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Snack Attack?

Vending machines in your office may help.

If your employees are spending too much time on snack runs or bickering because someone isn't paying their share of the snack pool, office vending machines could boost productivity and morale. But you have a variety of options, so research and shop around before making a final decision.

A vending service is the easiest route to take because it does everything--sets up, stocks and services the machines--for you. Most services require you to have at least 20 employees so they can be assured of a profit. If you fit that profile, get several competitive bids and insist on a comprehensive contract, advises Brian B. Allen of the National Automatic Merchandising Association.

You could also lease the machines and stock them yourself. This lets you control what's sold and how it's priced. Some vending companies insist that you purchase a certain amount of products from them. As with a service, get bids and be sure you're clear on your rights and responsibilities.

Another option is to buy the machines outright, which gives you total control. But that also means you or someone on your staff has to do all the stocking and maintenance. Vending machine prices start at a few hundred dollars for a minimachine and go up to several thousand dollars for a feature-rich machine. Allen also suggests checking out warehouse clubs because many sell economical models that are suitable for small offices. Check your local Yellow Pages for a variety of vending services.

Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 12 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.

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This article was originally published in the January 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Snack Attack?.

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