If you’re in the market for a frozen drink machine, the sheer number of options can be overwhelming. Our company alone has 532 unique equipment configurations—and we’re just one distributor. The food and beverage industry serves a broad audience. Everyone needs to eat, so catering to different tastes and lifestyles is how businesses set themselves apart from the competition. 

A frozen drink machine can be a great way to cement your competitive advantage, so long as you choose a product and model that fit your needs. That’s where you might be feeling a little lost. Different machines make different kinds of drinks, come with a range of bells and whistles, and are available in all different sizes. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s important to consider before making your drink machine purchase.

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What Can a Frozen Drink Slush Machine Make?

First, decide what type of frozen drink you intend to serve. Simply knowing if you are planning to serve soda slushies at a gas station or frozen cocktails in a beachside bar can narrow your selection down considerably.

Common types of frozen drinks:

  • Alcoholic Beverages: Frozen Margaritas & Daiquiris
  • Granitas: Frozen Fruit-Juice-Based Slushies
  • Frozen Carbonated Beverages: Soda Slushies & Icees

If you plan to use your frozen drink machines to dispense alcoholic beverages, you will need a machine that is able to freeze alcohol, and you will likely need a size that is convenient for your waitstaff to dispense from behind the counter. And, of course, serving alcohol requires a liquor license. Dairy-based beverages like milkshakes and smoothies also have specific food safety requirements and may require special equipment.

Frozen drink machines are typically designed for specific substances. Choose a machine that is made for the type of drink you plan to serve. Then, choose a size that fits the size and scale of your business. A single hopper machine typically holds one to four gallons of a drink product. A double hopper can go up to eight gallons. And a triple hopper can go up to twelve gallons.

What Features Should You Consider?

Frozen drink machines can be very simple or very complex. This is one area that you will want to give careful consideration to what features you will actually use. It’s easy to get caught up in the novelty of adding signage and mobility, but not every establishment will make use of these features. Don’t pay for more than what you need.

Auto-Fill Features

Some machines are outfitted with sensors and technology that recognize when product mix is low and automatically refill the reservoirs from a primary source. These features are ideal in high-traffic environments where staff isn’t always available to keep an eye on the machines. If your shop is on a beach boardwalk, these sensors are a great way to make sure you always have properly chilled products available for customers. These same features are likely unnecessary in slower-paced establishments. Just keep in mind that the freezing process takes time and intense spurts of demand can still wipe you out of the product.

Integrated Signage with Lighting

Another feature that entirely depends on the application is signage. For customer-facing machines set up in self-service areas like convenience stores, it can be an invaluable marketing tool. However, in environments where employees dispense the drinks, the signage is simply unnecessary.

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Casters for Mobility

Some machines are large enough to sit on the floor and feature locking casters for easy moving. In the back kitchen of restaurants where this mobility might be necessary for nightly cleaning, the casters make a lot of sense.

Routine Maintenance and Cleaning

Another big consideration comes down to how the machine is constructed and how often the vats need to be emptied and cleaned. Some machines have fewer parts for simplified cleaning, and other machines are more complex with overnight holding capabilities and built-in sanitation. Decide how much labor you want to spend on the upkeep before buying your machine.

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Foot Traffic

Think about your traffic patterns. Keep in mind that it takes time for a frozen beverage machine to freeze. A big rush from a bus might completely wipe your machine out. If you’re conveniently located right off an interstate, you might add additional hoppers to bulk up your capacity for these opportunities.

Where Will the Machine be Installed?

You’ve probably also noticed that frozen drink machines come in many different sizes. Some are floor-sit models that take up the space of a refrigerator, and others are smaller, portable units that sit on a countertop. In addition to meeting your capacity needs, you may also want to decide where you want to put your machine before making a commitment.

If you’re buying a countertop model, make sure that it is large enough to service your customer volume. But more importantly, also make sure that you have a place to put the machine without disrupting workflows or traffic patterns. 

And don’t forget to double-check electrical accessibility. You’ll need a grounded outlet with around-the-clock demand to run this appliance. Most machines require 220V electricity. The most common outlet in the US is 120V so you may need an update from a licensed electrician to use your machine.

How Will the Machine be Financed?

A frozen drink machine can be an expensive endeavor. While there are options for different budgets, you should plan for a significant expense. Many distributors offer flexible financing options to get your frozen beverage program up and running. Take advantage of dealer-provided financing before looking for business loans from other sources. These offers usually come bundled with significant savings.

How Much Money will you Make?

An essential step for any good business investment is to run the numbers and get an idea for exactly how much money your new endeavor can make. These numbers are going to be different depending on your business, sales volume, product offering, and marketing efforts. These variables provide a lot of opportunities to do things right–or get it wrong. Let’s take a closer look.

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ROI Calculations

Understanding the amount of time that it will take to recoup your costs for a new frozen beverage dispenser is the first step in planning a successful product addition. These costs can vary widely depending on whether you are launching a brand new beverage program or simply upgrading an older machine.

This calculation is called a ‘return-on-investment’ and tells business owners how long it will take for a new drink machine to pay for itself and become profitable. Use our handy ROI calculator to run the numbers. Next, we’ll break down what you need to look at to get an accurate calculation.

  • Total Investment: Add up the cost of your machine, new product marketing, employee training, supplies, impact on labor, and similar related expenses to find out the true cost of adding a new frozen drink product to your menu.
  • Industry: There is a noticeable supply and demand difference between selling frozen drinks at an amusement park where patrons spend hours in the heat with little access to any other options and a small snack bar at an ice rink where patrons can easily come and go.
  • Sales Volume: Calculate the average number of frozen beverages you intend to sell per day with variations for highs and lows. You can get a good estimate by looking at the total number of customers you service on a given day, volume trends by day of the week and season, as well as sales trends for other beverage and treat products.
  • Average Retail Price: Whether you can get $3.50 for a beverage or $7.00 depends on several factors. For one, how much competition do you have, and what is the local economy like in your area? As a business owner, you probably already know what is an acceptable range, so experiment within those parameters.

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The Bottom Line on What to Consider Before Buying a Frozen Drink Machine

Buying the right frozen drink machine is a lot more complicated than simply finding a model that fits your budget. Buying the wrong type of machine for your intended drink product can derail your plans before you even start. And paying more money for unnecessary features is a surefire way to slow down your return-on-investment. Choosing the right machine takes a little legwork, some business acumen, and a strategic marketing plan to launch your new product. Still, frozen beverages can be a great way to draw crowds and boost sales.

FAQ

If you’re still struggling to choose the right frozen drink machine for your business, here are some common sticking points.

What Industries are the Best for Frozen Beverages?

Frozen drinks go over well in a variety of settings. We most often find them in quick-service restaurants, convenience stores, movie theaters, and amusement parks. These drinks can be a fun and refreshing way to cool down in the heat or a special treat while you watch a good movie.

Are Frozen Drink Machines Profitable?

Yes, a well-designed frozen drink program can be very profitable. However, there are a number of factors to consider, like product selection, pricing, and marketing efforts, that will ultimately make the difference between profit and loss. One big selling point is that these sweet treats are a satisfying and different way to indulge sugar cravings. For business owners, require minimal input and mostly operate on a self-service model.

Why Should I Invest in a Frozen Drink Machine?

A frozen drink program can make sense if you are looking for a profitable way to expand your menu and increase sales. It’s a profitable product category that is relatively easy to launch and offers a profitable margin in even the tightest markets.