decided to take a deeper dive on the topic. 

Here is what I plan to cover in this article:

With that as a plan, let’s dive in!

Why write a business plan for a vending machine business? 

If there was ever a simple business that didn’t require a strategic business plan it would be a vending machine business right?  You just have to buy a machine, fill it with candy, place it in a high foot traffic location and watch the money roll in right?  What is there to plan?  

If that is your attitude I actually don’t think you are too terribly far off, BUT the real reason to write a business plan for a vending machine startup is because your potential investors or lenders have asked you for projections and a business plan.  If that is the case, then you really just have to get it done right?  

What to include in a vending machine business plan? 

I think a vending machine business plan can really be quite simple.  Below you will find the outline from our free vending machine business plan template

Vending Machine Business Plan Outline

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Market Analysis
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy
  • Operations and Management
  • Financial Plan

How to determine what type of vending machine to buy?

There are at least 10 types of vending machines that you could choose from.  There is also the question of whether you should decide on a location first or decide on a type of vending machine first and then find the right location for that machine.  We are going to take a look at the process for finding the right machine to buy first.   

The best choice for you depends on your budget, target market, location, and your personal preferences. Here are some steps to guide you in making the right decision:

  1. Define Your Budget: The first step is to determine how much you're willing to invest in this business. Vending machines come in a range of prices, from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Your budget will dictate whether you start with used or new machines, as well as the number and type of machines you can afford.
  2. Understand Your Target Market: Understanding your customers is key. Conduct a market research to find out what products are in high demand in your desired locations. Are you targeting office workers who'd appreciate a quick snack or drink? Students who might need stationery or school supplies? Understanding the needs and wants of your prospective customers will guide you on the type of vending machine to invest in.
  3. Analyze Location: The success of your vending machine business largely depends on where your machines are located. If you're planning to place your machine in a gym or health center, a vending machine selling healthy snacks or drinks would be ideal. For a location with lots of kids, a toy or candy machine could work well.
  4. Maintenance and Operation: Certain types of vending machines require more maintenance and restocking than others. Consider how much time and effort you can invest in the maintenance of your vending machines. Some machines, like those selling perishable goods, require more frequent restocking and cleaning.
  5. Supplier Relationships: Your choice might also depend on the suppliers you have access to. If you have a good relationship with a supplier of a certain product, it might be profitable to focus on that type of vending machine.
  6. Profitability: Lastly, analyze the profitability of each type of vending machine you're considering. Some machines may cost more but have a higher profit margin, while others may be cheaper but have lower returns. Look at both the initial cost of the machine and the potential ongoing income it can generate.

Now that we have decided on a type of machine, we need to find a good location.  

How to find a good location for a vending machine? 

The location of your vending machine plays a critical role in determining the success of your business. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to find a promising location:

  1. Identify High Traffic Areas: A good vending machine location is somewhere with high foot traffic. Look for places where people gather or pass by frequently. These could include shopping malls, office buildings, universities, airports, hotels, and busy street corners. However, remember that high traffic doesn't always mean high sales, as it depends on the needs and preferences of the people frequenting that area.
  2. Understand Your Target Market: Knowing who your target customer is will help you choose the right location. If you're targeting office workers, you might want to place your vending machines in or near commercial buildings. If students are your target market, universities and colleges would be ideal.
  3. Consider Location Compatibility: The type of products you plan to sell should align with the location. For instance, a vending machine selling protein bars and healthy drinks will likely perform well in or near gyms and health clubs. Likewise, a machine selling toys or school supplies might do well in a family-friendly mall or near a school.
  4. Research Existing Vending Machines: Analyze the performance of existing vending machines in potential locations. Are they doing well? If so, similar products might succeed in that location. But be cautious about placing a similar machine too close, as it might lead to fierce competition.
  5. Negotiate with Property Owners: Once you've found a potential spot, approach the property owner or manager to discuss installing your vending machine. Some might charge a flat fee, while others may ask for a percentage of the profits. Be ready to discuss why your vending machine would benefit their location, whether it's by providing a service to their customers or staff or offering them a share of the profits.
  6. Review Legal and Zoning Requirements: Be sure to understand any legal or zoning requirements for vending machines in your chosen location. Some cities may have restrictions on where machines can be placed, so you'll need to check this out in advance.

