When looking at unattended retail operations, it’s tough to find a more powerful duo than Tim Ray and Michael Ray of Healthy Generation Vending. “We’re a good team because we’re complete opposites,” said Tim Ray, CEO of Healthy Generation Vending.
Tim started Healthy Generation Vending in 2007 with two people and eight vending machines. Over the last fifteen years, a fanatical approach to customer service and a reliance on cutting-edge technology has transformed the business into a Houston powerhouse that operates hundreds of machines and dozens of micro markets in some of the city’s most desirable accounts.
Healthy Generation Vending got its start after Tim bought a pre-existing operation from his former employer. “I started working for an awesome business lady, and I ran some health food stores for her,” said Tim. “One day she popped up to work and said we’re going to sell low-carb, healthy products out of vending machines.”
While the early venture was successful, Tim was given the opportunity to buy the vending business and run it himself. “She gave me an opportunity I couldn’t pass up…next thing you know we turned it into having a business,” said Tim.
After purchasing his business, Tim realized he needed some help running the operation. His brother, Michael, just finished his deployment overseas in the military, and Tim began asking him to help run the business. “Finally after many attempts, I convinced (my brother) to come on board.”
Together, Tim (a self-described numbers geek) and Michael (a natural salesman) embarked on a journey that would turn the business into something special.
A Full-Service Approach
While Healthy Generation Vending started with purely healthy vending machines in mind, they’ve since evolved into a more diverse approach. “We’re a full service operator which means we have vending, markets, coffee…,” said Michael. This full service approach helps Healthy Generation Vending close large accounts, generate more revenue per location, and boost their customer service.
“With FedEx we went in solely to do vending…now we do vending, coffee, water, and micro markets,” said Michael. Since Healthy Generation Vending can offer all services an account might want, it makes it easier to close those big accounts. And the more services they provide, the more money they make – all while forming a close relationship with their customers.
This approach may reduce on the total number of locations Healthy Generation Vending services, but it doesn’t stop them from getting the most out of existing accounts. “We aren’t trying to have tons of customers…I would rather have less customers and do more with those customers,” said Michael. “We want to evolve and be the guy…if it’s a breakroom, if it’s a kitchen, and it’s for you, just come to us. We’ll figure a way.”
Leaning on Powerful Technology
When Tim started his business, he knew technology was necessary to help him run the business. Initially it was just him and two other drivers, so he needed help wherever he could find it. Tim researched Vending Management Systems (VMS), and he knew his business needed one to function optimally.
“We jumped on VMS right when it was new,” said Tim. “We were early adopters and it made sense. If we had these numbers, we could do good things with it.”
Unfortunately, the VMS he initially chose wasn’t the right one for his business. Since Healthy Generation Vending was a smaller operation, he wasn’t given the time or resources he needed to deploy the technology successfully. He began looking again and soon found Parlevel Systems.
“The thing that won me and had us was Hero Support,” said Michael. Michael is referring to Parlevel’s team of customer success and support specialists that help operators onboard, train, and troubleshoot the VMS technology. “As a team, (Parlevel) supports us,” said Michael.
Healthy Generation Vending started using Parlevel’s VMS to manage their operation. With the technology, they could remotely monitor machines and use that data to plan better routes, service machines faster, and quickly repair machines when they needed it. “That technology solves that problem,” said Michael. “The technology that Parlevel has developed…we’re using on a day to day basis to make our lives better and the customers lives better.”
A combination of running a full service operation and powerful technology helped Healthy Generation become the successful business they are today. So what are they looking for moving forward? Continuing to diversify their business lines and utilize new technology as it becomes available.
Shortly after using Parlevel’s VMS to manage their vending machines, Healthy Generation Vending started using other Parlevel tools to grow their business. They soon jumped into micro markets, coffee delivery, customer ordering platforms, and more – all powered by Parlevel technology.
Recently, they’ve had their eyes on hubz – a smart fridge that automatically detects a customer’s selection and charges them accordingly. “What will hubz do that the vending won’t do? I can’t put a sandwich in my combo machine…but hubz can,” said Michael. “Technology has made us stronger and better…in every facet of what we do.”
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