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The Perfect Test Site

The Perfect Test Site

Kathy Sanders

Although it wasn't intentionally designed as a testing spot for new vending products and machines, a Wachovia Corp. site in Charlotte turned out to be the ideal laboratory for just that.

Located five miles from company headquarters, this distribution utility center at one time employed 150 people onsite, but has gradually grown to about 300, many of whom are temporary workers."There aren't enough people to warrant a full café," explains Vice President, Corporate Services Kathy Sanders, "but because the center is located in an industrial park area with no offsite foodservices nearby—and slim pickings if you were to get in your car and try to drive somewhere close—we knew we needed heavy vending there.The number one priority was servicing the people located there. It just happened that it worked out to be a great site for test marketing all kinds of new machines."

Employees at the site know they're being used as culinary guinea pigs and welcome that, Sanders notes, especially since the company usually offers "free vend" days when trying out new products."They're very willing and eager to give us comments and input."

She has seen both successes and failures pass through the site, which proves invaluable for saving the time and expense of installing machines in company offices elsewhere, only to have them bomb.

A series of machines shepherded through the center over the last few years includes those providing upscale coffee service with capacity for making mochas, lattes, hot chocolate and more, which proved to be a real keeper, tripling coffee sales and requiring purchase of a second unit at the site as well as additional machines for different locales. Other tested machines have dispensed french fries; frozen food items that must be microwaved; hot branded food; ice cream; and healthful items. Customers there also tried out beverages in glass-fronted machines with arm extenders for retrieving their choices; and a combination machine that offered cold food, canned drinks and health and beauty aids all together (not a keeper, Sanders says).

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