When potential profit margins for frozen dispensed beverages (FDBs) exceed 20% on top of what fountain drinks produce, it’s no wonder more than 80% of convenience stores worldwide have installed equipment to pour out slushies, shakes and blended iced coffees. A favorable return on investment, however, depends on taking all equipment choices and decisions into consideration.
Type of Beverages Determines Type of Dispenser
Perhaps the biggest decision for c-store owners and operators is what type(s) of frozen dispense beverages you want to sell because that will govern what type of dispenser to purchase. Slushies and frozen carbonated beverages traditionally require barrel dispensers with bag-in-the-box systems for syrups. Shakes and smoothie machines typically feature mechanics housed withing streamlined stainless-steel cases. There are also models that are programmed to mix up individual drinks to order.
Buy vs. Lease
Do you wish to invest in your own equipment or prefer to pay monthly lease payments? Obviously, this answer boils down to finances. Large c-store chains may have the cash liquidity to purchase the machines outright, whereas smaller retailers may find it more economical to lease dispensers. The latter, of course, adds to the device’s monthly costs.
Equipment Maintenance and Downtime
While most FDB technology operates pretty smoothly without the need for a lot of troubleshooting, any downtime results in periods of missed sales, not to mention the man hours required to get the gear back online.
When assessing various equipment options, calculate how much maintenance is required to keep it running. In addition to reviewing manufacturers’ guidelines for regular cleaning, solicit input from other retailers and ingredient distributors. Some high-tech models track each maintenance event so you can keep accurate logs.
Note: Machines that dispense dairy-based beverages require a more frequent cleaning schedule. Another consideration is the extent of technical support offered by dealers and/or manufacturers so if your FDB equipment does require repairs, you have a point of contact to call.
Part of keeping FDB machines operating — and producing profits — is making sure your store-level staff are properly trained on it. When weighing various makes and models, review the instruction materials, both mechanical and software. Are they straightforward and user-friendly, or complicated and unclear? Are they available in multiple languages so staff can read the manuals in their native language for better understanding?
Naturally, each c-store business and each retail site also will present unique considerations for which equipment will work best in the space, but these factors will get the decision-making process off to a smart start.