Finding the right location takes time, research, and sometimes a bit of trial and error. But with careful planning and consideration, you can find a location that's a great fit for your vending machine business.

How to find a high foot traffic area for a vending machine? 

It can be difficult to find potential high foot traffic areas for your vending machine.  We have a foot traffic report that will allow you to select an address and receive a foot traffic estimate for that specific location.  As an example, I looked up an office building that I used to work at and can see it has roughly 18,000 visitors per month.    

A screenshot of a phoneDescription automatically generated

These reports can be incredibly helpful in identifying potential target locations for your first vending machine.  

How to Create Financial Projections for a Bar Business Plan

Just like in any industry, the vending machine business has its unique factors that impact financial projections, such as location selection, product assortment, and consumer foot traffic. Utilizing a vending machine financial projection template can simplify the process and boost your confidence. Creating accurate financial projections goes beyond showcasing your vending machine's ability to generate sales; it's about illustrating the financial path to profitability and the realization of your business goals. To develop precise projections, consider the following key steps:

  1. Estimate startup costs for your vending machine business, including machine acquisition or leasing, product inventory, installation, permits, and initial marketing efforts.
  2. Forecast revenue based on projected sales volume, product pricing, average transaction value, and anticipated foot traffic or demand in chosen locations.
  3. Project costs related to product sourcing, machine maintenance and repair, and restocking expenses.
  4. Estimate operating expenses like machine rental or location fees, utilities, insurance premiums, marketing, and administrative costs.
  5. Calculate the capital needed to launch and sustain your vending machine business, covering initial expenses and providing working capital for continued growth and operations.

While financial projections are a critical component of your vending machine business plan, seek guidance from experienced professionals in the industry. Adapt your projections based on real-world insights, leverage industry resources, and stay informed about market trends, consumer preferences, and emerging vending technologies to ensure your financial plan aligns with your goals and positions your business for long-term success.

Example Vending Machine Business Plan

Below, you will discover the content of our vending machine business plan. For your convenience, you can access and edit this vending machine business plan template in Google Doc format by downloading it from this link. Additionally, we have provided a helpful video walkthrough to guide you in customizing the business plan to suit your unique vending machine concept.

Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary

1.1 Organization Overview

1.2. Objectives

1.3. Mission Statement

2. Organization Description

2.1. Organization History

2.2. Legal Structure

2.3. Unique Value Proposition

2.4. Target Beneficiaries

3. Market Analysis

3.1. Industry Overview

3.2. Collaborator and Competitor Identification

3.3. Target Beneficiaries

Key Point  1

4. Marketing and Fundraising

4.1. Strategic Plan

4.2. Program or Service Offerings:

4.4. Distribution Channels

4.5. Promotions and Fundraising

Key Point  2

5. Organizational Structure and Management

5.1. Organization’s Facility & Location

5.2. Staffing Plan and Volunteer Management

5.3. Governance, Financial Management, and Accountability

Key Point  3

6. Financial Plan

6.1. Startup Costs

6.3. Expense Projections

6.4. Profit and Loss Statement

6.5. Cash Flow Projections

6.6. Break-even Analysis

Key Point

7. Appendix

7.1. Supporting Documents

7.2. Glossary of Term

7.3. References and Resources

Key Point  5

1. Executive Summary

 1.1. Company Overview

Briefly introduce the company's background, products or services, and target market.

      -  Example: FitFuel is a leading provider of convenient and nutritious snack options in Nashville, Tennessee. Our vending machines offer a wide range of healthier alternatives, including granola bars, nuts, dried fruits, and low-sugar beverages, to individuals seeking wholesome and satisfying on-the-go snacks.

   1.2. Objectives

Outlines the company's short-term and long-term goals.

        - Example: Establish a strong presence in key locations throughout Nashville, securing partnerships with high-traffic areas like office buildings, gyms, schools, and community centers.

