N INTERVIEW WITH LARRY TOWNER
In this episode of the Vending Business Show, we interview Larry Towner, a successful vending operator, and vending business consultant. He shares valuable tips about school vending and healthy vending, .
Tom Shivers: Hi. I’m Tom with the Vending Business Show and I’m here with Larry Towner, who is a vending business consultant, been in the vending business for a number of years and sold his business in 2012. Thanks for being here, Larry.
Larry Towner: How are you, Tom?
Tom Shivers: Good, good. Today, we’re talking about healthy vending. Earlier this year, Fresh Healthy Vending, which is a brand of vending company, had an IPO. It makes you wonder, wow, is healthy vending really hot now and if so, what does that mean?
Larry Towner: Well, healthy vending is a hot subject right now. There’s a lot of talk in the media about snack food. New York City just had that size restriction on sugary drinks and things like that. So the topic itself is very hot. The IPO that you’re seeing that came out is certainly an interesting development in the vending business. There are a number of public vending companies that are out there in the world and they are actually quite large corporations. The interest is that this particular company specializes in healthy vending alone. That’s what I find so intriguing. What’s your take on it, Tom?
Tom Shivers: Yeah. I think it is a … You hear about healthy snacks and healthy from the USDA and all these things coming down from the USDA lately affecting schools and things like that. I think that’s kind of … Vending in schools is almost game over really. You do it the government’s way or you don’t do it at all. I’m not sure what the solution is for school vending, but healthy vending I think is interesting and it can work in some places. I don’t know if it works everywhere though.
Larry Towner : Well, that’s always been kind of my position. In our companies, we always had a section of our machines that we dedicated to, I’m going to say healthier type snacks. I mean I’m kind of loving right now, I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, but I have watched, and I have seen that Nature Valley granola bars is showing off how healthy their products are and things like that and how it’s nature and this and that. I kind of laugh because if you actually look at the packaging, it’s pretty much about the same as eating a Snickers candy bar from a total calorie intake and fat content and things like that. It just has products that are actually a little bit better.
In our machines, we always had a section of our machines that were dedicated to healthier type snacks. When I have approached the healthy vending side, one of the things about the so called companies that specialize in healthy vending is that once you’re into that particular subset of the market, you’re not going to be able to do anything without compromising the integrity of what your … because their whole machine is fronted with this healthy vending concept and all of that. So you go and put it what would be a traditional bag of potato chips or a traditional candy bar and people are going to kind of look at you like you’re a little bit strange.
We always kind of went in the reverse way. We promoted sections of the machines as being healthy or if somebody wanted a whole healthy machine, we just put in a regular vending machine with all healthy items in the machine. It’s easy enough to do because you’re just changing product selections out. You’re not actually changing out the fronts of machines.
Fortunately, we all work with A&M Equipment and if you do want your machines fronted with healthy vending selections, Joe at A&M Equipment Sales will front your machines however you like them. So you don’t need to get tied up into a big franchise agreement or into anything like that. You can go out and compete with the so called healthy vending companies and present machines that offer up healthy selections at a fraction of the cost. That’s really the only difference I see is that vending is vending is vending. If someone puts money or slides a credit card in and a machine pushes the product out, at the end of the day, that’s what vending is.
Tom Shivers: Very well said. Yeah. Tell us a little bit more about your business and what you do.
Larry Towner: Well, my business, I’m in the consulting business. Like I said, we were in the vending business since the mid-80s and it makes me feel old. Been in the vending business since the mid-80s. We sold off our vending operation in 2012. We took up the marketing side. We help companies solve their vending problems, particularly smaller operators that need help in sales and marketing and operations and things like that. We help to make people more efficient so that they can make more money, help them with their maintenance issues. Across the board, we’ve done it all. We are available at ServiceGroupInternational.com and send us an email and we’ll get back with you.
Tom Shivers: You’ve been watching the Vending Business Show, a publication of A&M Equipment Sales.