You’ve probably heard that ice drinks are extremely popular among customers and highly profitable for retailers. If not, consider these stats:
- 51% of consumers said they ordered a frozen beverage in the last month, according to Technomic’s Beverage Consumer Trend Report.
- 30% of consumers said they are purchasing frozen beverages now more than they were a few years ago, according to Technomic’s Beverage Consumer Trend Report.
- Because of the fast-growing demand and ease of operation, frozen drink machines are used in more than 80% of the world’s convenience stores and gas stations.
- Convenience stores are broadening their drink menus by offering 64% more slush and frozen drinks, according to Mintel's “Convenience Store Foodservice US, March 2018" report,
With rising consumer demand for ice drinks and profit margins of 70%-120%, it’s no mystery why more and more retailers are considering purchasing an ice drink machine.
However, as a business owner, you realize the importance of doing your due diligence before making such a significant investment.
With that in mind, here are the top 7 most important questions you should ask before buying a commercial ice drink machine:
7 Questions You Should Ask Before Buying a Commercial Ice Drink Machine
1. Can the ice drink machine provider meet all of your business's unique needs?
When it comes to your business’s needs, goals, and objectives, there are a couple of things you’ll want to consider when choosing an ice drink machine provider:
Foot Traffic and Capacity: How much foot traffic does your location get? Can your ice drink machine produce enough product to keep up? You don’t want to over-invest in equipment with higher capacity than you need, but you also don’t want to run out of product and lose sales due to equipment with capacity that’s too low.
Counter Space Limitations: How much counter space do you have available for your ice drink program? Make sure to choose an ice drink machine provider that offers equipment with the smallest footprint possible, in order to maximize sales-per-square-foot.
Staff Limitations: How many staff members do you have, and how much of their time can they devote to maintaining your ice drink program? Make sure to choose an ice drink machine provider who offers equipment that’s easy to operate and requires minimal maintenance to minimize downtime and operating costs.
Changing Consumer Demand: Is your ice drink machine provider flexible enough to help you adapt to your customer bases’ unique preferences and demands? What if your competitors introduce new, innovative products that excite consumers? Can you be flexible, adapt quickly, and remain competitive? Make sure that your ice drink machine provider can give you the guidance and products to effectively meet all of your customer’s needs and preferences.
Equipment Versatility: Is your ice drink equipment versatile enough to accommodate a large variety of different types of beverages, such as frozen energy drinks, coffee, tea, lemonade, alcoholic beverages, etc? Consider whether your ice drink machine provider offers equipment that will enable you to swap out the types of beverages you can offer, without having to buy new equipment every time your consumer’s preferences change.
2. How reliable is the ice drink machine?
If the equipment your ice drink machine provider offers is low-quality, expect frequent breakdowns and high repair costs. Not only is unreliable equipment expensive to operate and repair, but it’s also incredibly frustrating for both business owners and consumers when product is unavailable for purchase.
In addition, lower-quality equipment typically requires more maintenance, upkeep, and cleaning in order to function properly, which increases downtime, labor costs, and lost revenue.
When choosing a ice drink machine provider, make sure to inquire about the quality of the machine, specifically:
- The quality of parts and construction
- Expected repair costs
- Expected maintenance and cleaning time
- Expected equipment downtime
- Expected lifespan of equipment
From our experience, a high-quality machine has an expected lifespan of 7 years.
As the equipment ages past year 5, service calls may become necessary. However, at that point in the machine’s lifespan, you should expect no more than 5 service calls per year.
3. How easy is the ice drink machine to operate?
Another important factor that can increase your operating costs and erode profitability is how easy the equipment is to operate by both staff and consumers.
- Staff: When equipment is easy to operate by staff, business owners don’t have to spend nearly as much time or money on training. In addition, maintenance, service, and repairs all become much easier and faster, which maximizes uptime, revenue, and profitability.
- Consumers: When your equipment is easy and enjoyable to use by consumers, expect to see much higher customer loyalty, repeat sales, and word-of-mouth.
