Meat on-demand

by Steve Krut
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RJ's Meats has had great success selling product from its meat vending machine in front of its retail store, especially over holiday weekends.
 

International interest

Anthony Baechle, of Stuewer GmbH, exhibited his Regiomat meat vending machine for the first time at the American Association of Meat Processors Convention held in late July in Lexington, Kentucky.

The almost standing-room-only booth display generated a great deal of interest. It was packed with meat products from RJ’s Meats. Outside of exhibit hours, Baechle said the meat dispensing systems are popular in his native Germany where they are used to sell everything from fresh eggs to meats. Fresh eggs are the No. 1 seller from machines placed in Germany.

“Many German and European butchers have several of these machines,” he explains. “Some have them near their retail shops. But many place them with their products at locations like schools or universities, outside of liquor stores, in kiosks, marinas, campgrounds and other places where hikers or other people on the move can get those meats.”

Baechle says the vending machines can be custom painted or use graphics to identify the shop and the products themselves. He adds that most meat products are not frozen, but kept at temperatures above freezing. The machines can be purchased outright or leased and can take both cash and credit cards. They are not affected by outside temperatures, but he warns that frontal glass, if exposed to direct sunlight, could interfere with proper storage temperature or shelf life.

The Regiomat features variable shelves that can be adjusted to fit products of variable sizes. He was so impressed with the response in Kentucky that his company is looking for a US-based distributor and service company.

Reams agrees and says he intends to put a roof over his machine to help maintain optimum internal temperature for his products.

Reams says his average sale is $6.77 and that about 75 percent of his sales are made by customers using credit cards.

He is pleased with the variability of the compartment sizes and notes that he can put 18 units of items like snack sticks per row. He features nine flavors of snack sticks. He also merchandizes items like several varieties of brats and bacon in 12-oz. packages, cheese curds and summer sausages. He and his son Joe are looking into the idea of putting together cooked pot roasts with vegetables and gravy and similar items that could transform the machine from a snack vending unit to one that dispenses fully prepared meals.

Reams says the machines cost in the range of $25,000, depending on options, and that he is considering installing them at off-premises locations.

“With the reasonable payback time for a machine we purchased, this could be like opening other stores for our products without all the property investment,” he contends. “I don’t believe that we have taken anything away from our store sales, but really added about a 10 percent increase in overall sales. It makes our product available to those driving by at a time convenient to them when our store is closed.”

Reams is also pleased with the security link and camera that connects to his cell phone. It enables him to monitor customer reaction to the machine and also alert him to the need to restock certain products.

“I try to rotate or replace any product that has been in the machine for more than a few days,” he continues. “Following that kind of schedule, I can rework the product through the retail counter but can rest assured that the quality coming out of the machine is always as good as that coming across our in-store service counter.”
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