According to the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA), vending is defined as ‘providing service at an unattended point of sale through the use of monetarily driven equipment’ (NAMA, 2008). Vending machines can be found in many areas ranging from schools to businesses to medical facilities to hospitality properties; it is estimated there are over 6 million such machines in use.
While vending operations are very impersonal, they are very convenient for customers who have needs outside of traditional business hours or where desired services and products are not otherwise available. A major advantage from an operator’s perspective is the ability to provide food/drink/snack service while incur ring little or no labor costs. The four most common items distributed through vending machines are candy, cigarettes, soda, and coffee. Through technology and innovation the industry has evolved to include products such as hot and cold entrees, frozen foods, and dairy products, which may be purchased using coins, bills, or credit cards.