Vending As A Business:
Pool Halls & Arcades
Cha-ching! These have all disappeared and there are a few reappearing but I don’t believe they are as popular as they were when I was a kid. When I was young there was no xbox or games to play on personal devices. We hung at the arcades and pool halls where the cool people were. Needless to say we also spent our money there too. I worked part time for a guy who owned one. I remember in grade 10 he offered to sell it to me for $12,000.00. They were starting to die off and losing popularity but if I could have, I would have. Can you imagine being 16 and having a brick and mortar business! As risky as it was, I was tempted to ask my father for the money but he hated arcades & pool halls.
Plus I didn’t have enough business experience, it would have failed and I knew it. Being offered the business was an honor but it just wasn’t practical. Having grown up wanting my own business it planted a seed in my mind. Doug was nice just for trusting me to work there but offering a kid a business? I think he had faith in me and not just that he thought I was a sucker. The arcade had 3 pool tables and a bunch of pinball machines, all coin operated. It was the first day I watched the place for the owner I saw the benefits of the business. Today it would be hard to justify the cigarette machine but the juke box was always a money making gem!
He gave me a roll of painted quarters and said feel free and play all the games you want and if anyone claims they lost their money be sure to use these quarters to get them a new game (don’t refund actual cash). Your here to make change, watch the joint and if you want you can take the Windex/paper towel and wipe everything off. Don’t argue with anyone if they did or didn’t lose money, just set them up with another game. That’s it, that’s all you have to do. Hum an automated business that just needs a dummy to watch the joint, no real way for employees to rip you off and easy to have someone to baby sit it. All cash, this was a dream business!
Hell, this was a great business model. One could sell snacks like bars/pop/chips and they are loaded into a vending machine too. You could add other products but they would have to be watched and accounted for so it begs the question, did you want to be tied to the business? It goes without saying honest or not you are going to have to claim some of the money you made. Enough to pay the bills and enough so the government isn’t gong to come down on you. But if you were dishonest, it’s untraceable CA$H and where people go to buy and sell drugs! If you were dishonest even a criminal, you could figure out how to make money off this business even if it was loosing money.
Now let’s turn things around because I know all my readers are honest upstanding people how could you make money off an arcade even if it was paying the lease and utilities? Well today you could write a book in your free time there. You could blog or freelance while working. You could dispatch taxi’s from the location in a small town. If your paying someone to work there and they have enough time to take care of 2 or 3 small businesses like that, why wouldn’t you do that? It’s just a matter of a little training, answer the phone and send the cars. You could run an entire limousine company from here with the right staff. (The ease of that will be explained when we look at limos).
You could dispatch for the local tow truck company and I’m sure the owner would be willing to pay for the dispatch service. For a service like that the biggest pain in the butt is answering the phone 24/7. You could design websites during the slow times (when the kids are in school). The ideas are actually endless if you are smart and creative adding a second or even a third business isn’t really all that hard and will likely be the successful model for many of these businesses moving forward!
This concept isn’t new, all of the above secondary ideas, could be used with a gas bar and many other businesses, A bowling alley was aging and closed every night at 8PM, it was loosing money and the owner was selling, so a guy buys it. He puts in some black lights a few disco balls and bar lights adds a juke box filled with retro music and offers discounted bowling to the old folks and doubles business in 6 months. It becomes the next hot thing to do in town. He does small renovations as business increases then he sells back to the original owner at a profit. (True story) I believe it was in New York. It was about 40 years ago that I read that story. I found it interesting, if most of the costs are fixed why not extend hours and increase profits?
Mobile vending route:
You used to see vending routes advertised all the time for sale. Guys would get them started, build them up. Train new owners and sell at a profit, then move on only to do it again! I’m not sure it’s as big these days but I can’t see why not.
These are the pop machines and junk food machines placed in businesses such as gas stations, hotels, hockey arenas, in offices and just about everywhere. You will need big money for the machines, a van to carry supplies but you just drive around filling the machines and collecting the cash. Is there any money in it, shake your head, yes even splitting the profits with the establishment there are plenty of profits in this business. But, someone’s always got to stick their butt in there! Often times if you buy used machines or as your machines age, you also have to learn how to be your own repairman.
I would suggest if buying new you ask them for a repair course before you buy. You can also work for someone with a vending route who will teach you to do basic repairs on machines and you will learn if the business is for you. This business is expandable because you can hire and train staff as you grow you could expand into a business that has several employees but you will always be doing sales because placement at most locations is always changing. Airports, bus stations and public places like that are gold mines as is the local mall.
There is in fact there is so much money in this industry that many businesses end up buying their own machines after they see the profits. I worked at a concrete factory 25 employees and we had an old pop machine there. I’m tired and busting my ass at work and I noticed the vending guy was just leaving so I asked how much does that one machine bring in. $300 – $400 every week! I worked at a feedlot with 40 employees we had a junk food machine (bars&chips) and we had a pop machine. One day I asked how much the 2 machines brought in… Over $70,000 a year but my boss said, it was a real pain in the ass to go buy the stuff and load the machines. I said sell me the machines cheap and I’ll take care of the rest for you! They were old machines but strangely, he wouldn’t accept that offer?
The short answer is yes there is money in vending. Long answer is getting placement. filling the machines and repairs are the draw backs. If you have a location and enough staff or visitors you will make money, especially if you can land a contract to provide machines for the local hospital and places like that. Are you a gun-ho salesman with a few dollars to invest?
The Laundry Mat:
Yup, another hidden gold mine! Many add on services can be added to this business such as the wash/dry/fluff/fold model, the dry cleaning service and many others in fact there is no reason you couldn’t have a laundry mat next to a arcade and a shared booth where you can work and pass out change effectively running 2 retail business with 1 employee! You could do this buy not offering the wash/dry/fluff/fold model or instead of a full wall between the 2 ventures you could have a half wall and effectively run it all as one! Laundry mats usually located in poorer areas are as big a gold mine as you can get!
The laundry/arcade model would work even today if located within a block of a high school! You would have the people board doing laundry playing games and because you had people there the students would also come. It’s a win/win business model.
Working at the CAR WASH!
Carwashes are a huge money maker. You have the spray it yourself model (vending) The drive in sprayer, timed model with a cash booth and the full service where your staff does it all even offering engine shampooing and hand waxing or buffing services. It goes without saying my favorite is the vending model but they are all money makers. the full service can be kick started by offering a discount for taxis, police cars and commercial vehicles, this will build business quickly and you can also do joint ventures with schools / local clubs to raise funds… Have a 1 day bikini wash and advertise 50% goes to whoever is putting the event on and in exchange they (the school/club) provides FREE labor so your staff can enjoy the day off.
Who gets your $3.00 at the ATM for using the service? Pardon the pun, but you have to admit it’s a little punny you can get into this business rather cheaply. Again there is no product to buy, you are providing a service. There are still today many places that they can be placed. I looked at this when they first came out and thought fantastic idea but it won’t take off, 30 years later I’m the dummy! I’ve lost more money in life procrastinating then I could ever earn in 2 or 3 lifetimes because my time is running out. It’s not too late for some of you!
I recently heard that the banks want the private industry to totally take over this market. that would save them paying armed guards to fill the machines, pay repairs and replacement costs. Over all it would save them money and could make you money! I’d keep an eye on this especially if things do go that way.
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