automatic vending association

Vending Information

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If you are looking to vending as a way to meet your refreshment needs, you will have many questions to ask. Which equipment should you choose? How do you know which operator to trust? What sort of finance package is most suitable for you?

Here, we tackle all these questions - and many more - to help you make informed choices. For more information, please contact an AVA Member (just look for the AVA logo) or contact AVA direct (click on Contact Us).

About the industry
Why vending?
How AVA ensures quality of service
The players
Selecting Equipment
DIY or contract operation?
Cost per cup plans
Checklist for specifiers
Finance & Leasing Association checklist


About the Industry
(please see publications page)

Vending (or "automatic retailing" as it is increasingly known) has a long history. The Greek mathematician Hero seems to have got the ball rolling in 215BC, when he invented a machine to vend holy water in Egyptian temples.

Vending has moved on since then, and today's sophisticated machines and services are technologically advanced and designed to provide top quality, hygienic and reliable service 24 hours a day.

Consumers in Britain annually spend some 1.5 billion through the slots of more than 418,000 refreshment vending machines. Every day, 8 million cups of coffee and 2 million cups of tea are vended.

Almost anything can be automatically vended, but the principal food and drink products are:

  • Hot and cold beverages
  • Cold drinks in bottles, cans or cartons
  • Confectionery and savoury snacks
  • Sandwiches and snack foods
  • Cook/chill dishes (for heating in an adjacent microwave)
  • Plated meals
  • Ice cream

Why vending?

There are a number of obvious advantages to vending:

Convenience Vended goods are available 24 hours a day and machines can be sited just where you want them.

Time Saving Vending machines are not only convenient they are time saving too. Research conducted by NOP showed that an average size business with 50 staff could be spending more than 85,000 of its annual wages bill in time spent by employees making their own tea and coffee.

Hygiene With vending you get a clean cup every time and avoid the chore of washing up china cups or worse still having dirty crockery hanging around all day.

Recycling The Save a Cup scheme provides a ready way to recyle used vending cups into durable items for the office.

Variety Vending machines offer a whole range of different products. Drinks vending machines can offer not just black and white coffee and tea but can also make the drink weak or strong according to taste. Fresh brew, cappuccino and chocolate drinks are also available.

How AVA ensures quality of service

The AVA has set up a Quality System on the same lines as ISO 9000 to ensure consistency of service and operation by member companies. In order to be in membership operators must have achieved AVA Quality Assured Status, which means that they have demonstrated to the satisfaction of professional quality assessors that they consistently provide services which conform to the contractual requirements of their customers and all regulatory authorities.

To ensure that they maintain this standard member companies are subject to annual inspection and recertification. These inspections are not limited to the paperwork. They extend to accompanying service engineers, merchandisers and operators on their rounds to make sure that day on day they consistently deliver what their company has promised.

The areas covered by the Quality System are all customer focused: customer care, contract, document control, corrective action, operation control, purchasing of stock, depot hygiene control and training.

The players

Vending Operator The vending operating company will source and site the machine for you and be able to provide a service/maintenance contract for cleaning, filling and cash collecting as well as any necessary maintenance.

Vending operators who are members of the AVA will have AVA Quality Assured Status and run their businesses in accordance with the AVA Quality System.

The individuals who attend to the cleaning and filling of the machines are also called operators or sometimes merchandisers. Those who maintain and repair the machines are field service engineers. Machine and Service Providers distribute machines and offer a maintenance and repair service but do not operate machines.

Machine Manufacturers Those who design and build the machines. As well as a strong UK manufacturing base machines are also imported into the UK principally from other members of the European Union and America.

Machine manufacturers normally sell only to vending operators or distributors but some do sell direct to vending users.

Product Suppliers Those (for example confectionery and snack manufacturers and in-cup businesses – where the ingredients are ready packed in the cup) who supply machines that vend their products. These are generally run on a DIY basis with the individual site owner taking responsibility for machine filling and cleaning. Maintenance will normally be organised by the product supplier.

