As the winter of 2010-11 finally (and blessedly) winds down, it might seem a bit early to be thinking about frozen desserts and “slushy” drinks. But summer is just a few short months away in the northern states and in full swing down south. It’s time to think about the equipment you’ll need to create those popular—and profitable—frozen drinks and desserts that customers crave during warmer weather.
Of course, alcoholic frozen beverages are favorites year ’round with the bar crowd. “They still represent about 30 percent of our house margarita sales,” says Lowell Petrie, chief marketing officer of Real Mex Restaurants, parent company of Chevys Fresh Mex. Jennifer Cooke, beverage director of Phillips Seafood Restaurants, says that frozen drinks remain “popular with our customer base. [They’re] tasty and the profit margins are great.” A few basic tips can help you find the frozen beverage or dessert machine that’s right for your operation.
Check your available space. While it’s always a good idea to check—and double-check—the space you have for a particular piece of equipment, it’s especially important with frozen drink or dessert machines, as they vary greatly in their footprint. Some manufacturers, such as Cornelius with its Viper line of drink machines, offer equivalent machines in “tall” and “short” versions to make the most of available space.
Estimate your volume. Based on your traffic and beverage sales during the summer months, make your best prediction for sales volume to ensure you get a machine that’s large enough. Perry Smith of Ted’s Bulletin in Washington, D.C., advises, “Really fine tune your estimated volume levels and then go one model higher. No one will ever complain about getting their frozen drink or dessert too quickly.”
When you buy
Get only the flavor options you really need. Particularly when it comes to beverages, it may be tempting to “go for the max.” But unless you’re ready to stock a variety of flavors and do the requisite cleanings of the barrels, a smaller model may be a more logical choice. For example, Electro Freeze’s DH-10 two-barrel frozen beverage machine allows you to swirl the two flavors together in the same drink for a dramatic presentation. For high-volume operations, Taylor’s new C-314 four-barrel model features an automatic power-saver mode, automatic defrost and ADA-compliant handles—important if you’re in a “serve-yourself” location.
Make sure you have all the features you require. When it comes to frozen desserts, mix-ins are a necessity these days for “have it your way” consumers. They offer you an opportunity to upcharge as well. If you’re offering stir-ins or additional flavors, check to see if the machine you’re looking at offers the ability to include a mixer as an accessory; otherwise, you might want to go with a stand-alone model. Sani Serv offers a front or side-mounted mixer as an option on both its floor and counter models. The stand-alone Mix’n Machine Advance from Vitamix lets you incorporates candy or cookie chunks into both hard and soft ice cream, as well as frozen yogurt. Its cup-activated lever allows for single-handed operation.
Let the unit help with your merchandising. Most manu-facturers offer lighted display panels with special graphics to help promote the fact you’re selling frozen beverages. Operators with multiple locations may be able to negotiate for the production of specially branded graphics. Either way, an eye-catching display can help your staff make the sale.
SELECTED FROZEN DRINK MACHINES AT A GLANCE
Size (H x W x D)
|Cornelius Viper (tall)|
|43.7 by 17 by 32.5 in.||Programmable “sleep” mode for off hours; LED lighting and|
adaptive defrost system
|Electro Freeze DH10|
|37 by 18 by 29.6 in.||Ability to combine two flavors in one drink; low mix level indicator|
|36 by 21.3 by 28 in.||Small footprint design; independent drives on each side of machine|
|Taylor Crown C303|
|41.6 by 23.1 by 35.9 in.||Programmable defrost cycles; optional cart; audible alarm|
system for loss of CO2, water or syrup