Want to know what it takes to grow your vending business? Look no further than Golden Age Vending in Houston, Texas. Founded in 1990, Golden Age Canteen grew from one machine in one account to a ten route business – becoming a Canteen franchise along the way. With a firm commitment to customer service, a family-owned mentality, and the right technology, Golden Age has become a premier vending company in Texas.

Golden Age Canteen – The Beginning

“Our company opened in 1990,” said Cristina Noel, General Manager of Golden Age. “It was opened by my dad…and he started with one account.” Soon after Cristina’s dad opened the business, his business partner passed away. He was left with a choice – dissolve the company or try to move forward. “He decided to keep Golden Age going,” said Cristina.

Almost immediately, Cristina worked with her dad to help him grow the company. “(We) built from one account to a company with ten routes,” said Cristina. After helping her dad build the company, Cristina left for college at the University of Houston. While there, Cristina’s dad passed away unexpectedly. She found herself in a similar situation as her dad all those years earlier.

“I was faced with almost the exact same decision,” said Cristina. “Do we want to keep this going?” After some thought, Cristina decided to go for it. “I stepped into his role and almost eight years later, here we are.”

Overcoming Challenges

Becoming the general manager of a vending business overnight came with some challenges. However, Cristina was able to lean on some valuable resources for help. “I am a Canteen franchise,” said Cristina. “Luckily, we have a great network of operators we can lean on. We’ve been able to come together and have a united body in service and sales.”

Even with the help from her network, Cristina quickly realized a problem: Golden Age’s technology was out of date. “Day one of me coming into the business, I realized that our technology needed an upgrade,” said Cristina. “We were still balancing our checkbooks with a pencil and eraser, and we were still running meters on an excel spreadsheet.” If Cristina wanted to continue growing Golden Age, she knew she needed to act fast.

When it came to choosing a technology partner, Cristina had a few essential boxes that needed to be checked. The technology needed to be effective, easy-to-use, and a true partnership. She wanted a provider that truly cared about her and her business. Soon, she heard about Parlevel Systems, and the partnership seemed like the perfect fit.

Making the Move to Parlevel

“The thing that drew me into Parlevel initially is that the interface was very user-friendly,” said Cristina. “It wasn’t this huge learning curve.” Cristina knew that when it comes to adopting technology, it needed to be easy. After all, she wasn’t the only one who was going to use it. Her route drivers, warehouse personnel, and money-room counters would rely on the system, too.

Enrique Venegas, route supervisor at Golden Age (and Cristina’s brother), uses Parlevel’s management system every day. Enrique had been with Golden Age a long time. He worked his way from pushing a broom in the warehouse, to working his own route, to finally supervising all routes. Enrique had used older technology before. If there was anyone who would immediately know if Parlevel would work for Golden Age, it would be Enrique.

“Technology is super important, especially coming from the old school way of doing things,” said Enrique. With Parlevel, Enrique saw improvements almost immediately. “It has helped us build route schedules way more efficiently, it has helped us service machines way more effectively, and it’s helped us control our inventory.”

In particular, the cloud-based system is what drew Enrique to Parlevel. Instead of spending money on expensive handhelds or waiting for his drivers to return before he could act on machine data, everything was updated in real time, and he could make decisions quickly. “With the cloud-based service, the driver services the machine, and I can immediately start making changes to a planogram to increase sales or reduce technology,” said Enrique. “This technology…has made my life much easier. Less headaches.”

With Parlevel as a technology partner, Cristina has been able to take control of her operation. She’s made improvements that put Golden Age on the fast track to success. “We are more efficient with our time,” said Cristina. “(Our drivers) are able to service more locations in a shorter amount of time.” 

Cristina has been running Golden Age for over eight years now. After being thrust into the general manager role of a vending company almost overnight, she’s hit some speed bumps along the way. But with support from her network of fellow operators and the right technology company, Golden Age has become one of the premier vending operations in all of Texas.

After finding success, Cristina wants to return the favor to other operators. Her advice? “You have to utilize technology. It’s not like it used to be,” said Cristina. “You’re not going to excel at the rate you’d like to if you’re not utilizing technology and if you’re not partnering with the right company.”

As for Enrique? “I would never go back.”

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