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How Much Does It Cost to Put a Vending Machine in a Mall?

Unveil the expenses and factors to consider when putting up a vending machine in malls in 2023.


Vending machine businesses can bring in a lot of revenue in a mall setting. The exposure to potential customers and the security of the building are great benefits for the vending machine owner. Whether you’re interested in adding a single vending machine or multiple machines to a mall, this comprehensive guide will provide you with all of the knowledge and tools you need to get off on the right start. We’ll discuss the necessary steps and provide an answer to the question “How much does it cost to put a vending machine in a mall?”

How to Put a Vending Machine in a Mall

There are a number of steps to consider when starting up a vending machines business in a mall. You’ll have to think about where to place your machines, what type of vending machines you want, the costs associated with them, and more. Malls are a great location to break into the vending industry; here are the steps to follow to help you be successful.

1. Do Your Research. You’ll need to understand the rules and regulations of the mall you’re targeting in order to make sure that your vending machine complies with the specifications. Depending on your area, the mall will have a set of guidelines in place for vending machine rental space, and you’ll also have to comply with local laws.

2. Decide on Your Vending Machines. After understanding the guidelines for vending machines in the mall you’re looking at, the next step is to decide what your vending machine business will look like. You’ll have to consider the type of machine you want, how many machines you will install, what products you’ll stock, and all of the factors that relate to your startup costs.

3. Contact the Mall. Getting in touch with the management staff at the mall is an integral component of getting your vending business up and running. You’ll need to find out if there is space available for your machine(s), what the rental fee is for the space and what the terms are, and any other details relevant to the installation and management of the machines.

4. Estimate Costs. There are a number of costs to be prepared for when you start a vending machine business, and they may not all be immediately recognizable. In addition to the obvious cost of purchasing vending machines, you’ll also have to budget for vending machine servicing and maintenance, restocking, location rental fees, and more.

Acquire Insurance. While insurance for your vending machines might not be the first or even second thing that crosses your mind when you begin planning your venture, it is a necessity for several reasons. There are many types of insurance coverage that you can secure, and depending on your location, some may even be mandatory.

6. Install the Vending Machine. Now that you’ve planned out your business and protected your investment with insurance coverage, it’s time to install your machine(s) and start earning a profit. You’ll need to follow the installation regulations and safety protocols during this step, and if you aren’t sure what those are, the property manager will be able to fill you in.

7. Set Prices and Stock the Machine. In order to actually make money off of your vending machine business, you need to charge more for your products than it costs to buy them. The trick is to find the right balance between accessibility to customers and profitability for you. After all, your stock won’t sell if it’s overpriced, but you also need to make enough off of your vending machine sales to keep the business operational and generate income.

8. Advertise Your Vending Machine Business.
Vending machines can’t make money unless people know about them. Although a mall setting is great for generating customers organically, it won’t hurt to promote your new vending machine business on social media platforms and take advantage of word-of-mouth advertising as much as you can. With the convenience and accessibility of a mall location, your target market can be just about anybody.

Preliminary Requirements to Put a Vending Machine in a Mall

Before you’re ready to place vending machines in a mall, there are some preliminary requirements that you’ll have to meet to make sure you get off to a successful (and legal) start.

Acquire the Required Permits and Licenses from Local Government Agencies

Whether you are leasing vending machines for a business or buying them outright, you’ll still need to acquire permits and licenses to ensure the legalities of a vending business are covered.

In some areas, but not all, a business license will be a requirement before you get your vending machine business up and running. The local authority will be able to tell you what licensing you need for putting your machines in a mall and will also supply you with any necessary permits.

The mall management team may also have their own legal requirements for you to fulfill before renting one of their vending locations. They will more than likely have you sign an agreement that outlines all of their specific rules and regulations for the use of the space.

This contract will usually detail the types of products you can sell, the operating hours you can be open, and more. It is also possible that they’ll need proof of insurance before allowing you to install your machine on their property. The rental/lease terms will be explained, as well as any commission rates that must be provided.

Choose an Appropriate Location for Your Vending Machine

The vending machine market/industry is a competitive one, and the machine location can make or break the vending business. Choosing an appropriate location for a machine is essential. While most locations in malls will be associated with the same benefits, there are still a number of factors to consider and possible locations to consider.

