Consultant Q&A with Marcin Zmiejko, associate principal at WC&P, Denver

FE&S: What is the main consideration when purchasing a slush/smoothie machine?

MZ: The menu is important since there are many different offerings. The preparation method, whether the beverage will be made from scratch or with mixes, and the amount of volume is also important. If there is high demand for these products, multiple machines with smoothie flavors already added are best. Also, the units that offer a base with Italian shaved ice with flavor added afterwards provide added flexibility since flavors can be added as often as needed to the base ice. Also, these units have refrigeration included.

FE&S: What should operators be aware of with air-cooled versus water-cooled units?

MZ: If the unit is air-cooled, which is the type used by 90 percent of smoothie shops and bars, it’s key to keep air circulated for proper refrigeration. Also, the room needs temperature adjustment with a good air-replacement system so warm air coming out of the unit is cooled down. Water-cooled units, which are used for high-demand beverage programs, require access to chilled water. These units don’t expel warm air like the air-cooled type.

FE&S: Are there units that are best for use in low-volume operations?

MZ: If low-volume use is needed, there are simple machines that have a container and base that mix and dispense beverages out of a spout. These are best for breakfast smoothie programs.

FE&S: What are the benefits of glycol-cooled machines?

MZ: Glycol-cooled units are very flexible and can be used for smoothies or any type of frozen drink.

FE&S: What are the considerations if dairy is used in a smoothie machine?

MZ: Smoothie machines are pretty simple, typically utilizing just water. For those beverages with dairy, it is typically added after the mixing. It is important to clean these machines thoroughly after each use when dairy products are included due to the potential of bacterial growth.

FE&S: What are the space and location considerations with these machines?

MZ: Because these are rather large units, the table depth needs to be taken into consideration. Also, most units are typically provided with a drip tray, so sufficient space is needed to accommodate this. Operators also should make sure there is suitable access to the hopper, if there is one. And for cleaning, it’s best to have either access to a faucet or space for a bucket. In terms of merchandising, units with logos or brand names need to be positioned facing customers. There also should be enough space on the sides for cups or containers and lids.