    - Example: Long-term: Expand operations to neighboring cities and regions, introducing FitFuel  as a recognized and trusted brand in the healthy snacking industry

  1.3. Mission Statement

 Describes the company's purpose and core values.

        - Example: At FitFuel, our mission is to make nutritious snacks easily accessible to individuals in Nashville, empowering them to make healthier choices in their busy lives. We are committed to promoting wellness, providing exceptional customer experiences, and supporting our local community's health and well-being.

 1.4. Keys to Success

Highlights the factors that will contribute to the company's growth and success.

        - Example:  Our success hinges on offering a diverse range of high-quality, healthier snacks to accommodate diverse dietary needs, strategically placing vending machines in high-traffic areas for maximum convenience.

2. Company Description

   2.1. Company History

Provides context on the company's background and founding story.

        - Example: FitFuel was founded by Jo McClain, an entrepreneur passionate about promoting healthy snacking options. Inspired by personal wellness journeys, Jo established FitFuel in Nashville, Tennessee, to offer a range of nutritious snacks to health-conscious individuals seeking convenient and nourishing choices.

   2.2. Legal Structure

 Describes the company's legal structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, corporation).

        - Example: FitFuel operates as a sole proprietorship, with Jo McClain as the owner and responsible for the business's operations and management.

 2.3. Unique Selling Proposition

 Emphasizes the company's competitive advantage or unique offerings.

        - Example: FitFuel sets itself apart by providing a diverse selection of high-quality, healthier snack options that cater to various dietary needs and preferences. With an emphasis on granola bars, nuts, dried fruits, and low-sugar beverages, FitFuel offers a convenient and satisfying snacking experience that supports a healthy lifestyle.

  2.4. Target Market

Defines the company's ideal customer base.

        - Example: FitFuel caters to busy professionals, fitness enthusiasts, students, and anyone seeking wholesome on-the-go snacking options that align with their dietary goals.

3. Market Analysis

3.1. Industry Overview

 Presents a general overview of the industry, its trends, and growth potential.

        - Example: The healthy vending machine industry is experiencing significant growth, driven by the increasing demand for healthier snack options and a growing emphasis on wellness and nutrition. 

3.2. Competitor Analysis

 Evaluates the company's direct and indirect competitors, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

        - Example: Direct competitors: Nourish-N-Go: Known for their wide variety of organic and gluten-free snacks, Nourish-N-Go has established a strong presence in the healthy vending machine market.

        - Example: Indirect competitors: Traditional Vending Machines: While not solely focused on healthy snacks, traditional vending machines still pose a competitive challenge by offering a broader range of convenience snacks.

3.3. Target Market Analysis

Explores the company's target customers, demographics, preferences, and pain points.

        - Example: FitFuel's target market comprises health-conscious individuals in Nashville, Tennessee, who prioritize nutritious snacking options. This includes fitness enthusiasts, working professionals, students, and individuals actively seeking healthier alternatives. 

3.4. Market Opportunities

Identifies potential opportunities for the company to grow within the market.

        - Example: FitFuel has several growth opportunities in the healthy vending machine market, including expanding into high-traffic locations, partnering with local health and wellness initiatives, leveraging technology for personalized recommendations, and establishing strategic alliances with local snack manufacturers and suppliers.

Key Point  1

  • Example 1: Conduct a survey or order a market research report of potential locations to determine the foot traffic and identify high-traffic areas for placing FitFuel vending machines. (e.g., Location A records 500 people passing by every hour during lunchtime, indicating a prime spot for a vending machine)
  • Example 2: Contacting every gym in the area to determine if they have or would be open to having one of our vending machines. Compile that list.
  • Example 3:  Analyze the demand for healthier snack options in the target market by surveying employees in office buildings and educational institutions. (e.g., 80% of surveyed employees express a preference for healthier snacks and beverages in vending machines)

4. Marketing and Sales Strategy

4.1. Product or Service Offerings: 

Describes the company's products or services in detail.