Finance House The Finance House (sometimes referred to as the leasing company) provides the finance for the purchase of many vending machines. It is advised that you only take out a lease with a Finance House which is a member of the Finance & Leasing Association.

Selecting equipment

Questions to consider include:

  • How many people will be using the machine, during what hours?
  • What products will they want?
  • How much will they be prepared to pay?
  • Will there be long periods when the machine is not in use (for example school holidays)?
  • What other sources of supply are available locally, what do they charge and what do they offer?
  • Where will the machine be located?
  • Is it readily accessible to all those who want to use it?
  • Is there a convenient supply of electricity nearby?
  • If required, is there a convenient supply of potable water nearby?
  • Do you want users to pay by cash, token, card or are you providing products free at the point of delivery?
  • What is your budget for the machine?

Prior to making your selection you will no doubt investigate the options and maybe visit the industry's exhibition, AVEX, the international vending exhibition, which is held in the Spring of odd-numbered years. Machine manufacturers, operators and product suppliers will be happy to talk to you about the machines on offer and recommend those which best suit your needs. One of the options you will be offered is new or used machines. Should you decide not to opt for a new machine you need to be aware of what is being offered. The alternatives as defined by the AVA are:

Refurbished Machine A used vending machine, which having been refurbished, retains materially unchanged the design and function contained in the original manufacturer’s specification. Work to be undertaken in accordance with the AVA Code of Practice.

Remanufactured Machine Any used vending machine which has its original design or function significantly changed is classified as a remanufactured machine.Whether new, refurbished or remanufactured machines offered for sale, lease rent or otherwise should be safe, hygienic, reliable and fit for the purpose for which they are offered.

The products and ingredients you want to offer also need discussion and again there is a wide choice with both specialist vending ingredient suppliers and major international brands offering their product.

DIY or contract operation?

Maintaining and servicing your vending machines efficiently and cost-effectively is vital. There are two main options to consider:

Contract Operation

Contract operation is a popular option. Taking this route with an AVA operator removes all day-to-day concerns about the vending operation.

Machines are normally supplied and installed by the operator, who then maintains and services them under contract. All ingredients and products are supplied by the operator, who fills and cleans the machine and collects and accounts for the cash takings.

The prices to be charged for vended products will be decided jointly by the vending specifier and the operator, and will depend on whether the operator is to be paid entirely from the cash proceeds of sales or by means of a separate service charge.

The level of service required will vary depending on type of machine, types of products, consumption patterns, etc. AVA has produced a Guidance Document to assist members in determining the minimum number of visits.

DIY Operation

An organisation may decide to fill, cash and service its own vending machines. This option is often chosen by those using an in-cup machine (ie where the ingredients are pre-packed into the cup and mixed with water at the time of dispense).

The DIY option may also be suitable for an organisation that has catering staff, or one that has enough machines to warrant employing someone direct to control ordering and storage, cleaning and servicing, as well as accounting for and banking the cash takings. It is important to remember that the Food Hygiene Regulations set out strict requirements for the hygienic operation of food and drink machines.


Everything that is sold through a vending machine is subject to Value Added Tax (VAT) at standard rate and this applies whether or not the product would attract VAT when sold through any other route.

Make quite sure when you are discussing pricing and the cost of vended products whether you or the vending operator will be responsible for collecting the VAT and paying it over to the Revenue.

nb. Special rules apply for some educational sites.

Cost per cup plans

Cost per cup plans amalgamate the capital and running costs of a beverage vending service into a single charge per cup. The cost per cup will include a lease element to cover the capital costs of the vending machine together with the service and consumable elements for the cost of ingredients, cups, cleaning and maintenance. Some users prefer schemes such as these, which base the financial relationship totally on the cup usage.

Buyers should, however, take care to understand and evaluate cost per cup proposals. When the value of a proposal is only stated in pence per cup, the full contractual commitment can be misunderstood .

