Vending machines go high tech at Briggs & Stratton

Thursday, February 13, 2003

By Lonnie Thiele

Special to Business Today

POPLAR BLUFF -- The vending machines in the Briggs & Stratton break room have a new look -- a real new look. In fact, it is so new that only one other facility in Southeast Missouri has the same equipment.

During the first week of January, Burch Food Services of Sikeston installed new vending machines under its Market Central decor package.

"We wanted to try to improve the dining experience of employees by creating a better atmosphere," said Bill Farley, sales manager.

Through a poll, Briggs & Stratton employees selected the "Expressions" color concept theme for the front of the new vending machines. Expressions reflects a variety of sports scenes in bright colors.

"It's going over really well. We're getting real nice comments from Briggs & Stratton managers," Farley said.

Briggs & Stratton employs 1,100 workers and has one of the largest vending locations in Southeast Missouri. The break room has 14 food and drink vending machines.

A ribbon cutting for the new machines was held in late January. Free popcorn, sodas and coffee were offered to employees during the day, and a grand prize drawing for a year's worth of a Coca-Cola product was held.

Tim Merideth, Burch vice president, said Burch became a Canteen franchise in September 2000 and that Market Central is a Canteen concept. Canteen is the world's largest vending company.

Burch installed Market Central at a location in Cape Girardeau in February 2001 and has several in Tennessee. The Briggs & Stratton installation is the second one in Southeast Missouri.

"We've seen sales increase in each location we've installed the Market Central machines," Merideth said. "They offer more variety of products and more selections."

The food vending machines have Golden Eye, which produces an infrared beam that trips when items drop to the delivery tray. If a product doesn't drop after money is put in, the machine retries up to three times and if the beam hasn't tripped, money is returned.

"This ensures customers don't get gypped," Farley said.

Sandwiches for the machines are prepared daily at Burch's culinary center in Sikeston. "We put them in machines within 24 hours. It's as fresh as you will find," Farley said.

The new machines crank out the new dollar coins.

"That's what the industry is going to," Farley said. "Dollar coins have helped vendors."

Lonnie Thiele is a staff writer at the Daily American Republic in Poplar Bluff

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