We’ll explore this topic in detail a bit later on, but the main highlights are to consider the size of the vending machine (mini vending machines will require less space than full-sized bulk machines), the amount of foot traffic in the area, the power requirements of the machine, and the nearby amenities/attractions in the mall that may affect vending sales.

Ensure the Machine Meets Safety Guidelines Laid Out by Local and State Governments

As with any business type, there will be safety guidelines outlined for vending machine business in malls by both local and state governments. There will be requirements to meet for both the placement of the machine and the machine status itself.

Placement of the Machine

Vending machines will need to be placed in well-lit areas, away from hazards such as leaking pipes, and on a smooth, even surface that can be easily washed on a regular basis. The vending machine should not rest too close to other objects, and there should be enough space to thoroughly clean around the entirety of the machine. It is also important to make sure that there is no risk of rodent or pest populations nesting under or near the machine: this would be a public health risk.
The specific guidelines for your particular area may differ from those presented above, so you must speak to an expert to ensure you comply with all of the standards.

Machine Quality

Since the majority of vending machines are serving food items and beverages to the public, it is essential that the machine is clean and capable of keeping snacks and drinks safe for consumption. The particular guidelines will vary depending on the location, but some of the main points will likely include:

• The machine must be clean at all times, and the exterior materials must facilitate this
• Insects and rodents should not be able to enter the machine easily
• Connection lines (water line, electrical power) must be protected against service interruptions
• Surfaces that touch the food/drink items should be smooth, resistant to corrosion, and non-toxic

Obtain Additional Insurance Coverage if Necessary

There are several types of insurance coverage that vending machine operators should consider when they are starting up their new vending machine business. Most mall placements will require at least some basic insurance coverage for the machine, but you may be asked to obtain additional insurance or decide to do so for your own peace of mind. The average vending machine owner may only need one or two types of insurance for well-rounded coverage.

Commercial Auto Insurance

One of the first types of insurance a vending machine owner should look at acquiring is commercial auto insurance for company vehicles. These vehicles may be used for delivering supplies to each vending location, transporting the machine for repairs, or moving the machine to a new location. This auto insurance will cover liability costs, damage to the vehicle, and any medical bills the driver may need to pay in the case of an accident.

Inland Marine Insurance

Inland marine insurance is essentially coverage for all transport that happens on land. Unlike auto insurance which only covers damage to the vehicle or driver, inland marine insurance covers the actual goods that are being transported (the vending machine itself and all of its stock). The hazards during vending machine transport include damage to the machine, theft of the machine or its supplies, and the spoiling of food due to an accident.

General Liability Insurance

General liability insurance is the main priority for most vending machine business owners. This type of insurance covers any lawsuits or other claims that result from the products of the vending machine. Some examples in this category include poor temperature regulation, expired food, pest infestations, or improper maintenance of fresh food/drink machines. This is the main form of risk for vending owners and therefore the most common (and needed!) type of insurance in the vending industry.

Commercial Crime Insurance

Many vending owners operate vending machines as a solo party without any employees, and in that case, crime insurance would help recover losses from outside theft and vandalism only. However, larger vending machine businesses that do employ other staff members would also enjoy protection against employee theft and dishonesty; since all employees have access to the funds and stock items in a vending machine, there is always the risk that they may choose to steal popular vending machine products for resale or personal enjoyment.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Workers’ compensation insurance is recommended for vending business owners that have hired employees to help manage the operations of their vending machines. Injuries such as falls, cuts, and concussions can result from the handling of vending machines and heavy bulk stock items. When employees require medical care, a leave, reimbursement for lost wages, or disability coverage, workers’ compensation insurance will protect the vending machine business owner against all associated liability and will help manage those costs.

Stay Informed of Updates/Modifications to Local Regulations for Vending Machines in Malls

Local laws and regulations can change at any time, and a vending owner may run into trouble if they aren’t aware of these changes or refuse to adjust their operations accordingly. Keeping up with policy changes and building relationships with other people in the industry will ensure you always know exactly what requirements your vending machine operation needs to be meeting.

How Much Does It Cost to Put a Vending Machine in a Mall?

Placing vending machines in malls is not as simple as buying a machine, installing it, and letting the profits grow. There are a number of costs associated with the beginnings of a vending venture, and they should all be carefully considered before you jump in.

Machine Cost

Vending machines can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars depending on the size and the products it is compatible with. Bulk vending machines will be the most affordable options (typically $100 to $500) while snack machines and drink machines will be the middle ground (roughly $1000 to $3000). They are also the most popular option and there are many vending machine brands to choose from in this category.

