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How To Start A Vending Machine Business UK

vending machine business uk

Vending machine businesses can be an incredibly profitable business if you’re able to set up a vending machine in a busy, popular area. The best spots can be incredibly profitable, but remember that the UK vending machine market is a competitive one, so you’ll have to act quick if you find a spot without a vending machine that you think could use one. It’s also important to consider what you’ll sell. Snacks are an obvious choice, offering quick to grab food and drink for commuters for example. But there are some business owners who make a successful vending machine business out of more unique, custom products too.

Before you jump right in and start a vending business, however, you’ll want to consider a few key things. Whether it’s a single machine for some extra cash, or if you’re looking at launching the UK’s next big vending machine franchise, it could all start here, so read on below for our expert advice.

Why Is Starting A Vending Machine Business A Good Idea?

If you’re thinking of starting a vending machine business then you’ll want to first understand why others before you have chosen to do the same. Well, here are just a few key reasons, but there’s plenty more where they came from:

Lucrative Business Opportunity:There are so many potential customers for your new vending machine since most people in the UK use vending machines for their convenience on a regular to semi-regular basis.
Wide Product Range:No matter what you want to sell, you can stock a machine with almost anything. Think of your vending machine as convenience stores or market stalls just with much fewer overheads. The products you can sell are endless.
Growing Market:Market research reflects that over the last decade the UK’s vending machine industry has only continued to grow, becoming more and more in demand for a variety of goods from sweets, snacks, and drinks, to fresh fruit and veg, ready meals, and even toys.
Market Gaps:Despite the market growing continuously, there are still gaps in the market that you may be able to fill. We’re all used to the usual food and drink machines (and they’re popular for a reason) but what other needs do we have as humans that could be met by a more creative machine?

Make A Budget For Your New Vending Machine Business

The beauty of vending machine businesses is that they’re low cost, high demand products that offer great profit margins because you can often buy the products in bulk and then sell them individually to mark up the price with ease. However, don’t dive in without a plan.

Like any other business, the initial costs need to be examined closely and you will need some capital to buy the machines themselves, which aren’t cheap, and don’t forget you’ll need to factor in maintenance costs and the cost of replenishing the stock frequently. The more machines you have, the more costly your initial investment.

Your initial budget should also factor in transportation costs (for replenishing stock and inventory management purposes) and the initial installation costs. You’ll also need to think about location fees. The more popular locations – think hospitals, leisure centres, and train stations – come with higher fees, but you’ll likely make more sales, so consider your options here.

Do your research, budget correctly, and you can enter the vending machine industry with a splash, having a strong, profitable start.

Choose The Best Vending Machines For Your Business

Vending machines are varied, and any good vending machine operator knows that picking the best one to meet your customers’ needs is the key to making a real success of your new venture.

First consider the type of vending machine you’ll need. Think about the products you want to offer and find a vending machine that suits. Of course, machines for food and drink are a dime a dozen, but you can find more specialist machines online if you’re looking for something more niche.

Next, think about the location you want to target. Knowing this, and more specifically the size of your spot in that location, is key to knowing the measurements of your vending machine.

Cost will also need to be a big consideration for you here. Prices vary significantly depending on:

  • size
  • niche
  • second hand vs brand new
  • bespoke design
  • etc


You’ll need to balance reliability with cost. The more expensive models will break down less frequently, meaning low maintenance costs, but your initial capital might not be enough to cover these high end machines as they’re significantly more expensive.

There are 3 main vending machine types you’ll want to consider before settling:

vending machine types

1. Bulk Vending Machines

Bulk vending machines are the most common type. They’re the ones you find in shopping centres and at amusement parks and piers. They usually contain sweets, snacks, and small plush toys etc. Because they’re so popular, they’re quite iconic and most customers will recognise them and know what they’re offering right away.

If you’re looking for an efficient and timeless machine to kick off your vending business, this could be the right machine for you.

2. Specialty Vending Machines

Speciality machines are for the business owner looking to more modern technology as a starting point. Put simply, they’re revolutionising the vending machine market with a wide variety of products and services on offer to customers.

They can offer things like fresh, pre-made salads, laundry detergent, or even battery packs for devices. The product offerings here can be as varied as you like, opening up a chance for new business owners to offer something truly unique.

Unlike traditional machines, these are equipped with more advanced technology such as cashless payment systems, RFID scanning, video ads to show off products, and interactive display screens. All of this tech combines to create a convenient and unique shopping experience for your customers.

It’s important to note that the cost is initially high here, but they offer the opportunity to diversify your product offerings giving you a competitive edge.

3. Food And Beverage Vending Machines

Most vending customers in the UK are hungry or thirsty commuters, making food and drink vending machines the single most popular type. It’s convenient for customers and it’s this convenience that makes them the go-to choice for customers looking for a quick food or drink fix.

Find The Best Location For Your Vending Machines

Whilst we can’t give you an exact location that’s perfect for your new vending machine today, we can give you advice on how to find the best location possible. And it all starts with proper research and planning. Think about your potential customers and where they’re likely shopping for the products you are offering in vending machine form.

You’re probably already thinking of some key places, such as:

  • Airports
  • Supermarkets
  • Bus stations
  • Apartment buildings
  • Schools
  • Shopping centres
  • Train stations
  • Hotels
  • Universities
  • Hospitals and health centres
  • Launderettes


Wherever you decide, you should remember that placing vending machines in a well-lit and high traffic area is key. You have to make shopping at your vending machine a safe and convenient experience for all. Make sure it’s somewhere you can access with ease too, as you’ll need to replenish your products frequently if you get the right spot.