Higher quality equipment may cost a bit more upfront, but this slightly higher initial price is more than made up for in labor savings, increased customer satisfaction, and ultimately, higher revenue and profits.
4. What kind of after-sales service and support does the ice drink machine provider offer?
One of the most important, yet overlooked factors to consider when choosing an ice drink machine provider is the support and service you can expect to receive after the sale.
Choosing a lower-priced ice drink machine provider might save you money initially, but those “hidden costs” add up quickly in the form of:
- Long lead times
- A lack of responsive support
- Inadequate product training
- A lack of a strong warranty
- A shortage of certified technicians
- Unavailability of spare parts
Another factor to consider is that equipment with inferior design will be much more complicated, difficult, and expensive to service and repair.
This is why our commercial ice drink machines include Customer Friendly Built-In Diagnostics™ that provide user-friendly messages to help you troubleshoot and repair a problem quickly, without the need to generate a service call.
Each error message has a QR code that links to the our website content and videos for easy troubleshooting and repair.
In addition, our commercial ice drink machines offer access from the front of the unit, which makes servicing the machine fast, maximizing uptime, revenue, and profits.
Make sure to consider all of these “hidden costs” and select an ice drink machine provider that can provide short lead times, free, 24/hour technical support, a strong warranty, a wide network of service providers, and access to any spare parts you may need.
5. Can the ice drink machine provider work within your budget and provide adequate ROI?
An ice drink machine is a large investment, and you want to be sure that it makes financial sense for your business and provides you adequate ROI.
Complete Cost of Ownership: When considering which ice drink machine provider to choose, look beyond merely the initial acquisition costs, and consider the entire cost of ownership, including:
- Initial Equipment Acquisition Costs
- Training and Labor Costs
- Decreased Customer Satisfaction (Due to Low Drink Quality)
- Cleaning, Maintenance, and Downtime
- Syrup, Cups, Straws, and Lids
- Water and Utility Costs
- Service, Repair, and Parts Costs
- Replacement Costs
Remember, low-quality equipment might have lower initial costs, but the costs of maintenance, repair, and replacement over the long run are usually much higher than if you invested in higher-quality equipment from the start.
Make sure that the entire cost of ownership fits within your budget before committing to purchasing ice drink equipment.
ROI Needs: While you’re calculating the total cost of ownership, make sure to also calculate just how much ROI your ice drink machine provider can actually offer you.
Consider the following questions:
- What kind of ice drink sales numbers are you projecting at your location?
- What retail price can you realistically charge for ice drinks at your location?
- What cup set size do you plan on offering at your location?
- After factoring in the total cost of ownership, what are the actual profit margins your ice drink machine provider can offer you?
- How quickly do you need to see ROI on your investment?
You can use our ROI calculator to estimate what profit margins you can expect, and how quickly you can expect to see a return on your investment.
It’s important to choose the ice drink machine provider that can provide you the highest ROI after factoring in the entire cost of ownership.
6. Should I buy, rent, or lease an ice drink machine?
Purchasing equipment outright is not always the best option for all businesses. In some cases, renting or leasing equipment makes more sense, financially.
We’ve written a full comparison of all the advantages and downsides of buying, renting, and leasing equipment in this article.
7. Should I buy a new or used ice drink machine?
After you’ve made the decision whether to buy, rent, or lease your equipment, you’ll then have to decide whether to choose brand new equipment fresh off the factory floor, or equipment that has been used by another business and is now being resold.
We’ve written a full comparison of all the advantages and downsides of buying new vs used equipment in this article.
Ready to learn more about starting your own highly-profitable, Ice Drink Program?
FBD Frozen is trusted by 80% of the world’s frozen beverage retailers.
Whether you run a movie theater, a convenience store, a quick serve restaurant, a bar or an institution, we have the reliable equipment and responsive support team to help you get your profitable frozen beverage program started today!