A full breakdown of the elements of the cost that make up the cost per cup will allow you to make valid comparisons. The cost element includes the lease costs, ingredient and cup costs and the costs for filling, cleaning and maintenance.

The minimum number of cups to which you are asked to commit should relate to the circumstances on the particular site during the contract term. Proposals based on drinks consumed per person per day should allow for holidays, shutdowns and staff sickness.

Industry experience suggests that consumers will normally buy an average of 2 drinks per day, but will consume 4 if they are provided free. Taking into account holidays and sickness, each staff member is likely to be at work only 42 weeks per year.

Most cost per cup plans make provision for inflation during the contract term. The proposal should state how this is to be handled. Inflation should not be applied to the equipment element of the cup cost and inflation increases should be judged in the light of what is reasonable.

AVA members abide by a Code of Conduct which ensures that you will be provided with full details if you prefer a cup plan. Dealing with an AVA member also gives you the security of a route for resolving disputes in the unlikely event of it being needed.


The vending industry was instrumental in setting up SaveaCup Recycling which collects used vending cups so that the reclaimed plastic can be used for a variety of durable products principally suitable for office use such as file trays, rulers etc.

AVA operators can help you be part of this scheme. With a SavaCup flaker you can shred your cups enabling them to be stored ready for collection by your AVA operator.

Checklist for specifiers

Vending provides you with the ideal means of having the drinks, food and products you need readily available whenever you want them day or night. We want you to enjoy the vending experience from the very beginning so to help you when discussing the detail of your vending provision the AVA have prepared a checklist.

  • Is your vending service to be provided by an AVA member?
  • Are you clear what machine (or machines) are to be provided. Have you checked whether they are new and that the length of lease or contract is appropriate?
  • Do you know what ingredients are to be used to make fresh hot and cold drinks? Will you, and your staff, have a chance to taste test the drinks?
  • Are you leasing the machine, is it being provided free on loan with a contract for the supply of ingredients and service, is it an outright purchase? Do you know what will happen to the machine at the end of the lease?
  • Do you fully understand the payment details, how much you will pay each month and over what period? Do you know how much of your payment is for the machine, for the ingredients and for service?
  • If the price for a beverage machine is based on a cost per cup, are you sure the number of drinks is realistic, have weekends, holidays and sickness been taken into account? Think about how many drinks you would pay for in a day.
  • Have you discussed the vend prices for the products to be provided by the vending machine?
  • Do you know how VAT on the products sold through the machine is to be handled?
  • What will happen at the end of the contract period?
  • If there is a lease or contract are the leasing company’s details on the page you sign and is that company a member of the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA)?
  • Is there a service or maintenance agreement and does it cover all parts? If not, are you content with the arrangements and likely cost for the supply of parts and labour?
  • Do you know if you will need to take out any insurance for the equipment and what your obligations are for any loss, damage or injury to people or property caused by the machine(s).

AVA members will be keen to answer any other questions you may have.

Finance and Leasing Association checklist

Checklist for Lessees:

  • Make it clear within your own organisation who can sign such agreements.
  • Ensure that the supplier of any equipment involved is reputable and an accredited supplier of the equipment involved.
  • Check the name of the leasing company, and where relevant its parent company, on the page of the lease agreement which you sign and whether this company is a member of the Finance & Leasing Association. FLA members are required to ensure that their contracts are clear and unambiguous.
  • Ensure with the supplier that the equipment is new, or if not that you are content that used or refurbished equipment is suitable.
  • Always ensure that the completed contract corresponds with any verbal or written quotation and, for copiers, a lease proposal sheet supplied via the sales person or negotiator involved.
  • Read your contract carefully before signing it and ensure it is correct, particularly in respect of the rental amount and the period of hire. Never sign an agreement which is not fully completed.
  • Make sure you understand and agree with all terms and conditions of the contract and, if you are unsure, seek advice.
  • Make sure you understand the costs involved and whether the agreement allows for any automatic increases in charges.
  • Check the period of hire and any notice period required for its termination and the settlement terms to be applied on early termination.
  • Ensure that the length of the agreement is not longer than the expected working life of the equipment involved.
  • Check whether the agreement includes the supply of service(s) and whether this will continue after any minimum or initial period of hire. If you are entering into a separate contract for the provision of service you should check its terms carefully.
  • If any amendments are made to your contract or a further contract is required to replace an existing agreement – do not sign until you have made the same checks as you did for the original agreement.

