Want to offer customers more without the need for extra staff? Vending machines, says GRAHAM RIDOUT, could be the answer
Vending machines are often undervalued as a revenue stream, even though they can provide a significant contribution to the bottom line. Machines make sense as they simplify stock control and remove the temptation of pil-fering among employees, particularly with high- value and high-demand items like cigarettes.
It's a sound business proposition to maximise vending sales wherever possible. There are countless types of machines available, selling everything from confectionery to condoms.
Obviously, the type and style of machines and the range of merchandise on offer should match the trading patterns and the type of customers attracted to the outlet. It makes no sense to vend snacks if you are trying to build food sales. Likewise, a brash, illuminated vending machine can look completely out of place in a cosy pub.
Smokers will continue to smoke
Cigarette machines generally make the most money for pubs, with some suppliers quoting an average profit boost of £5,000 per annum for outlets installing them. Despite the uncertainty over a total smoking ban in pubs, there are those who believe that any legislation will have little effect on smokers' purchasing habits.
Welsh brewer/operator Brains reports that overall sales of cigarettes are unchanged in its four pubs where smoking is banned throughout.
Brains' retail director Phillip Lay says that these pubs, which have been operating bans for between one year and 18 months, are continuing to vend cigarettes.
Smoking and pubs are inextricably linked, as Fuller's, the London brewer and retailer, will proclaim. Andy Hall, the company's food and beverages buyer, who also looks after vending machines within Fuller's managed estate, says: 'Our (cigarette vending) sales are quite good and growing year on year, despite recently having to increase prices.'
Hall adds that even if a total smoking ban is introduced, the machines will remain, unless there is a drastic fall in sales.
Machines sales by CV Services of Brentwood have increased in the past year, as managing director Danny Everett explains: 'Regardless of any ban, people will still smoke and they will still have to buy their cigarettes from the most convenient place, which for many is the pub.'
CV Services offers a range of machines that licensees can buy outright. Everett says: 'Income from machine sales has become an increasingly- important aspect of a licensed business.
'The only way a licensee can fully maximise the potential of his or her premises through vending is by fully owning their own machines.
'Vending revenue can have a very quick and positive impact on a pub or bar's trading accounts.'
Machines: which style and where to put them
Fuller's Andy Hall says the choice of whether to have a floor or wall-mounted cigarette vending machine is really down to the layout and style of the premises. 'We have four different models to choose from - two traditional machines for the floor or wall and two modern-style machines. We can, therefore, match the machine to the outlet's design.'
Hall says another important consideration is where to locate the machine. 'There is a legal requirement to locate the machines where they can be seen from the bar to prevent under-age purchases.'
Generally, the machine should be readily visible and accessible, but not too close to the bar, which could restrict custom.
From CV Services' experience, larger outlets can benefit from a combination of a floor-mounted machine and a smaller, slim-line, wall-mounted machine. Larger machines suit the heart of the trading area while smaller models fit areas with high levels of customer traffic.