Machines that offer specialty vending items such as fresh food or toys will be the most expensive vending machines, especially if you buy them new (can be as high as $6000+). New vending machines will always cost more than refurbished vending machines, so you may want to look at a used model if you’re hoping to save money on the purchase price.

Snack vending machines and soda machines are a safe bet to start a basic vending machine business in a mall; people will be familiar with them, and you will be able to find used vending machines of these types pretty easily to cut down on costs. They may be sold directly by a vending machine company as brand-new models, but many vending companies specialize in refurbished models too.

For a streamlined vending process, you can choose to buy a combo machine that offers both snacks and drinks in the same machine; these usually cost between $3000 and $5000.

Coffee vending machines can get pretty expensive and aren’t as popular in malls, and unique vending machine options such as cannabis vending machines won’t be allowed at all.

If you do plan on buying multiple vending machines at once, you should not buy the same machine type; instead, choose two different styles (such as a snack machine and hot beverage vending machine or regular soda beverage machine) rather than two beverage options to help elevate your profits.

Location Rental Costs

There are a number of costs associated with the vending machine location that should be considered. Most spaces will require the machine to be insured, which will come with a monthly or annual fee, and you’ll also have to pay the rental fee for your vending machine business in the mall space. The rental price will fluctuate depending on the size of the mall, its popularity, and the prevalence of other amenities that can raise the value of the location.

Restocking Costs

One of the most frequent vending machine costs you’ll have is restocking. Depending on the popularity of your machines, you may have to restock fairly frequently, and the expense can add up pretty quickly. You’ll have to make sure that you are offering desirable products (especially if you’re selling fresh food in a specialty vending machine) and rotating stock so nothing goes to waste.

To help cut down on the costs of restocking your machines, it is a great idea to build a relationship with wholesale vending suppliers. You’ll get a discount for buying in bulk and you won’t have the extra hassle of dealing with a middleman.

One thing to keep in mind when you buy in bulk, though, is to make sure you keep an eye on the expiry dates. Some items may not move as quickly as you’d expect, and selling expired food is a sure way to tank your profits.

Miscellaneous Costs

Vending machines will require regular maintenance to stay in good shape, and they may occasionally require repairs as well, some of which may even need to be done off-property. Specialty beverage equipment, atypical slot sizes for uncommon products, and other unique attributes will raise the cost of maintenance and repairs when compared to other vending machines that are more standard.

Well maintained vending machines will be cheaper in the long run since you’ll avoid costly repairs down the line; the short-term expense is worthwhile! If you learn how to service your vending machines by yourself, you can save yourself some money on maintenance staff.

Budgeting for miscellaneous costs is important to ensure you can actually afford everything that comes along with your own business in the vending machine industry.

Miscellaneous costs may also include profit sharing if you’ve joined a vending machine franchise to help get your business going; they are entitled to a flat monthly payment or a percentage of the profits depending on your agreement (vending franchises will each have their own set of rules), and those losses should be considered when deciding on the scale of your business.

Where to Place a Vending Machine Inside a Mall

Vending machine placement is one of the most influential factors for profitability. There are some things you’ll have to consider before choosing a mall location, but luckily—unlike more limiting locations like small office buildings or a multi business office park—there are a number of placement options in a mall that ensure you can find your ideal setting.

Things to Consider

Just like every other aspect of a vending machine business in a mall, some considerations need to be made to choose the most ideal location for your vending type. Foot traffic is the most obvious factor, as you won’t get much business if no one knows about the machine. Nearby obstacles, power sources, and other vending machines are also factors that will influence where the best location is for your new venture.

Foot Traffic

Foot traffic, also known as the number of people walking past your vending machine on a regular basis, is the most important factor to consider when trying to choose the best location. In a mall, there will pretty much always be people everywhere, so your exposure that way will be great. However, certain areas of the mall will see more people than others, and you should also think about the demographics of different areas.

For example, people who are hungry/thirsty will gravitate towards the food court, so if you’re selling snacks or drinks, it is a good idea to set up shop close by. If you’re selling diapers or toys, you may want to set up near a washroom or kid-related stores to target the people that will be most interested in what you have on offer.


Malls are busy places in terms of people and things. When choosing a location for your vending machine, you’ll have to think about what objects may be in the way of your machine, and what your machine may block—the relationship goes both ways.