        - Example: FitFuel offers a diverse range of healthy snack options, including granola bars, nuts, dried fruits, and low-sugar beverages. Our products are carefully selected to cater to various dietary needs and preferences, providing customers with convenient and nutritious on-the-go options

4.2. Pricing Strategy

 Outlines the company's approach to pricing its products or services.

        - Example: FitFuel adopts a competitive pricing strategy that reflects the value and quality of our healthier snack offerings. Our pricing is designed to be affordable and accessible to a wide range of customers, encouraging regular purchases and promoting healthier snacking habits.

4.3. Sales Strategy

 Explains how the company plans to generate sales and build customer relationships.

        - Example: FitFuel's sales strategy focuses on establishing strong partnerships with local businesses, gyms, and wellness initiatives to expand our customer reach. Additionally, we prioritize customer satisfaction by maintaining a well-stocked inventory of fresh and enticing snack options.

4.4. Distribution Channels

 Describes the methods through which the company will deliver its products or services to customers.

        - Example: In addition to placing our vending machines in high-traffic areas such as office buildings, gyms, and educational institutions, we also partner with local retailers and wellness centers to make our products easily accessible to a broader audience.

4.5. Promotions and Advertising

 Details the company's promotional efforts and advertising strategies.

        - Example: FitFuel employs a targeted marketing approach that includes social media campaigns, and collaborations with influencers in the health and wellness space. We also implement promotional offers, and strategic partnerships to incentivize customer engagement and attract new clientele to our healthier snack options.

Key Point  2

  • Example 1:  Partner with local fitness centers, gyms, and wellness events to offer promotional discounts on FitFuel vending machine products, attracting health-conscious customers. (e.g., 200 customers redeem promotional discounts within the first month)
  • Example 2:  Create a list of local gyms that have agreed or opted into housing one of our vending machines.
  • Example 3: Perform a pilot test at a few gyms by selling or giving away the snacks and drinks at a display using the honor system or manning the booth yourself and take note of gym member feedback on the snacks themselves and if they’d like to have a vending machine on site

5. Operations and Management

5.1. Vending Machine Placement:

Involves identifying suitable locations and securing contracts for the strategic placement of vending machines 

        - Example: FitFuel will strategically acquire and place vending machines in high-traffic areas such as office buildings, gyms, universities, and shopping centers. We will negotiate agreements with property owners to secure prime locations that offer maximum visibility and convenience for our target customers.

5.2. Inventory Management and Restocking:

 Refers to the systems used to monitor and replenish product inventory

        - Example: FitFuel will utilize an advanced inventory management system that tracks product levels in real-time and generates automated alerts for restocking. We will establish strong partnerships with trusted suppliers to ensure a consistent supply of high-quality, healthier snack options.

5.3. Maintenance and Service:

Highlights inspections, repairs, and cleaning to maintain vending machine functionality

        - Example: FitFuel will prioritize the maintenance and upkeep of our vending machines to ensure uninterrupted service. We will implement a proactive maintenance schedule, conducting regular inspections and cleaning to maintain cleanliness and functionality.

Key Point  3

  • Example: The FitFuel's founding team, led by Jo McClain comprises nutritionists, health professionals, and business experts who collectively possess extensive knowledge of the vending machine industry, nutrition, and customer preferences. This expertise enables FitFuel to curate and offer the most suitable and appealing healthy snack options for its customers.

5.4. Technology Integration and Data Analysis:

Describe the technology and systems that will be utilized to streamline operations and enhance efficiency.

        - Example:  FitFuel will integrate cutting-edge technology into our vending machines, offering cashless payment options, touch-screen interfaces, and remote monitoring capabilities. This will enhance the customer experience and provide valuable insights into machine performance and product popularity.

All of the unique Vending Machine projections you see here were generated using ProjectionHub’s Vending Machine Financial Projection Template. Use PH20BP to enjoy a 20% discount on the template. 

6. Financial Plan

   6.1. Startup Costs

 Provide a detailed breakdown of the total startup costs requirements, and where you plan for those funds to come from. You will also want to break down how the startup costs will be used including working capital to cover losses before the business breaks even.

