A Texas Vending Powerhouse

Founded in 1979, Rome Refreshment Services has a strong pedigree—and an even greater commitment—for satisfying the needs of customers that rely on the company for its comprehensive services that include coffee and water, snack products, traditional vending, and next generation micro market solutions. The company’s founder, Dominic Macerola, built his Houston-based company on his experiences growing up in Rome, where he learned the art of hospitality and food service while working in his uncle’s coffee shop.

Today, Rome Refreshments has evolved into one of the largest vending, coffee and water services providers in Houston, and boasts a customer base that covers all areas of the metropolitan area, scaling from micro market locations in major enterprises, down to small businesses that may have a single vending machine. The company has not strayed from its roots; in fact, Dominic and his children oversee the day-to-day operations to ensure that the ideals and objectives that Dominic set when he opened Rome Refreshments are regularly exceeded.

“We work in a commoditized, highly competitive environment where good products and responsive customer service set us apart from other providers,” said Gianpaolo Macerola, vice president of Rome Refreshments. “Our customers rely on us to make sure our machines are stocked, in good working order, and deliver the experiences that consumers expect. This is our livelihood. Our customers won’t settle for anything less, and neither can we.”

Serving such a broad scope of customers, in a market as geographically complex as Houston, is not without its challenges. With approximately 500 machines in its footprint, Rome regularly operates five routes that encompass an area that stretches from near Galveston in the South Bay, all the way up to the Woodlands north of Houston.

Urban Sprawl and its Convoluted Routing System

Like many vending operators, Rome Refreshments found that with success comes challenges. For instance, the sheer urban sprawl of Houston makes travel time between locations and the company’s offices consuming and expensive. Rome has to carefully schedule drivers and evaluate costs when servicing routes. If not done carefully, ineffective route management can cost the company significant sums of money and jeopardize accounts, a situation that Rome Refreshments was desperately looking to avoid.

“We have customers that can be seventy miles apart, so it is imperative that we carefully schedule service calls to ensure that we cover can as much ground as efficiently as possible,” said Macerola. “It’s essential that our customers are properly served, but we also have to pay close attention to the bottom line by maximizing our personnel and resources. Since we can’t physically be in all places at once, we recognized that we needed to bring a route management solution in-house that would give us continuous visibility into the machines we operate, and make sure our drivers and back office staff are working as efficiently as possible. It was a necessary component for maintaining operational control of the business.”

Macerola set out to identify a suitable telemetry solution, and evaluated a number of offerings that were already deployed in the market. In each instance, he found that the technology seemed too complicated, and that the level of support did not give him a great deal of confidence.

“One of our primary motivations was finding a tool that did not require a great deal of time to set up or learn,” he said. “Instead, we found the opposite. Most of the applications we looked at were very complex, and much too cumbersome for our staff to use. It seemed like they were designed by engineers who really did not understand our business. They were much more complicated than they needed to be.”

In addition, Macerola found that the customer support offered by these providers left a lot to be desired.

“The attitude of most telemetry providers that we spoke with seemed to be, ‘here’s the software, you should be able to figure it out on your own.’ For engineers and developers, that approach may seem normal. For our business, where we don’t necessarily have experience using this type of technology, the support we get isn’t only valuable, it’s an absolute necessity. We need guidance and support, but we had little confidence that these more established companies would be there when we needed them.”

Make Complex Routing Simple with Parlevel Telemetry

Fortunately, Rome Refreshments had an entirely different perspective on telemetry after they met with the team from Parlevel Systems. Based in San Antonio, Parlevel is highly regarded for its full-featured vending management solution that serves operators around the nation. Using a cloud-based infrastructure, Parlevel’s solution requires no onsite servers or software downloads, eliminating a major barrier for operators who want to use technology to run their business operations as effectively and affordably as possible.

“We find that our browser-based technology is very appealing to operators,” explained Alan Munson, co-founder and chief commercial officer for Parlevel. “They don’t need to buy expensive servers, license any software, or go through extensive training. This immediately results in significant cost savings for the operator. What’s more, all our features and tools are designed with the operator in mind, so customers can immediately feel comfortable using the system.”

After comparing the various solutions, Rome Refreshments opted to deploy Parlevel’s telemetry system, and it’s already seeing many impressive results.

From an efficiency standpoint, Rome appreciates the flexibility of the cloud system. Managers can assess stocking needs, review machine alerts, and issue warehouse orders to pre-kit the next day’s routes from anywhere they choose—including their office computers, as well as tablets when they’re on the road. In addition, Rome’s administrative staff found that Parlevel’s data entry interfaces were intuitive and efficient, enabling the staff to input sales, inventory and other data in a matter of seconds.

By leveraging the data provided by the telemetry technology, Rome has been able to consolidate several of its routes, reduce its transportation costs, inventory, insurance rates and other overhead. Personnel can be reassigned as required, eliminating the expense of sending drivers to locations where inventory or service was not needed. Instead, Rome can now focus its attention on locations that need service, removing a big headache—and expense—for the company.

While all the efficiency gains are certainly welcomed by Rome, the overwhelming value of the solution is the return on investment.

Through Parlevel’s telemetry offering, Rome is experiencing a substantial 25 percent reduction in operating expenses, representing a tremendous impact on the bottom line.

“Choosing Parlevel’s telemetry solution was one of the best business decisions we ever made,” concludes Macerola. “It is affordable, easy-to-use and very flexible. On top of that, the support we get from Parlevel is outstanding. It’s a company that clearly understands the way our industry operates. Frankly, the whole experience far surpassed our expectations.”