Beverage Equipment

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A Guide to Frozen Beverage/Slushie Makers

With more restaurant and bar operators expanding their offerings due to the large profit margin frozen beverages can generate, the dispenser category for smoothies, slushies and other similar beverages becomes a point of emphasis.

Several misconceptions exist regarding the frozen beverage category. It’s important to note that these drinks are no longer just relegated to summer months.

Along with restaurants, long-term care facilities and other members of the healthcare foodservice segment use frozen beverage dispensers to prepare smoothies for patients that have difficulty with solid foods.

Operators can choose from 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 for either nonalcoholic drinks or frozen versions of margaritas, daiquiris and mojitos. Creamy drinks, slush beverages and frozen coffee are also commonly produced in these dispensers, which can be in the front or back of the house.

Frozen beverage dispensers come in a range of sizes suitable for either floor or countertop use. This equipment ranges from as small as 10 inches up to 26 inches wide and will have either short- or long-barrel designs.

These units are categorized by number of barrels, capacity and hopper size. 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.

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

When it comes to freezing methods, operators can choose models that offer either mechanical, automatic or both types. Direct drive motors reduce the number of components since these systems don’t need belts and pullies like scroll compressors. Many of these units feature self-contained, air-cooled condensers, although some use water-cooled systems.

Operators can choose from a variety of options when purchasing frozen beverage dispensers. 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 the more 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 the maintenance schedule is being adhered to.

Frozen beverage dispensers are available with 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 showcases the operation’s name, drink name or beverage brand to make the machine more visually appealing.