You won’t generate much profit if your vending machine is hidden behind things like large displays or tucked behind furniture. You’ll also need to make sure that your vending machine doesn’t block doors, store entrances, or signs that may frustrate other business owners and make life more difficult for mall employees and your customers.

Access to Power

Essentially every type of vending machine will require electricity to function. This is especially true for refrigerated or heated models that need a steady stream of power to regulate the interior temperature. Access to a power outlet is therefore a very important consideration to make before settling on a site inside a mall: extension cords can be a safety risk, so you’ll need to make sure there is an outlet available behind the machine with the power output you need for your vending type.

Locations of Other Vending Machines

It is quite likely that your mall of choice will already be home to some other vending machines. You may even be bringing in multiple machines yourself. In order to maximize your revenue, you’ll need to make sure that your machines aren’t faced with a ton of competition from other vending owners or your own machines.

Choosing vending sites that are spaced apart significantly will help provide a better selection of items to mall visitors and ensure each machine has the best chance of success. You should consider the type of nearby machines too: if you are selling beverages only in your machines but there are plenty of snack machines already there, it is likely that neither machine would suffer from being close to the other.

Possible Locations

Believe it or not, there is actually a wide range of possible vending machine locations within a mall, and the options expand in scope with larger malls. Below, we’ve outlined a few benefits of different location types for vending machines. You’ll have to consult the mall management staff in your area to see what possibilities are open to you.

Near the Food Court

Gathering places such as food courts are prime locations for most vending machines. People congregate there in order to satisfy a craving or curb their hunger, and drink and snack machines fit perfectly into that environment.

Although you will have some competition from the fresh food sources of the food court restaurants, your vending machine may also be a saving grace for someone that wants to skip the lines or is just looking for a quick snack rather than a meal. Food courts also offer the advantage of seating and garbage disposal that can improve your customer experience.

Along Central Hallways

Central hallways in malls, particularly 4-way junctions, boast the greatest foot traffic when it comes to sheer numbers. While not every passerby will be interested in your product (especially if you have a niche vending type), the exposure is invaluable.

At Entryways

Entryways are prime locations in malls for vending machines, and there are a lot of them to choose from in most malls. Every mall visitor will have the opportunity to walk past your vending machine twice, once on the way in and once on the way out.

Anyone who will be shopping for multiple hours or has a lot of errands to do will likely appreciate the convenient access to snacks and drinks, and they’ll have the opportunity to make a purchase at the start or end of their trip to the mall.

Vending machines are also highly visible at entryways since there isn’t much else around; this can help drum up traffic and will suit the people that avoid crowds.

Near Seating Areas

Most malls have various seating areas scattered throughout their hallways. These are jokingly referred to as husband seats by many, but they can be used by anyone who needs a break during their shopping. Since people have the opportunity to sit and enjoy their food or drink, it is a terrific location choice for a vending machine.

Seating areas also allow people to set their bags down and assist children with their items, so vending machines often do quite well in these areas. The one downside is that you won’t be able to target a certain audience, but the exposure and convenience usually generate enough profits on their own without that benefit.

Close to Anchor Stores

Anchor stores are the main stores that people go to shop at inside a mall. They will occupy the largest square footage and are almost always part of a chain. Since these anchor stores attract the highest number of people, it is one of the best locations in a mall for foot traffic.

Vending machines in these locations will once again not be able to target a specific audience, but the customer reach is fantastic, and you won’t have many other obstacles to work around.

Near Amenities such as Directories or Washrooms

Several common amenities can be found in every mall: washrooms, directories, and more. Directories can be found at mall entrances and a few large, transition areas such as escalators, and large intersecting hallways. Many mall newbies will flock to directories to find their way around, and it is the perfect excuse to grab a snack, drink, or other product from a vending machine.

Washrooms are frequented by many individuals as they go about their shopping, and they are therefore another prime location for a vending machine. Niche/specialty vending machines (like ones that offer diapers) will excel in washroom-adjacent locations, and since there will only be a handful of washrooms in a mall, you’ll be able to attract customers to your vending machine that otherwise would not have been in the area.

Final Thoughts

Whether you have an existing vending business and want to branch out or you are just starting as a business owner in the vending machine industry, malls are fantastic locations that enable you to reach a broad customer base and make your vending machines profitable. Starting a vending machine business is an exciting time, and by now, you should be armed with all of the information you need to find success in a mall setting.

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