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By: Charles Glaser, RSVA President
(Vendorscope Spring 2010)

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It has been well advertised that RSA is sponsoring a national training conference June 9th through June 12th in Washington, D.C.  This conference will focus heavily on the transformation of Randolph-Sheppard.  As the business models of government and private industry change, we must be prepared to fit in.  Some of our most lucrative, under one-roof facilities, such as the Post Offices, are downsizing.  State Departments of Transportation are eyeing rest areas as opportunities to generate revenue.  Minimum wages are increasing making it more difficult for cafeterias to be profitable, and, of course, troop-dining contracts will continue to face obstacles.  When you add shrinking BEP budgets to that, build outs of new facilities may be limited. 

Years ago, many state programs had snack bars in manufacturing plants that have now moved overseas.  During that transition, many states’ programs moved more towards vending as opposed to manned facilities.  Also during that transition, some states focused on government properties to sustain program growth, which is becoming more difficult as illustrated above. With the challenges we face on government property, it is time to revisit opportunities in private industry.

Private industry also has its challenges.  Most notably, we will pay commissions, which will not be a bad thing because we will have the increased revenue.  Also the state agencies will need to make an effort to secure contracts with local companies, which means competing with private vending companies. 

RSVA has taken a national approach to growth and sustainability of the Randolph-Sheppard Program by partnering with National Vending.  National Vending is a vending management company, which means they negotiate contracts with national companies such as General Motors, Ford, Sam’s Club and Dick’s Sporting Goods to provide vending service.  National Vending does not provide the service themselves.  They do not have a sister vending company like other management companies.  They contract with local vending companies to provide the service.  The Randolph-Sheppard program is a national food service provider with state agencies in all but one state, which makes for a good fit.  National Vending has agreed to give state SLA’s a “Priority” on their national accounts.  This opens the door to new under one-roof facilities and building profitable vending routes not only in major cities but also in rural communities that previously did not have enough business to support a blind vendor. 

Many states also need help in generating “Unassigned Machine Income”.  As a part of our partnership, National Vending will identify and survey federal and, where applicable, state facilities and report to SLA’s for them to decide if the facility will be assigned to a blind vendor, or the SLA wishes National Vending to find a vending company to service the facility and pay a commission to the SLA.  SLA’s will also be able to accept or reject recommended vending companies.   

Another benefit of partnering with a national vending management company is combined buying power.  RSVA Is constantly attempting to find preferred pricing and rebate programs for blind vendors.  Our biggest obstacle has been tracking our purchases.  I need each state to send to me their Vendors contact information including Vendor’s name, location address and telephone number so manufactures can document our purchasing volume.  We expect that adding our purchases to the thousands of locations managed by National Vending will give us the best programs available.

This partnership will launch Randolph-Sheppard Programs into a new and larger arena.  Hopefully, capitalizing on opportunities in private industry along with maximizing our potential in government facility revenue and reducing costs of products to vendors will give us the growth that is needed to revitalize our program.

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