        - Example: Creating a solid financial plan is crucial, and we are taking the necessary steps to ensure the success of FitFuel. We have already raised $75,000 through a personal investment from the owner and we are working with a financial institution to secure a business loan of around $50,000 to $100,000 for working capital and to purchase a truck. By combining these funding sources, we are confident in our ability to meet the startup cost requirements and establish a strong foundation for FitFuel.

6.2. Revenue Projections

Provides an estimate of the company's future revenue based on market research and assumptions.

        - Example:  FitFuel projects $500,000+ in revenue in year 3 and break –even during year 2. The company anticipates steady growth in revenue over the initial five-year period.

6.3. Expense Projections

 Estimates the company's future expenses, including fixed and variable costs.

        - Example: FitFuels expenses include property lease, accounting, advertising, maintenance, utilities, and fuel costs.

6.4. Profit and Loss Statement

Summarizes the company's revenue, expenses, and net income over a specific period.

        - Example: FitFuel  expects to achieve profitability within the first two years of operation.

6.5. Cash Flow Projections

 Outlines the company's projected cash inflows and outflows.

        - Example: FitFuel’s cash flow projections account for seasonal fluctuations in sales and expenses.

6.6. Break-even Analysis

 Determines the point at which the company's revenue equals its expenses.

        - Example: FitFuel anticipates reaching its break-even point early in year 2 of operation.

Watch how to create financial projections for your Vending Machine Business

Key Point  4 

  • Example 1: Research industry benchmarks for vending machine businesses to estimate projected revenues, expenses, and profit margins. (e.g., The average annual revenue per vending machine in the industry is $10,000, aligning with FitFuel's projected revenue)
  • Example 2: Consider factors such as machine maintenance costs, product spoilage, and product demand fluctuations to create a comprehensive financial projection. (e.g., Accounting for a 10% annual maintenance cost and a 5% spoilage rate in the financial projections)

7. Appendix

   7.1. Supporting Documents

 Includes any relevant documentation that supports the information presented in the business plan, such as resumes, financial projections, market research data, and permits or licenses.

   7.2. Glossary of Term

 Provides definitions for industry-specific terms used throughout the business plan to ensure reader comprehension.

   7.3. References and Resources

Lists any sources or resources referenced during the preparation of the business plan, including industry reports, market research data, and relevant publications.

Key Point  5

  • Example: As the owner and entrepreneur behind FitFuel, Jo McClain has invested a significant amount of personal capital into the business, demonstrating a strong commitment and dedication to its success. By leveraging personal resources and assuming financial risk, Jo showcases a vested interest in the growth and profitability of FitFuel.

Vending Machine Business Plan FAQs

How do I start a vending machine business?

To start a vending machine business, identify profitable locations, choose the right vending machine types and products, secure necessary permits and licenses, find reliable suppliers, establish agreements with location owners, monitor inventory and sales, and market your vending business.

What types of products can I sell in vending machines?

Vending machines can sell a variety of products depending on the target market and location. Options can include snacks, beverages (soda, coffee), healthy food options, convenience items, personal care products, electronics, or even specialized products like toys or pet supplies.

How can I find suitable locations for my vending machines?

Finding suitable locations for vending machines involves identifying high-traffic areas such as office buildings, schools, hospitals, shopping centers, and recreational areas. Consider approaching location owners or working with vending machine placement companies to secure locations.

How can I optimize sales and profits in my vending machine business?

To optimize sales and profits, ensure your vending machines are well-stocked and regularly serviced, regularly analyze sales data to understand popular products and adjust inventory accordingly, price products competitively, consider upselling or cross-selling strategies, and provide excellent customer service.

What are the maintenance requirements for vending machines?

Vending machines require regular maintenance, including restocking products, cleaning and sanitizing, performing routine maintenance on the machine's mechanisms, troubleshooting and repairing any malfunctions, and ensuring proper cash handling and accounting procedures.

About the Author

Adam is the Co-founder of ProjectionHub which helps entrepreneurs create financial projections for potential investors, lenders and internal business planning. Since 2012, over 50,000 entrepreneurs from around the world have used ProjectionHub to help create financial projections.

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