This checklist has been produced by the

Finance & Leasing Association,
Imperial House,
15/19 Kingsway,
Tel: 0171 836 6511 Fax: 0171 420 9600

Automatic Vending Association,1998
EXPLAINING VENDING - Produced by the AVA to assist vending specifiers.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electrical, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the AVA. Great care has been taken in its compilation and preparation to ensure accuracy. However, no liability can be accepted for any error or omission.
Automatic Vending Association
1 Villiers Court,
40 Upper Mulgrave Road,
Cheam, Surrey SM2 7AJ
Tel: 020 8661 1112
Fax: 020 8661 2224

Registered in England No 2954612






Student Information

The retailing and catering carried out by automatic vending machines enables industry, commerce and the retail trade to provide a better and faster service with less work. Traditionally, what we understand by the term "vending machine" is usually a coin-operated dispenser of products such as cigarettes, confectionery, drinks, packaged snacks or even more substantial foods.

Modern vending machines can be sited in almost any location and with the range of products on offer it is no surprise that the annual vending turnover in Britain alone is close to 1.5 billion.

Beverage Machines
Dry Goods Vending Machines
Inside the Machine - what happens to your money?
Operating the Vending Service
Vending Facts and Statistics














Beverage Machines


Beverage dispensers were the first vending machines to enter the catering field in earnest. Although an automatic cup and water dispenser had been widely marketed as far back as 1908 the beverage machine as we now know it was essentially an American extension of the British-invented "dry-goods" machines which sold cigarettes, chocolate and chewing gum.

With 8 million cups of coffee and 2 million cups of tea being vended every day, beverage machines obviously constitute a significant part of the vending market. Beverage machines range from the large, high turnover machines which offer a wide range of hot and cold drinks to much smaller capacity table-top machines for the low-volume user. Modern machines have been designed to satisfy the refreshment demands of even the most discerning customer and in addition to ordinary tea and coffee they can now deliver fresh brew, cappuccino and chocolate drinks, with varying strengths according to customer demand.


  • Cups - It is essential to load the machine only with specified cups in order that the cup separating mechanism will work. Cups must "nest" inside each other, so making maximum use of the available space, and must also have a "lip" to ensure that the machines cup ring mechanism only places one cup at a time onto the cup station for filling. It is essential that the material used to make the cup does not in any way affect the taste of the drink. In the case of hot drinks, cups are made either with ribbed sides to allow cooling air to pass between the wall of the cup and the fingertips or with a double skin to create a cavity wall in which trapped air acts as insulation.
  • Ingredient Mix - water is piped into the machine as required and, for hot drinks, heated within the machine. The rest of the ingredients are usually then dispensed from a separate canister and mixed with the water to produce the required drink. In the case of "in-cup" machines the ingredients are pre-measured into interlocking cups. This keeps the ingredients fresh and means that the machine is only required to add the water to each cup. The variety of drinks in "in-cup" machines is achieved by inserting several columns, each of which contains cups ready-filled with a particular ingredient. Some large beverage machines can be adjusted to give over 100 varieties of mix and strength. Possibilities include whipped or straight coffee and fizzy or still cold drinks.
  • Type of machine - Machines can be either without cups (the person uses their own), free-vend (without a coin mechanism and often found in the workplace) or without plumbing so the tank has to be filled manually.


