Ice Cream Cart Vending Business
10 Questions you need to ask yourself right now or risk buying the wrong cart
A Free Guide to help you make the right choice before purchasing an ice cream cart
y Neil Williams - President - TurnkeyParlor.com
(you may want to print this document for future reference)
(you may want to print this document for future reference)
1. Will I have access to a power supply (electrical outlet) while serving my product?
a. If you have access to a plug, then great. If not, the chances are pretty good that you will need a cart that includes a cold plate system. Cold plates are filled with a solution that (when charged overnight) will maintain the cart cold for up to 12 hours without access to a power supply. You simply plug it in to charge the plates for about 8 hours, and then it’s ready to go to work for the day, no power needed. That said, there are some products that will still be in good shape (some Italian Ice Products, soft frozen lemonade, etc.) after a few hours, without cold plates. Sometimes a well insulated cart will do the trick - for a limited amount of time. But if you can afford it, the safest bet is to go with cold plates or cart with refrigeration. In short, you have 3 options:
2. Will I be storing my cart in one location, and selling from the same location repeatedly, or will I be taking it to different events and multiple locations?
a. If you are going to be moving the cart around often, as in taking it relatively long distances on a regular basis, you may want to invest in a “towable” trailer. This will make it easy to transport. Or, you need to make sure you have access to a pick-up truck or van. You also want to make sure that you purchase the traditional BDC series cart. These are built to take the serious beating that carts can take when moved around consistently. If you’re going to keep it stored in one general location, and roll it from there to your selling location, then you might be better off saving a few $ and going with the Nelson CLT series carts. The CLT carts deliver the performance, but they are a little more “light weight”. They are ideal for smaller catering jobs where they are used for shorter periods of time and not necessarily on a daily basis.
3. Will I be scooping my product or will I be serving pre-packaged novelty items?
a. Your plan here will be one of the most important factors in determining which cart is right for you. Essentially, if you are going to scoop your product into cups and cones, you will almost certainly need one of the DIPCE models. They include optional features like 3 compartment sinks, dip wells, counter extensions and more. If you are simply planning to serve pre-packaged novelty items, then your life will be a little easier and you can go with a basic BDC or CLT series push cart.
4. What type of product will I be serving? Ice Cream, Gelato, Italian Ice or Custard? Soft Frozen Lemonade?
a. The type of product you are planning to sell is crucial to ordering the right cart. Different products have different optimal storage and serving temperatures. It’s a good idea to specify what the product is going to be. Pushcarts are available for a wide variety of different products and temperatures. Ice cream carts for novelties are generally set for -10 degrees and holding temperatures of around 0 degrees after the overnight charge. Scooping carts, gelato carts, Italian ice carts and water ice carts can be ordered for special temperatures and can be equipped with a digital temperature control to dial in exactly the right operating temperature for your special product. There are other factors that go into what the right cart is for your specific situation. For example, Italian Ice Manufacturer’s sell their products in tubs of all different sizes and configurations. Some have tall, round, 5 gallon tubs. Others have short 2.5 gallon tubs. Some make square 4 gallon tubs. What this means is that you might need custom cart that has a slightly deeper or wider box in order to ensure that the tubs will fit properly and be easy to scoop.
b. Another important cart feature is the stainless steel bottom. At some point in your career, melted product will end up on the bottom of the cart. If not cleaned right away, the acids (for example: citric acids in lemon ices) in these products will begin to eat away at the bottom of painted steel carts and eventually create a hole. This will not happen to a Nelson cart.
5. If scooping, how many tubs will I feature? If serving novelties, how many do I need to stock?
a. This one is pretty basic, but still important. You need to think about how many flavors you want to offer. Your thought process here will determine the size cart you need. Typically, you’re looking at between 4 tubs and 12 tubs. If you are going to sell pre-packaged products, you simply need to have an idea of how much variety (different flavors of Fruit Bars, Haagen Dazs Bars, Ice Cream cups) you want to have and how many of these you think you can sell in a single day. A BDC-8 holds around 600-800 pieces, depending on their size.
