USI and Wittern CEO, and Incoming NAMA Chair Heidi Chico Talks Industry

VendingMarketWatch.com interviewed USI and Wittern CEO, and Incoming NAMA Chair Heidi Chico. Heidi reviewed the opportunities and challenges for the industry. Below is the interview between Heidi Chico and Emily Refermat of Vending Market Watch.

 

VendingMarketWatch.com: As you take the role of Chair for NAMA, what, in brief, are your views of the opportunities and challenges for the industry?

 

Heidi Chico: We all generally share similar aspirations in our industry: providing great jobs, a great working environment, and great refreshment services to our customers. That’s true in U.S. cities like Des Moines – where The Wittern Group, the company I now have the privilege to lead, is headquartered – and it’s true all over the world. What’s also true, and too often overlooked, is the vital role that convenience services play.

 

Our industry is constantly evolving and adapting to business and consumer trends by delivering quality refreshments through vending, foodservice, OCS, micro markets, and pantry services. But is that enough in today’s world of “Uberized” delivery? We are seeing our industry being penetrated by QSR delivery, Whole Food/Amazon, Online pre-order apps, and the list goes on. Our challenge: how does our industry create enduring value? Finding the successful path forward means demonstrating we are best suited to perfect small drop distribution to the workplace.

 

One of our focuses this year is defining convenience services. The business world is looking for frictionless fulfillment services to help manage their foodservice needs. What other products or needs are our clients purchasing from others? Are these opportunities that we may want to provide in the future? Consumers are paying for prepared foods to be delivered to their homes like Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh. Why can’t that be delivered in the workplace? Our industry is at a tipping point and it’s our job to meet our customers’ demands for convenience and frictionless solutions.

 

VMW.com: How does the Fly-In tie into that?

 

HC: The NAMA Fly-In is a significant opportunity to talk to lawmakers about the convenience service industry, and to communicate how unique we are as an industry. When I visit DC to represent our industry – and even when I’m in Des Moines — my approach involves considering three key points:

 

  1. Tell Our Story: make it a priority to communicate what’s new regarding the convenience services industry. Our elected officials – at every level – should better understand our industry’s challenges.

 

  1. Advocacy is Everyone’s Job: I encourage everyone to support the Fly-In, to build relationships with elected officials and to support advocacy overall.

 

  1. Make it Fun: NAMA members are passionate and dedicated to our industry – getting involved and adding value is also fun.

 

VMW.com: I’ve heard that the Fly-In is one of your favorite NAMA events. Can you share some reasons why?

 

HC: I have been on NAMA board for 11 years now; over the years, I have seen a huge difference in how we approach advocacy. We made the decision in 2008 to make an annual trip to Washington DC with the main goal to focus on advocacy for this industry. This event taught me that one person matters and our industry can be heard, making a difference in DC.

 

From this experience, I’ve progressively built positive relationships with our representatives from our state. In fact, I often see them in airports. When this happens, I make it a priority to get on issues pertaining to our industry, and it’s pretty rewarding when an elected representative knows you by your first name and you can get business done in a meaningful conversation.

 

Looking ahead, July 25 and 26, I’ll attend our Fly-In as proud member of the 300+ NAMA delegation in DC. Join us and let’s work together to ensure our industry’s voice is heard!

 

For all of your vending machine needs, U-Select-It is here for you. Contact us today with any questions you may have.

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Variety in Healthy Vending Machines

 

It’s worthwhile to consider why it’s beneficial to offer more than snacks in your vending machines. In a world full of options, it’s important to maintain vending options that correlate with that your customer wants and needs.

 

Healthier Options

Traditional vending machine snacks are not necessarily the healthiest. This particular option is important if you have vending machines in a school. More and more administrators are requiring that food provided to students is healthier in nature. Sugary snacks can lead to all sorts of health issues, so offering healthier options can propel healthful ideals amongst students and families.

 

More Variety, Better Options

People like variety. You’re going to miss out on great opportunities for vending if you limit the options available, then you could possibly miss out on sales. Adding variety increases your sales opportunities within your vending machine.

 

Compare Sales via Testing

Adding healthy varieties in your vending machine allows you to test what does or does not sell. You can use your vending machine to test what your customer likes, and then continue to build upon those items that are selling well.

 

For all of your vending machine needs, U-Select-It is here for you. Contact us today with any questions you may have.

 

 

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The Best Locations for Healthy Vending Machines

 

Healthy snacking is on the rise, consumers are becoming more actively aware of the nutrition content of the food they consume. It’s important to stay current with the market demands for healthy snacking. You can turn your current vending machine into a healthy snack vending machine. Our Evoke Snack 5 vending machine features enhanced merchandising and advanced technology to increase same machine sales and drive operational efficiencies.

Here are 4 locations where healthy vending machines can do great in:

Hospitals: Both staff and visitors at a hospital spend long periods time at a hospital. For anyone who has stayed at a hospital for a long period of time know that the cafeterias are not always open. Having an option for healthy snacking can help give you the comforting energy needed while at a hospital setting.