The Beverage Vend Cycle for a hot drinks machine:

  • Inserting the coin and pressing a button trips a switch to start the vending cycle.
  • Cup dispense mechanism releases a cup which falls to the cup station.
  • Hot water flows from the hot water tank to the machines mixing bowl while the tank is refilled with cold water for heating.
  • Ingredient motors release pre-set throws of ingredients into the mixing bowl.
  • Ingredients mixed, eg. by a motorised whipper, to ensure smooth blending.
  • Water flow continues after ingredient motor stops to complete cup filling and clean the bowl ready for the next drink. Flow then stops and programme timing reverts to standby.

The Vend Cycle for a carbonated cold drinks machine:

  • Cup released into cup station.
  • Cold water flows through water cooling coil and CO2 is released from cylinder to join it. At the same time, a measured amount of syrup is released under pressure, either by pump or CO2 assistance.
  • Syrup goes through the carbonating unit to join the cooled, carbonated water at the mixing head spout and thence into the waiting cup.


Whatever the brand or blend of drink, it pays to follow the manufacturers recommendations as to the "throw" of ingredient required for best performance. Apart from good taste, there are several important features to look for in vended beverage ingredients:

  • Density - because machines dispense by volume rather than weight it is important that product density is consistent to avoid variable "throws" and thus variable drink quality.
  • Free flow - the ingredient must not compact to cause blockages as this could make successive measures more and more inexact, so affecting drink flavour.
  • Solubility (except in fresh brew machine ingredients which require infusion) - the ingredient must instantly dissolve in the water upon reaching the mixing bowl.

Airtight packaging is needed to ensure that beverage ingredients, which are hygroscopic in character, do not begin to clog due to exposure to moisture in the air.


Vending machines left unattended for any time would clearly suffer hygiene problems if fresh liquid milk was stored in the canister. Commodity suppliers have therefore developed a range of "whiteners" in powder form which have a long shelf life and provide the necessary characteristics for lightening drinks.

Skimmed milks used in vending incorporate skimmed milk powder which is mixed with a flowing agent such as lactose (a natural milk sugar).

"Filled milks" are a blend of skimmed milk and non-dairy whitener. Non-dairy whiteners consist of dried glucose syrup or corn syrup solids as a "carrier" plus vegetable fat and sodium caseinate, a natural milk protein. To these are added emulsifiers to hold the product in solution (without separating out) and flowing agents to assist the product in its movement from the canister to the mixing bowl.

Dry Goods Vending Machines


Until 1939, the vending industry was mainly composed of "column and drawer" type machines. These could be found in shop doorways as well as on railway and bus stations. Their operation was entirely mechanical, with no electrical component. An example of this type of machine was the Nestle "Penny Red" machine, in which chocolate bars were stacked on top of each other. When a penny was inserted, a lock on the drawer was released so that the drawer could be pulled open and a bar of chocolate removed. The rest of the chocolate would move down by gravity, making the next bar ready to vend. This type of machine is still in use today but with a more sophisticated coin mechanism to reduce tampering.

  • Cans, cartons & bottles - there are many types of can vending machine but the basic mechanical concept is simply a development of the gravity system described above. In order to dispense a variety of drinks, machines are fitted with shelves, hoppers or spiral racks and delivery is controlled by a trap which is released as soon as the machine accepts the coin and the appropriate button is pressed. The machines also require cooling systems and therefore a power connection.
  • General Merchandisers - confectionery
    These machines are found in areas such as stations and leisure centres and are able to hold a vast array of products. Various dispense mechanisms can be observed by the customer through the glass-fronted machine. Some machines retain their packaged goods on the "suspended hook" principle in which a belt moves forward over and then back under a "lip", releasing the selected product from its hook on the way. Other machines adopt a "spiral coil" design with the products inserted between the coils of the spiral. When the selection is made, a motor causes the spiral to rotate, moving the full line of the chosen product forward one revolution so that the front item falls off into the delivery station.

