The Magic Inside A Glass Of Coke
In 2006 Coca-Cola ran a commercial that imagined the inside of a vending machine as a magical, motorized ecosystem where small creatures prep each bottle of Coke before it’s eventually dispensed. Dust bunnies slobber condensate on the bottle; an industrial fan shreds snowmen into ice flakes, which then blow and stick onto the bottle’s glass; a climactic parade with brass band playing, fireworks exploding, and confetti swaying downwards marches the Coke along a miniature Main Street before sliding it ceremoniously down the vending chute.
This advertisement showcases a key aspect of Coca-Cola’s appeal: people yearn to suspend their disbelief. The Coca-Cola Freestyle, while less fantastical and more science-fictional than this advert, is based around the same marketing principle. Consider its design. The customer sees only its touchscreen controls mounted within a single-case enclosure. With the press of a finger, a specific drink—one of a hundred forty-six options—materializes. Remember in Star Trek?—the replicator? I guarantee you that the USS Enterprise’s replicator, a machine that could instantly create anything its operator desired, was a major influence on the Freestyle’s design. It’s genius marketing: Coca-Cola took the tired act of dispensing soda and transformed it into a sci-fi miracle.
The Power of Prestidigitation
If you own a Freestyle, you know that this miracle is nothing more than a sleight of hand. The only substantial difference between a Freestyle machine and a conventional soda fountain is syrup concentration. Whereas traditional soda fountains pump in relatively un-concentrated syrup from 5-gallon bag-in-box stockpiles, Freestyle machines use small flavor cartridges that squirt a single, highly-concentrated drip of soda into each customer’s cup. It’s a matter of 5-gallon boxes versus compact flavor cartridges. That’s it. The sleek, plastic enclosure? Smoke. The front-mounted, touch-activated screen? Mirrors.
Most people aren’t yet privy to how Freestyle machines work. Relentlessly hopeful when it comes to futurology, the general public has been hoodwinked by the Freestyle, by its screen, by its rounded corners, and by its stainless steel docking bay. We just can’t resist technology. From USA Today: “Fast-food chains that have installed Freestyle […] have seen an average 6% to 8% increase in beverage purchases”. Coke’s magic trick succeeded, and even its critics can’t deny the facts—Freestyles are good for business.
Maintaining The Illusion
There’s a problem, though: Freestyles aren’t sold with ice makers included. If you want ice to come out of your Freestyle, you have two options. (1) You can regularly get one of your employees to grab a step ladder from the back, grab a bucket from the back, fill the bucket up to the brim with ice, waddle with the bucket to the Freestyle in the front of your store, set down the ice bucket, unfold the step ladder, pick up the ice bucket, climb up the step ladder with ice bucket in hand, lift the lid at the top of the Freestyle, lift the ice bucket filled to the brim with ice up and above the Freestyle, dump the ice from the ice bucket into the Freestyle, close the lid, descend the ladder, go to the back, put it all away, and repeat this process several times every day, in the front of your store, in the presence of your customers—it’s loud; it’s messy; it’s time-consuming; it’s unprofessional. Or.
Or (2) you can, instead, install a ice maker on the top of your Freestyle. Coca-Cola has designed their Freestyle machines so that ice machines can be easily attached to their tops. Most restaurant owners with traditional soda fountains buy mounted ice makers like these anyway to avoid the loud, messy, time-consuming, unprofessional problems above. But owners of Freestyle machines have an additional reason to outfit their soda dispensers with ice makers. They have the Magician’s Code to uphold.
Lugging an ice bucket into the middle of your store during a lunch shift and climbing a wobbly step ladder to dump ice into your supposedly space-age Freestyle ruins the machine’s mystique. It reveals the Freestyle as a regular old soda fountain with pumps and gears and nothing new to offer. With an ice machine installed on top, however, the Freestyle becomes totally self-contained and can operate according to its reputation. If you pay the $3,600 a year to lease out a Freestyle without installing the optional ice machine, you’re undermining your purchase and, ultimately, wasting your money.
Choosing Your Assistant
Manitowoc Ice Incorporated is a sixty-year-old company that manufactures no-nonsense ice machines. Two of their units, the Indigo IB1094YC and the Indigo IY0524A, were designed specifically for the Coca-Cola Freestyle. The former unit (~$4,000 after rebate) can produce 1000 pounds of ice per day, but you probably don’t need that much. No, we recommend the IY0524A (~$2100 after rebate), a self-contained, self-regulated, energy-efficient, low-cost, medium-production Industry Leader. This ice maker quietly hums along all day, automatically dropping ice into your stylish Freestyle without any outside assistance. The Indigo IY-0524A features a 24-hour preventative maintenance and diagnostic feedback system that constantly monitors when your Freestyle needs ice and when the Indigo can power down. You can set the unit so that it runs only during the day or only during peak hours. Anything that you could reasonably want from an ice maker is provided by the Indigo.
The Freestyle is far from perfect, far from delivering its implicit promise. But it is the future. Those flavor cartridges, while revolutionarily meek, allow for more options within a smaller space. When you purchase an ice machine for your Freestyle, you add substance to these illusional, pumiceous machines and you add depth to your present, very real business.