Shopping Centers: For anyone who has spent a day running errands shopping, they know an appetite can creep on you in the midst of all the running around, especially if you’re shopping with children. Instead of ordering unhealthy fast food, a healthy vending machine option can be a bestseller for shoppers on the go.

College Campuses: Busy schedules call for big appetites, but for many college students finding the time to stop for an actual meal can be difficult. Healthy snacking options that are available 24/7 during long study hours can be a pivotal difference for students. Campuses are a great breeding ground for forward-thinking movements, and healthy snacking is definitely a part of what young people are aware of.

Fitness Studios: Nothing works up an appetite like a workout. After a session in yoga, pilates, or on the treadmill, you want something easy, fast, and smart to eat. Having a vending machine that dispenses smart options that do not defeat the purpose of being in the fitness studio in the first place is a great idea.

Once you have your healthy snacking options set up, take the time to notify your community of the healthy options that are available to them. Include nutrition information that is easily legible, and make signs that highlight the health aspect of the snacks you have available.

Healthy eating, an active lifestyle, and progressive nutrition are becoming more and more popular, take advantage of the movement and set up your healthy vending machine today!  To learn about the U-Select-It vending machines offered, visit our website.

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3 Tips for Success in the Vending Business

 

The world of business can be complicated, but we are here to help make it simple! Here are 3 tips for success in the vending business:

Location. In order for your vending machine to be profitable, it has to be a in a high-traffic, well-seen location. Choose where your vending machine is located depending on what products you are dispensing. For example, if you have a vending machine in a school, place it where students are bound to walk by it to and from class, or in a location where other food options are not available. It matters if your vending is visible, and accessible by all parties interested.

Value. Find the right machine, for the best value. The best vending machines are ones that come with a reputable company. U-Select-It offers some of the most advanced vending merchandisers in the industry and has a rich history of being one of the prime innovators of the vending world. With a successful track record of over 85 years, U-Select-It is one of the most reliable names in the industry. From snacks and sodas to lattes and cappuccinos, our vending machines will leave an impression on your customers and keep them coming back. No matter what you would like to vend, we have an industry-leading machine for you.

Reliable Service. Trust is established when you can prove to your customer that your product and service are reliable, and that you have their satisfaction at the forefront. How frustrating is it when a vending machine doesn’t operate properly? When your machine or service does not operate at its full capacity, your run the risk of losing that customer permanently. Stay up to date with maintenance of your machine, keep it clean, keep it stocked – and you will find the trust in your customer will grow and last.

Here at U-Select-It, we want to do more than sell you the best drink and snack vending machines in the industry. We want to ensure that any product you buy from us stays in optimal condition to earn you revenue for years and years to come. With a worldwide distributor network, you can rest assured knowing that help is within reach no matter where you are located. By utilizing specialized iCart software, you can create eye-catching and informative displays for your machine, gaining loyal customers in the process. Whether you need new parts, help with financing, or anything in between, U-Select-It as always here for your assistance.

 

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5 Must-Have Drinks in Your Vending Machine

 

One of the most common questions we get from vending machine distributors has to do with stocking strategies. Today we’re going to address our tried and tested plans for the top five must-have drinks in your beverage vending machine, and explain why we’ve made each recommendation.

  1. Water. Unsurprisingly, water is our number one suggestion for beverage sales. However, it is up to you to determine whether your client market would respond best to a traditional mid-range water brand, a high-end water selection, or a value-driven option.
  2. Sports Drinks. These are another perennial favorite for many of our vending machine distributors, as sports drinks can be marketed to young people, active adults, or any health conscious drinkers. But again, as a vendor, you have a choice of whether to include general hydration recovery sports drinks or more niche items like protein infused selections.
  3. Juices. This category includes everything from pure fruit juices to sugary sweetened lemonades so, as with all our other suggestions, you have options based on your market research.  
  4. Upscale Beverages. Our experience has shown that, in the right market, options like coconut waters, aloe drinks, even milks and other deluxe drinks can be very profitable, provided there is a balance of other options available as well.
  5. Soda. It would be a challenge to find a vending customer who isn’t expecting to find at least one pop beverage in the machine at any time. However, in spaces particularly linked with healthier lifestyles–like hospitals–or locations where soda is prohibited–as in some schools–soda may not be an advisable option. This category may or may not encompass energy or other caffeinated options. If you do go the soda route, we recommend having multiple options, including diet selections.

Keep in mind that these suggestions are based on a wide array of experience in many different markets. It is possible that your location may have different needs, so feel free to make adjustments based on analytics of your previous and current sales history. To learn about the U-Select-It cold beverage vending machines offered, visit our website. For more ideas on how to drive your vending machine business forward, explore our blog.

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Introducing: Evoke 5 Vending Machine

U-Select-It has been an industry leader in developing new technologies and applications in the vending world for over 80 years. In that time, we’ve consistently sought out ways to improve the visibility, convenience, and profitability of our vending systems, leading us to our newest machine, the Evoke 5. There are four specific areas we set out to improve from previous iterations; we have been able to make multiple advances within each area to bring our vending machine distributors and their customers a modern buying experience.

