A Soft Serve Machine is a relatively expensive piece of equipment, so you need to do your research before making (what is for most enterprises) a reasonable investment in the business.
Before you start your research ask yourself a few questions about your business.
1. Who is my target market? If you are an existing outlet you will already know who comes through your doors, or who walks past them. Is there a lot of foot traffic, can you entice more people into your shop with some different offerings? Will you sell online or takeaway orders? Is there potential for impulse buys and are there certain days of the week that are better than others? Children tend to have different tastes to adults and you may need to be able to adapt quickly to move to the more in demand products, or respond to particular trends as they occur.
2. Which products do I actually want to sell on my menu? This may be straight out soft serve ice cream in a cone, or you may want to sell sundaes, parfaits, thick shakes, ice cream for dessert toppings, or some specialty items. The more products you can get from your ice cream machine, the more use and hence sales you will get from it, which will reduce your pay back period and increase your profits. It will also generate interest in your business and create more opportunities for social media marketing.
3. Is there something I can do to utilise the down time of my machine to make and sell more product? This could include buying mix that is also able to be made into a hard ice cream, so you can create your own 'factory' and sell pots. Some plain base mixes are good for adding flavours to so you can create your own specialty range. Other bases have a strong vanilla note that can work against flavourings, so trial and error is the key here. Don't discount frozen yoghurt mix either, this works extremely well with fruit and floral flavours. Not many soft serve ice cream products can be used for hard ice cream production because of the different freezing temperatures between the two types. The Wholefarm Goldenfarm and Yomaxx ranges are particularly suitable for this type of application, with only a few simple adjustments required.
4. Can I synergise with other businesses in my immediate area? There may be outlets nearby who offer savoury courses but not desserts. Entertainment venues such as cinemas, sporting venues, clubs and theatres may empty out at certain times. Can you take advantage of the extra foot traffic and need by having product ready to go at those times of the day, or working with these venues to deliver? Consider positioning your machine at a counter open to the street so you can continue to sell even when your main business has closed for the day.
Part two of How to Choose coming shortly ...