Choose a spot that has consistent customers passing by to entice them. But remember, your competitors have probably already thought of these key places too, so if you’re going into direct competition with them at the same location, how are you going to get the edge over them?

Select The Right Name For Your Vending Machine Business

If you’re hoping to turn this vending machine business into a successful vending machine franchise, then you’ll need more than the right location and a good machine – you’ll need a name that people remember, too.

Think of something creative, yet memorable. Something that reflects the products you hope to offer in your machines, but that sticks in the mind of your customers. List a few potential names and run them by your customers before deciding on the final one – market research at this time can benefit you in the long run.

Research shows that a business name with interesting puns or wordplay perform far better than more mundane options. A catchy name is the best way to distinguish yourself from your competition and to ensure you build a name for yourself with a business that lasts.

Register Your Vending Machine Business With The UK Government

Once you’ve decided on a name and you’re getting ready to launch your successful vending machine business, it’s time to register that business with the UK government. It’s a legal requirement for UK businesses to register with Companies House.

You can register online or through the post. Make sure you have all the relevant information you’ll need to hand – including the perfect name you’ve been working on.

A vending machine business still requires certain certificates to prove their legitimacy and that they’re operating within the confines of UK law. The sector is still regulated. Registering with Companies House is the first step, but from there you’ll need to ensure you submit your corporation tax return each year as a limited company to ensure you’re meeting your tax obligations.

When you start your own vending machine business, you need to be prepared to register that business and satisfy all regulations and obligations.

Secure Financing For Your Vending Machine Business

You might be lucky enough to have some capital of your own to invest, but it’s very likely you’ll need to secure reliable financing to get things off the ground.

Some great ways to get started include:

  • bank loans
  • crowd funding
  • startup funds
  • small business loans and grants


In order to attract financing you’ll need to produce cost projections and profit margins and a thorough business plan.

Remember those loans will need to be paid back over a set period, so factor these into your plans to ensure you have a realistic long term budget in place, supporting long term business success.

Sign A Contract With Property Owners At Vending Sites

The next step in setting up your business is guaranteeing your vending machine location. You’ll need to sign a contract with the property owner and ensure you have a good working relationship with them. They’ll often be the first to notice if something is wrong with your machine as they’ll be on site more often, so having a good relationship will be key to ensuring your machine is back up and running quickly if there are maintenance issues.

Before signing any contract, however, you should ensure you fully understand the terms and conditions you are agreeing to.

Remember, setting up vending machines and signing contracts is an involved process, so take the time to be attentive at this stage to increase the likelihood of your business success.

Since you’ll be paying location fees to the property owner, your vending machine’s success will impact their profits too. They need you to be successful to continuously enjoy those location fees, so a mutually beneficial contract ought to be sought.

The information included in the contract should be:

  • Names of the parties entering into the agreement
  • Agreement length
  • The type of machine(s) and products sold
  • Location(s) of the machine(s)
  • Compensation
  • Responsibilities related to machine damage, maintenance, and service for each party
  • Notifications about machine failure or damage
  • Exclusivity provision, if applicable
  • Rights to add, remove or replace machines
  • A termination clause


Maximise The Performance Of Your Vending Machines

Be strategic and tactical when planning your location, but remember too that you can have a vending machine in the best location in the world, but if it doesn’t function correctly or it isn’t user friendly, then you won’t enjoy the profits you’re hoping for.

You’ll also want to ensure you price your products correctly in a way that considers profit margins and your customers’ bank balances.

If you have a machine that’s working well, is always stocked, is in the right location and is user friendly, then your business will surely thrive.

Choose Your Suppliers

Picking the right supplier is also key if you want your enterprise to grow successfully, so choose wisely. Check out different vending machine suppliers and what they can offer, focusing on high quality products that your target audience will enjoy.

You should also look for:

  • regular deliveries
  • competitive prices
  • great customer support
  • reliable supplier reputation


Manage Your Vending Machine Inventory

Inventory management is key as a business owner, so pay special attention to your vending machine stock levels. Check regularly and ensure your machines are always stocked with fresh products. That’s why you should choose vending machine locations based on what’s close to you, so you can always keep your machines well stocked.

The more high tech machines on the market will come with tracking information to tell you things like stock levels, so you can always be prepared.

restock vending machine business

Provide Excellent Customer Service

Customer service is key in every business, even vending machines where you don’t see your customers face to face often, unless they come by whilst you restock.

Leaving a contact number in case of issues on your machines is a great way to show customers you’re willing to help when something goes wrong. If ever an issue is raised, be courteous and polite and show them that you’re only too happy to help. This will create a memorable experience and make it more likely that they’ll return to your machine in the future.

Final Thoughts

If starting a vending machine business in the UK is your target, it’s a great option to consider for a rewarding and profitable venture that’s easy to run. Like any other business, you will need to research the right area to operate in, understand your target customers and utilise your business management skills to source good prices for the products you want to sell.

Commitment and staying organised are key qualities that give your business the chance to grow and succeed. A vending machine business can supplement your income, or open the doors for creating a mini-empire.

Following the tips throughout this article can put your business on the right track. Be determined, and make smart decisions, and you will see your vending machine business running and growing in no time.



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