The ice vending industry is like most other industries …You get what you pay for!
To ensure the success of your machine, you must do your homework and purchase a machine that meets your long-term objectives. For most investors, this means investing in an affordable machine that is built to last, is easily serviceable, and generates higher revenues and profits using product features that are conducive to sales.
Here are the top five key product features that your machine should have to be set up for long-term success:
When buying an ice vending machine, it is critical that you purchase a machine that automatically bags the ice inside the unit. Requiring customers to bag their own ice will likely eliminate older customers and some people who will not want to bend down to pull out a bag and then have to catch 10-16 lbs of ice all at once to bag it themselves. If you miss the bag, the ice vends all over the ground, leaving you with disgruntled customers and a slip-and-fall hazard. There is no limit to how many bags can be removed from a machine that does not bag the ice. Customers can accidentally take extra bags, while vandals can take them all, costing owners money and lost sales. The machine may work, but you are not likely to hit your revenue goals when requiring customers to bag their own ice. Selling ice that is automatically bagged in the unit is cleaner, faster, easier, and more sterile. As a result, your revenues and profits will be higher. This industry revolves around convenience and simplicity. All Kooler Ice machines automatically bag the ice – internally. The first person to touch the bag of ice is the customer. During COVID-19, this was especially important. Quick, easy, and straightforward. Just swipe, push the button, and grab your bag of ice.
The only way to preserve ice and consistently produce a strong ROI in the ice vending industry is to build a machine with a heavy-duty insulated ice storage bin, similar to a Yeti cooler, inside the machine. All Kooler Ice machines have a double-walled insulated bin with at least 2-4” of foam injected between the walls.
Additionally, there is foam insulation built into the frame walls, adding another 2”- 4” of insulation depending on the model. Just like a high-end ice cooler, if you want your ice to last, the bin and machine must be well-insulated. An inferior bin that is ½” thick or less without insulation will cause the ice to melt much faster, driving electric costs up because the ice maker has to run longer to keep the bin full. When purchasing an ice vending machine, ask if the ice storage bin is insulated and to what extent it is.
The machine’s life is determined by the frame’s durability, especially in an outside environment. If you want a unit that will last 15 to 20+ years, then go with an aluminum frame. Your resale value will be higher when you sell the unit, and you can update the machine down the road for a second life. A powder-coated metal frame that can rust in 5-10 years or when you nick it with a tool is not a product that you will want to update and continue to invest money in, and your resale value and the ability to rebuild the unit will be limited.
While a little more expensive to do, all Kooler Ice machines have heavy-duty aluminum alloy frames. Kooler Ice machines are built to last, have high resale value, and are rebuildable for a second life. The frame is the core. If it’s good, you can continue to operate the machine for many, many years, increasing your revenues.
When purchasing an ice vending machine, it is critical to buy one that has a robust app or monitoring system to keep you aware of everything going on with the unit. This is important when managing one machine and even more critical when managing multiple units. You will need to know how much cash is in the machine to be able to reconcile cash and keep employees honest if you have someone helping you manage the unit. You will want to monitor the ice maker and receive instant notifications so there is no guessing about whether the unit is working. You’ll want to know how many bags are in the machine and be alerted when you’re low on ice, out of ice, low on bags, out of bags, or have a bill jam or coin jam.
In addition, you will want to have two-way communication, allowing you to resolve a bill jam or send a free bag of ice to a customer remotely. Kooler Ice’s monitoring system is very robust. It lets you know what is going on with the machine 24/7, saving on trips to the machine and reducing downtime. If you need to call our 12-hour, everyday service and support hotline, our techs can pull up your machine to view the machine’s diagnostics and assist you with troubleshooting the problem. As you review manufacturers, you must understand clearly what the capabilities of each manufacturer’s monitoring system are. This one feature can dramatically impact your uptime, profitability, customer satisfaction, and your overall success in ice vending.
The only way to remove Total Dissolved Solids or TDS from water is with a Reverse Osmosis (RO) system – period. Carbon filters and sediment filters will not remove TDS. There is no other way to do this. Poor water quality going in leads to poor-quality ice coming out. Without an RO System in an ice vending machine with poor water quality, you will get white, cloudy ice cubes that fracture easily and melt faster due to the high mineral content. Lower quality water leads to less sales because your customers will notice the difference. The machine may work without an RO system, but the quality of the cube will reduce customer satisfaction and sales revenue substantially. With an RO System, you will get strong, durable, clear ice cubes that taste great, don’t affect your beverage flavor, and last longer. Also, since only high-quality water circulates through the ice maker, you can expect the icemaker to remain cleaner with fewer issues.
The only reason any competitor in our industry would not offer this option is because their machine size does not allow room for an RO system within it All water vending machines at grocery stores throughout the U.S. offer purified water made by reverse osmosis. If you sell water in your ice and water vending machine, you must install a reverse osmosis system. There is no other way to purify the water.
As you research the ice vending industry, we strongly recommend seriously considering each of these machine features. The adage of you get what you pay for is true in ice vending. You may find a machine that is $5,000 – 7,000 cheaper, but you need to understand why it is less expensive. It doesn’t make sense to buy a slightly cheaper machine that is missing several key features that will limit your sales revenue. It makes more sense to choose a machine that is easier for the customer to use, easier for the machine owner to maintain, dispenses higher quality ice and water, has less downtime, has a longer work life, and has a higher resale value.