6. What type of surfaces will I be rolling the cart over on a typical day?
a. If you are going to be rolling the cart over many different surfaces, such as – gravel in a parking lot, wooden planks at an amusement park, sand at the beach, cracked sidewalks, and more, you need to make sure you have the right wheels. The standard 8” wheels the BDC models feature are built with a high degree of natural rubber, which makes them highly durable. They are resistant to UV rays, and unlike vinyl wheels, they won’t crack after a year of being in the sun. They are bouncy like an air tire and therefore act like a shock absorber for the refrigeration unit. The carts can be bounced up and down and take the beating without any damage…..and trust me, they will take a beating.
7. How many hours will a typical sales day be?
a. If you are going to be selling pre-packed novelties, or dip Italian ice, and you will be selling for 4 hours or less, chances are pretty good that you can get away without cold plates and use a CLT model Nelson Cart. This is the most economical cart, starting at under $1,400. It doesn't have cold plates but is still a solid cart, with the great rubber wheels and stainless steel bottom and many of the other Nelson features. You can dip Italian ice out of these without cold plates because most Italian ices hold up well at a higher temp than dip ice cream (around 10-15 degrees F as opposed to dip ice cream, which needs to be around 0 to 5 degrees F). Before you go this "no cold plate" route, you might want to test the product you're going to serve by placing it in a basic beverage cooler. Check the consistency every half hour and see when it begins to be compromised.
b. Ice Cream Novelties, like fruit bars and Haagen Dazs or Dove Bars also hold up pretty well in these CLT carts over a 3-4 hour period depending on the outdoor temperature. So in essence, if you won’t have access to power, but you won’t be out selling more than 4 hours, you can probably get away with these less expensive carts.
8. Have I checked with my local health department, to ask what the local requirements are for what my plan is?
a. You are responsible for asking the local health department what the requirements are. Basically, you contact them and tell them what you plan to do. For example – “I plan to dip Italian ice, outdoors...from a mobile cart” or “I plan to sell pre-packed fruit bars from a cart outdoors”, or “I plan to dip ice cream at a mall indoors”. It is easier to get approved for a permit if you are applying for temporary locations - like events, etc. If you are looking to vend from a permanent location, it becomes a little tougher - as the requirements become more like that of a restaurant - i.e.: hand wash sinks, etc. Once the health department understands your plan, they will clearly lay out what you need. It is an unwritten rule that every health department has its own interpretation of the rules. Bottom line is that in order for you to get started, you have to meet their exact requirements. Depending on what you tell them your plan is, they will essentially say “you need a dip well and a sink”, or “you need a triple bowl sink, but no dip well” or “you need a dip well, a triple bowl sink with a splash guard”. They can get pretty detailed on what they require, so you need to make sure you understand the requirements, and communicate them to us so that we can recommend the right cart.
9. Does the cart I want truly meet the NSF or UL requirements?
a. If it’s a Nelson cart, the answer is YES! The problem here is that many competitors who offer cheaper carts say, “our carts are NSF”…..but here’s the catch. What they do is put a convenience store slide top freezer on a frame with wheels and a push bar. Then they slap an umbrella bracket on the frame and call it a cart. The problem? Well, the freezer itself is NSF approved, but its NSF approved for its intended use which is to sell ice cream inside a convenience store. But as soon as that NSF approved freezer is selling ice cream or dipping ice cream outdoors, on a cart, it is no longer being used as intended, thereby no longer meeting the NSF standard. So…..the moral of the story is - You might save a few hundred bucks, but you might also be out of business in a short period of time if the health inspector decides to swing by.
10. How important is branding and visibility to me?
a. Will you be serving a nationally branded product? Are you creating your own brand? Will you be serving a strong local brand? A Nelson canopy can really enhance the visibility of your operation. An umbrella will work just fine, but a canopy will go a long way in not only reinforcing your brand, but also in making your cart more visible from a long distance. If you are going to serve a national or regional brand, you might ask the company who sells the product to share in the expense of purchasing a canopy and graphics.
As you can see, purchasing the right cart can be a pretty tricky
proposition. Please e-mail us or pick up the phone and give us a call. We are
here to help! 877-817-5716. Watch the video below to learn a little more. One
more thing...if you are looking for pricing on all carts, just fill in your
first name and e-mail address below the video screen.
As you can see, purchasing the right cart can be a pretty tricky proposition. Please e-mail us or pick up the phone and give us a call. We are here to help! 877-817-5716. Watch the video below to learn a little more. One more thing...if you are looking for pricing on all carts, just fill in your first name and e-mail address below the video screen.
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