  • General Merchandisers - food - these machines are found mainly in industrial catering locations and dispense virtually any type of food, including pizza, salad and full pre-plated meals (via a microwave oven). These are usually "rotating drum" machines. They contain circular shelves, divided into segments, which are mounted on a spindle to form a "drum". Button selection causes the drum to rotate until the product selected arrives at the machine door, which is then opened to obtain the food.


When food is being vended it is vital that the machine maintains its contents at a holding temperature which prevents bacterial contamination and does not affect the taste or appearance of the food. Examples of the ways in which food should be stored are outlined below:

  • Sandwiches and filled rolls - if turnover is fast (2-4 hours) they may be sold through ambient (room temperature) machines. If storage is for longer periods the machines should be refrigerated.
  • Cold plattered salads and meats - should be stored for no longer than 48 (but preferably only 24) hours in a machine refrigerated to 4 oC.
  • Cook/chill method - hot food is usually vended by this system, in which pre-cooked food is stored in refrigerated machines and then re-heated by a microwave oven next to the machine when purchased. Colour, taste and nutritional value appear to be relatively unaffected by this process. The food to be vended is usually prepared in a central kitchen where it is plated out into individual portions and over-wrapped to maintain its moisture and prevent atmospheric contamination. The dishes are then placed in a blast-chiller to lower their temperature rapidly to 3 oC, the proved safe-holding level. This quick chilling reduces the risk of bacterial growth, which can occur at great speed.


The microwave heating process must penetrate the food evenly and it is therefore necessary to plate the food to a uniform height to ensure every part of the meal is heated.

In vending systems, microwave oven timing can be related to meals vended in four different ways according to the oven in use:

  • By pressing a numbered button, as indicated on the over-wrapping.
  • By turning a timing dial which performs the same function.
  • By providing a token or "key" with the meal which, when inserted in a slot on the front of the oven, will programme the appropriate heating time.
  • By direct link between the refrigerated machine and the oven.

The speed of microwave cooking means that fresh food can be completely cooked in a microwave in addition to pre-cooked food merely being re-heated.


Vending machines are available which will measure, cook and dispense a single portion of deep-fried chips on demand. Filters are fitted to inhibit the escape of cooking smells while thermostats prevent over-heating of the cooking oil used in the system.

Inside the Machine - What happens to your money?


The denominations of coins available to the consumer must be somehow matched to the wide variety of product prices found in the modern vending market. Coin mechanisms must therefore be adaptable to handle whatever coinage pricing levels are currently popular in addition to allowing the machine operator to alter prices, and consequently coin acceptance, as and when market forces dictate. Of course, total reliability is required throughout these adaptations if the machine is to continue to function efficiently after every change is made.


Electronic systems eliminate the susceptibility to jamming due to deformed or foreign coins. For full electronic validation the coin inserted in the slot rolls down a ramp and through a sensing system. The process is as follows:

  • Conductance test - only coins of broadly acceptable size and metallic content go on…
  • Coins now roll through a start gate and roll freely down the ramp and between 2 magnets. The magnetic field slows a genuine coin to a known, pre-programmed speed.
  • The coins speed is measured while passing photo-sensors in array. The sequence in which the coin obstructs light passing from LEDs to the sensors automatically measures both the speed of the coin and its precise diameter, thus verifying the coins value.
  • When the tests are satisfied the "access" gate opens. The coin passes into an escrow and is held until a vend button is pressed or a refund requested.
  • Coins not passing the test are automatically dispatched to the "reject" channel.


Many machines vend different products at different prices. These prices are set by the operator through inventory buttons on the validator switches inside the machine. Each price setting is wired to an appropriate selection button on the outside which, when pressed, generates a signal associated with the corresponding price line and compares it with the appropriate accumulated coin credit. When price required and credit achieved match, the machine will accept the command to vend and, at the same time, inhibit acceptance of further coins until the vend is complete.


