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The Hidden Costs Of Serving Ice Cream

Did you know? The ultimate guide to the hidden cost of ice cream

Delicious and summery, ice cream is much-loved across world, from the gelaterias of Italy to the trucks of America. On paper, selling the sweet treat makes complete sense as a retailer or restaurateur, but do you know what the hidden costs are before committing? Here, we break down the costs so you can make an informed decision, leaving you to serve whippy-style tubs and cones without the worry. 

A lump-sum payment (plus maintenance) for less 

Despite the sheer variety out there – almost as many flavours as ice cream itself – the traditional soft-serve ice cream machine hasn’t changed for many years. They’re incredibly cumbersome, mechanically driven and costly pieces of equipment. To give you a rough idea, an average single-nozzle, soft serve machine sold by Nisbets the catering supplier will set you back nearly £7,949.99, and that’s when it’s still on sale! It’s not that the supplier is particularly expensive, just that it’s the standard cost of this type of machine, while those with three nozzles can cost you upwards of £20,000 (we know – it chills us to the bone, too). 

The costs of a traditional soft-serve machine can be astronomical

The reason that these machines are so expensive is that they’re commercial-grade refrigeration units with lots of moving parts squeezed into oversized metal cases. Most of the time, they need to be plumbed in and kept running to keep the mix inside at a safe temperature (but more on that later), while other problems that can occur include: 

  • Product is too stiff
  • Product is too soft
  • Product won’t feed into the freezing cylinder
  • Mix in the hopper is too cold
  • Mix in the hopper is too warm
  • Machine won’t run
  • Leaking from the door spout
  • Excessive leaking into the rear drip pan
  • Drive shaft is stuck
  • Freezing cylinder walls are scored

As you can imagine, these are complex machines, so the older they get the more unreliable – and expensive – they can become. In fact, most of the issues that arise require an authorised engineer to visit and fix the machine, which is costly in itself without even thinking about the replacement parts you may need. 

Because our thoroughly modern ice cream machine is designed more recently, routine servicing as required for the machines of times gone by isn’t necessary. In fact, The Portobello Ice Cream Machine communicates with our switched-on team at fwip HQ all of the time, not because it's lonely, but because we love data and 95 per cent of issues can be repaired online. What’s more, our snazzy contraptions come with a 12-month extendable warranty, so if yours develops a problem we’ll simply swap it for another -meaning you can continue serving moreish soft-serve ice cream instead of waiting for those pesky parts.

Don’t pay the full price for electricity consumption

In April 2023, amid a cost-of-living crisis, it’s safe to say that commercial electricity prices are sky high, with no sign of settling any time soon. Remembering that businesses are not covered by the same price cap as residential properties, the average commercial price per kWh is 49.88p.

Our handy comparison table will give you a good indication of what running costs over a year at the current prices will total. 

The Portobello machine is a great solution that will save on both power consumption and space

For a soft-serve machine, the energy consumption ranges from 15,175 to 44,325 kWh. In real money, that’s £7,569.29 to £22,109.31 per annum at the current rate. Compare that with our The Portobello, with an annual energy consumption of just 1,269 kWh, which currently equates to just £632.97 per year. It’s a no-brainer, right? 

What makes The Portobello Ice Cream Machine so economical is that it sits idle when it isn’t in use. Only the economical freezer needs to run all the time. But, in our case, only at -14c, which is the optimal temperature and up to six degrees warmer than average. Of course, because it doesn't have to work so hard, it also consumes less energy.

Time to make space saving efficiencies

For retailers, cafes and restaurants, space is a premium, while many operate in cramped conditions or kitchens. Not good news, then, that traditional soft-serve machines take up a large portion of that space and reduce profitability. Worse still, their internal compressors have to work extra hard to keep their cool in hot conditions – much like chefs – in turn consuming more electricity. A lose-lose situation, if you will. 

The benefit of The Portobello is that in a commercial kitchen it can sit happily on a tabletop allowing you to make the most of your space. Meanwhile, those with more generous proportions to play with can plump for our Premium Unit to afford more visual impact. 

Elsewhere, impulse ice creams, generally bought without planning, have always been a staple inside convenience stores. But, again, the problem that retailers experience with these units is their size. At up to 1.09 square metres, they can monopolise a large footprint of a store, and while traditional freezers are relatively efficient compared to a traditional soft-serve ice cream machine, customers often leave their doors or lids open, which in turn causes the temperature to rise and the freezers to consume more electricity to keep their contents cool. When this happens, it’s not easy to keep your cool, either – we’re all human. 

Swerve expensive staffing costs 

Staffing costs are something that businesses don’t always consider when deciding which ice cream machine to get for their stores.

Even taking staff costs at the national minimum wage of £9.50 – with many employers paying far more than this – these can still spiral just to serve ice cream. By far the most expensive, in terms of staff costs, is soft-scoop ice cream. A colleague can often be held up for several minutes when a customer can’t make up their minds which flavour they want. Queues form, customers get angry and a bad shopping experience is created. The solution? To put on more staff, perhaps, but the hourly operating rate then increases with each new shift. The traditional soft-serve ice cream machine is quicker, but still requires a staff member to fill the cone, which can take up to 30 seconds. What’s more, wastage is also a problem with these machines, as sometimes the ice cream mixture is too soft on first pull, wasting not only the ice cream but also the cone.

The Portobello takes up little space and serves in just 10 seconds.

Don’t get cleaned-out

Cleaning is crucial for any business serving food, especially those striving for that five-star hygiene rating, but there’s a cost involved. 

According to the Food Quality And Safety body, a soft-serve ice cream machine should be cleaned three times per week, but cleaning one can take between two and four hours, which totals 12 hours a week (a full day!). 

Why? Ice cream is churned, stored and frozen inside each machine. Because of the potential for bacteria build-up, the machines need to be dismantled before they’re sanitised. But, it’s simply something that can’t be skipped as the health and safety of your customers should always come first.  

So, how are we serving-up a savvy alternative? Our staffing costs are zero, nada, zilch, as most of our retailers or restaurateurs have their machines configured for self-service, which couldn’t be quicker or easier. Cleaning them manually, on the other hand, takes just 5 minutes. That’s because The Portobello doesn’t churn, freeze or store any food within the unit itself. The hard work is all done on the outside. Even if cleaning daily, our clever little number offers a savvy alternative to dealing with a traditional soft-serve ice cream machine.

Last word

Both staffing and cleaning costs are big issues to consider when you’re a retailer or restaurateur. So, if you’re thinking of buying a traditional soft serve ice cream machine, it pays to take into account all of the associated costs before you peruse and choose.  

The initial purchase price of an old-school machine is high, while buying one second-hand will save you money in the short-term but maintenance could be costly for any repairs. And so, our soft-serve ice cream machine is by far the sweetest solution, developed in a way that enables you to sell a feast of (award-winning) flavours at a reasonable price without sour maintenance costs. So, level up your ice cream game and get in touch today

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