  1. Accessibility. The Evoke 5 vending machine does more than simply accept input and dispense a product. We’ve incorporated improved ergonomics, to make the purchasing process more fluid and comfortable, while at the same time adjusting both the product delivery and coin return areas for ease of access. While the Evoke series has always been ADA compliant, we wanted to go above and beyond to ensure that all our customers can easily make purchases with the Evoke 5 machines.
  2. Technology. It is in this area that the entire industry has seen the most development in the past five years, and the Evoke 5 takes all that progress and streamlines benefits for customers. The iVend Guaranteed Delivery system makes certain that consumers receive their products. We’ve added an optional full-color touch screen interface, in addition to a shopping cart sales mode that allows buyers to select multiple products in one transaction, combined with payment system versatility. On the back end, for vending machine distributors, we have included an expandable control system and intuitive service mode as well as wifi, bluetooth, and cellular modem communication systems.
  3. Serviceability. The Evoke 5 is designed to be easy to service and maintain, with few overly complicated elements. With separate product and control system areas, as well as straightforward access for restocking, pricing, and maintenance, the entire front panel opens via a 90-degree lock with a four point latch system strong enough to deter criminal activity.
  4. Aesthetic Design. The final area we specifically wanted to improve with the Evoke 5 was the visual experience for customers. We intensified the potential for branding with an LED backlit logo panel option that can, in turn, be complemented with changeable user interface lighting access. The display window is now 15% larger, and we’ve included stylish leg covers.

There is no one advancement that stands out in the Evoke 5, as we made every effort to include multiple developments in each area our vending machine distributors and customers told us were vital to the buying and maintenance processes. The Evoke 5 vending machine is a capstone to years of vending technology development. Please visit our website today to learn more about the Evoke 5, or look for updates on our blog.

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What’s New in Vending for 2017?

Looking back at our predictions from this time last year, we foresaw increases in cash-free, more connected, and fresher vending options. How have these changes impacted vending machine distributors? Will these trends continue to progress, or will the pendulum swing in another direction entirely in 2017?

Overall, consumers are becoming more confident and comfortable utilizing vending machines for healthier snacking, expecting smooth, error-free transactions, and effortlessly accepting vending machines as product and service providers in a variety of non-food related fields. This opens the door for some fascinating future developments in the world of vending, moving the industry from a past perception of being the last resort for a quick, low-nutrient snack to a role as a desirable and high-end food service, complete with upscale payments options.

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Vending Machine Trend: Healthy Offerings

It’s no surprise that modern vending customers are demanding different choices in their snacks than previous years or decades; every industry goes through peaks and valleys of interests. However, where vending machines had been historically seen as a source of less nutritionally or gastronomically fulfilling options, current vending machine distributors are seeing a dramatic shift towards fresh, healthy, and nourishing treats.  But what are the specifics of these new, more beneficial, offerings and what does that mean in regards to vending machine distributors?

For a vending machine distributor, it is important to understand that, while mints and gums–and even a few sweet snacks–should always be offered, more and more buyers are looking for foods that at the very least purport to be healthy. At the same time, the definition of healthful continues to broaden based on each consumer’s individual needs and concerns, allowing for vending machine distributors to carry a wide array of beneficial and attractive offerings.

U-Select-It has been involved in the manufacturing and distribution of vending machine products for over 85 years. Our website and our blog offer more helpful information for current or potential vending machine distributors looking to increase or improve their sales.

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Micro Markets–Micro Profits?

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Micro markets have been the buzzword of the year in vending and small business circles. They offer many conveniences over traditional storefronts, to be sure, as well as the shiny veneer of any new sales modality. However, does the operational reality actually reflect the tremendous profitability that has been touted? U-Select-It looks at the facts.

The truth is that, like any business, micro markets come with their own set of hidden costs. These unexpected costs eat away at profits, turning what seemed like a golden opportunity into a money pit.

In the end, micro markets have their own advantages. For most owners, however, those advantages are far outweighed by the higher operating costs and lower profits when compared to traditional vending options from an established and successful vending machine distributor like U-Select-It.

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Vending Vernacular: Quick Guide

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Every industry has its own special language, made up of a combination of acronyms, slang, and esoteric terms that can seem like gibberish to a novice or outsider. Some terms, as soon as they’re explained, are so obvious you wonder how you didn’t realize what they meant while other terms are extremely obscure or counterintuitive. U-Select-It wants all industry professionals, both experienced and newcomers, to have access to this type of knowledge. Here are the top acronyms and terms every vendor needs to know.

There are a great many other terms you need to know as a vending machine distributor or retailer, just as in any other specialized industry, but these are the most commonly misunderstood pieces of vocabulary any new vending machine client needs to be familiar with. For further educational information from U-Select-It to help grow your vending business, visit our blog!

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