Product Knowledge Guide: Frozen Beverage Dispensers

The frozen beverage dispensers category continues to grow — and with good reason. Restaurant and bar operators keep expanding their menu of frozen beverages due to the large profit margins these products can produce.

Foodservice operators can choose from both carbonated and non-carbonated frozen beverage dispensers. While the carbonated version combines syrup, water and CO2, or putting air into the solution, non-carbonated types combine flavorings, water and other ingredients to produce frozen lemonade, cappuccino, cocktails, smoothies and other beverages. Operators can use these units to serve non-alcoholic drinks or frozen versions of margaritas, daiquiris and mojitos. Operators also use these units to produce creamy drinks, slush beverages and frozen coffee.

Typically, the higher quality units produce smaller ice crystals, as the bigger size is what causes the uncomfortable phenomenon known as brain freeze. Also, smaller ice crystals produce a creamier beverage.

Foodservice operators can use these units in either the back of house or in a self-serve format in the front of house. Frozen beverage dispensers come in a variety of sizes, including floor and countertop units. This equipment ranges from as small as 10 inches up to 26 inches wide and will have either short or long barrel designs.

The number of barrels, capacity and hopper size help categorize these units. Generally, frozen beverage dispensers in the slush category offer one or two flavors, while frozen carbonated units have two, three or four dispenser heads. Most high-volume operations would utilize two dispensers that provide eight different flavors.

The number of frozen beverage dispensers a foodservice operation requires depends on the number of drinks it will produce per hour. This typically ranges from 30 to 200, although the majority of units can produce between 80 and 120 frozen beverages per hour.

Most models feature stainless steel construction, although the tops feature colorful plastics for merchandising purposes. Standard components of this equipment include a compressor, motor, auger, spigot, hopper and cabinets.

In terms of placement, frozen beverage machines typically require 6 inches in the back and 12 inches on each side for proper air flow. Operators can place some newer units directly against the wall with a 0-inch clearance in the back and 3 inches on each side. This vent-free design makes it possible to fit more units in a smaller footprint.

Also, noise level represents another consideration as frozen beverage machines’ decibels can range from 61 to 85. This also will impact how close operators want to place these in relation to customers.

When it comes to freezing methods, operators can choose models that offer either mechanical, automatic or both types. Newer direct-drive motors reduce the number of components, since these systems don’t need belts and pullies like scroll compressors.

Foodservice operators can choose from a number of options when purchasing a frozen beverage dispenser. While most handles are pull only, a newer feature provides either pull or push dispensing capabilities. Spinners also can be included for mixing and cup dispensers can be attached to these units to free up counter space.

Technology has moved to energy-efficient LED lighting in the light box and brighter graphics to better merchandise the beverages.

Another option available with these units is Wi-Fi integration. This provides operators with usage statistics, including the number of times the handle was pulled each day, how many ounces of beverages were dispensed in a 24-hour period and whether or not the maintenance schedule is being adhered to.

Some newer frozen beverage dispensers feature greater refrigeration efficiencies, including high-efficiency compressors and motors that draw less power and minimize the amount of time the compressor is running.

Models offer illuminated and non-illuminated billboard space that accommodates the operation’s name, drink name or beverage brand to make the machine more appealing.

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