Comparing Smart Vending Machine Technologies

Learn about the different smart vending technologies in the marketplace and decide which one is right for your business.
Woman using smart phone to pay of vending machine

Is high-quality fresh food vending right for your business?

For some fresh food retailers, it’s a great option to address today’s market challenges and increase potential revenue. The design and manufacture of these automated retail solutions enable restaurant-quality food to be available 24/7. However, navigating the foreign and domestic smart vending hardware manufacturers in the US market can be challenging.

Intelligent vending machines with automated retail can be broken into two main categories: honor system vs. secured (aka third wave). Honor system vending is similar to grocery store self-checkout but without an attendant nearby. The new third-wave smart vending machine is secure with cashless payments that enhance both the operator and user experience.

Third-wave vending technologies have been available in the US for about five years. They can be broken into four categories:

  1. Robotics – Pro: Specialized functions for customizable products ranging from salads and smoothies to conveyor belt cooking for pizzas and pastries. Con: Complex for operators and consumers. $$$$*
  2. Weight Sensors – Pro: Smart fridge format for versatility in product offerings. Con: Weight variations in seasonal produce limit fresh options. $$
  3. Camera Sensors – Pro: Smart fridge format for versatility in product offerings. Con: Visual variations in produce limit fresh options. $$
  4. Radio Wave Sensors (RFID) – Pro: Smart fridge format for versatility in product offerings. Con: Requires disposable smart stickers to track products. $

*$$$$ references hardware prices ranging from $5k to $150k

After selecting the vending solution best suited for your operation, it typically boils down to support and on-going costs. Launching a third wave vending location is less like a traditional vending machine and more like a mini restaurant. We like to call this location a microstore.

With a microstore, you’re selling high-dollar perishable goods with omni-channel customer communications in a brand-forward shopping experience. Not only will your platform involve a physical machine, but it will also involve smart vending software. Most third-wave software empowers you with real-time sales data and analytics, all based in the cloud. This kind of operation requires attention to detail.

When selecting a technology, we recommend researching the long-term operational costs and level of support the vending platform offers.

For more information about the evolution of the smart vending industry, you can subscribe to our podcast, The Fresh Vending Podcast. Happy Vending!

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