Vending Machine Operative

The Job and What's Involved

Vending machine operatives fill, clean and maintain machines that carry goods or offer services. Almost any product can be sold by vending, now often known as automatic retailing. The main food and drink products sold from machines are:

- Hot drinks
- Cold drinks in bottles, cans or cartons
- Confectionery and savoury snacks
- Sandwiches
- Cook/chill dishes (for heating in an adjacent microwave)
- Ice cream

Vending machines range from those that offer a single, ready-packaged product, such as cans of drink, to those that grind, brew and dispense hot drinks. Some digital vending machines also offer games, ring tones, top-ups, logos and pictures for mobile phones. Others offer services such as hair drying and passport-size photos.

Depending on what the machines sell, they may be located in shops, shopping centres, sports centres, pubs, motorway service areas, airports, stations, schools and colleges, as well as in offices.

Operatives may also be known as merchandisers. Their duties are likely to include:

  • Refilling machines.
  • Collecting money that has been deposited.
  • Cleaning vending machines.
  • Making sure all machines are in good working order.
  • Fixing minor faults.
  • Reporting faults to the office to be logged for the service engineers.

Vending machine operatives could be responsible for maintaining a network of up to 45 machines across a designated area locally, regionally or nationally. They visit sites on a regular basis to keep the machines supplied. The frequency of visits to a particular site will depend on the usage of that machine. Busy sites will need to be restocked and emptied of money several times a week and in some cases more than once a day.

Operatives may have a set route for the day or plan their own route, visiting between 10 and 20 sites in their designated area. They may start the day by picking up vending supplies at the depot, but are likely to spend most of each day driving or visiting machine sites.

They may also be responsible for stock rotation and stock control, which may include using hand-held electronic devices.

They may work alone or with a driver's mate to help load and unload deliveries.

The vending machine operative will be representing his or her company and may be the only person from the company who customers see on a regular basis, so will need to be prepared to offer high standards of customer service. Operatives need to be very aware of hygiene, particularly when working with machines that dispense food and drinks.

The working hours are likely to be around 37 to 40 a week and may include early starts, evenings and weekends. Some operatives may be on call to deal with broken machines. There may be overtime available and part-time work may be possible.

Most of the time is spent on customers' premises or traveling between sites. A driving licence is usually required.

The work is likely to involve getting in and out of a vehicle and some lifting of loads using lifting aids. The employer would usually supply a van and may also supply a uniform.

The starting salary for a vending machine operative may be around £12,000 a year. With some experience, an operative may earn around £14,500. An experienced operative, responsible for multiple sites, may earn £16,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The Automatic Vending Association (AVA) estimates that over £3 billion a year is spent on food and drink vending in over 500,000 vending machines. There are at least 500 companies of all sizes, the largest of which employ around 800 operatives.

Jobs are advertised in local papers and through Jobcentre Plus, as well as on company websites. The AVA publishes an annual Members' Directory listing food and drink vending companies.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements to become a vending machine operative. Some employers may ask for some GCSE's (A*-C). Maths, English or science may be useful. Knowledge of basic mechanical and electrical engineering would also be helpful.

Applicants need a reasonable level of physical fitness to carry out this work. A current, clean driving licence is usually required for traveling between clients and sites.

It may be possible to enter through an Apprenticeship in customer service.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

The Diploma in retail business may be relevant for this area of work.

Those responsible for machines located in schools are likely to need to undergo checks through theCriminal Records Bureau (CRB).

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is usually on the job. As well as becoming familiar with the products, the training is likely to cover such areas as:

- An introduction to vending machinery.
- Health and safety
- Hygiene
- Stock control
- Record keeping
- Merchandising
- Customer care
- Use of communication equipment
- Security

There may be opportunities to work towards NVQ's, including:

  • Customer service at Levels 1, 2 or 3.
  • EDI or City & Guilds (C&G) Level 1 in hospitality (food and drink service or multiskilled), which includes a unit on maintaining a vending machine.
  • C&G Level 3 in drinks dispense systems.

The Automatic Vending Association (AVA) offers a range of courses covering subjects such as:

  • Machine cleaning.
  • Water and hygiene.
  • Drink quality and ingredients.
  • Supervision for those who have responsibility for other operatives.

The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) offers a range of professional awards to employees of member organisations. Operatives with suitable qualifications can apply for individual membership of the ICS.

Those who want to progress to management positions may undertake further study, such as NVQ Level 4 in customer service.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Vending machine operatives need to:

  • Be able to work on their own initiative.
  • Have a responsible attitude to work.
  • Be reliable and trustworthy.
  • Be able to maintain accurate records.
  • Be able to handle cash.
  • Be aware of security issues and health and safety.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, operators could progress to supervisor or manager posts. With technical training, operators could become machine service engineers.

There may be opportunities to become self-employed or to buy a franchise to operate machines.

Get Further Information

Automatic Vending Association (AVA),
1 Villiers Court, Upper Mulgrave Road,
Cheam, Surrey SM2 7AJ
Tel: 020 8661 1112

Institute of Customer Service (ICS),
2 Castle Court, St Peter's Street,
Colchester, Essex CO1 1EW
Tel: 01206 571716

Institute of Hospitality,
Trinity Court, 34 West Street,
Sutton, Surrey SM1 1SH
Tel: 020 8661 4900

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