The complications of coin operation have led to the development of the debit card. This card requires prior payment to give it value, entered either magnetically or electronically on the card. As the card is used in vending machines the amounts spent are debited against the built-in credit until the value is exhausted. The credit line of the existing card may then be revalidated or the card replaced.

The advantages of such cards are that the burdens of coin counting and the bagging and removal of heavy weights of mixed coins from the machines are avoided. It also means that customers do not need to carry the correct change and that operators avoid the expense of incorporating change-giving mechanisms.

Operating the Vending Service


Vending machines may be "self-operated" or placed in the hands of a specialist vending contract operating company. "Self-operators" make their own arrangements for machine acquisition, installation, maintenance and hygiene and deal directly with suppliers of vended products. The typical vending company, on the other hand, will do all of these things on behalf of the user under agreed contract terms. These companies are known as "Operators".


The Operators contract covers the date agreed for machine installation, the period of operation and the extent of product service to be provided. It also requires that the Operator ensures that machine hygiene is of a standard which is in accordance with the law and accepted standards.

The user prepares the site for machine installation, pays for power and water consumed during machine operation and permits access to the installation by the Operators personnel.


Operators who are AVA members hold Quality Assured Status and run their business in accordance with the AVA Quality System. This runs on the same lines as ISO 9000 and is designed to ensure consistency of service and operation. Quality Assured companies have demonstrated to the satisfaction of professional quality assessors that they consistently provide services which conform to the contractual requirements of their customers and all regulatory authorities. Member companies are subject to annual inspection and recertification to ensure this standard is maintained.


The prices charged for vended products depend on the aims of the user:

  • If the user wishes to profit from the vending service the prices will need to be set relatively high as the Operator and user both require profit from the facility.
  • Should the user only wish to break even the prices can be placed slightly lower.
  • Some users may wish to subsidise the service in the favour of consumers, which frequently applies where the user is a business and the consumers are its employees. The prices in this case are considerably lower and sometimes the whole cost may even be subsided. In this case the machine is placed on free vend.

When prices are subsidised by the user, the Operator expects to recover from his client the difference between the "cash take" from the machines and the total income required in the provision of the service. The details of such dealings should be covered in the contract. In the case of "low-volume" usage, guaranteed minimum levels of monthly charge may be requested by the Operator to safeguard his investment in machinery and staff allocated to the contract.


Operator staff who call at the users premises to clean and fill the machines are known as "Route Operators". They are provided with vehicles which are supplied and maintained by the Operator company and are often fitted with a radio or telephone link to the dispatch office so that emergency calls can be relayed and service provided instantly to any user on the route.

Most operators divide the areas they serve into routes small enough to put every machine under contract within an hours drive. "Local" operators may maintain as few as 100 machines but "National" operators can be responsible for thousands over a large area. These machines are serviced via local offices or depots.

Hygiene is a vital aspect of the route operators job. Staff training should encompass:

  • Handling foodstuffs without the risk of contamination.
  • Handling, removing and recording cash received by the machine and completing machine sales and hygiene maintenance records.
  • Handling stocks, filling the machine and, where necessary, removing contents to ensure product freshness.

Vending Facts and Statistics

  • 448,801 refreshment vending machines in use in the UK
  • Consumers spend 1.5 billion through the slots of refreshment vending machines annually
  • 8 million cups of coffee and 2 million cups of tea are vended every day
  • Vending uses 1.5 billion litres of water a year
  • Vending started in 215 BC when Greek mathematician Hero invented holy water dispenser for Egyptian Temples
  • An average size business with 50 staff could be spending more than 85,000 of its annual wages bill in time spent by employees making their own tea or coffee (NOP Research)
  • SaveaCup collects and recycles used vending cups to produce durable goods such as video cases, rulers, filing trays etc.

The 2001 census on CDrom is now available from the AVA. Please click on Publications to order.