With the recent rise in interest of superfoods and fruit-based diet plans, smoothies have become more popular than ever. Once a risky business model at best, dedicated smoothie shops are now opening—and thriving—all over the country. With relatively straightforward lists of ingredients and lots of cross-over between menu offerings, running a smoothie shop requires little overhead and can bring in steady profits, if properly equipped. If you’re thinking about starting up a juice or smoothie shop of your own, here are a few of the necessary items to keep your operation running without a hitch.
This much is probably already obvious to someone hoping to start a smoothie shop, but buying the right blenders can make or break your smoothie business. We’ve touched on the reasons for buying professional blenders in a previous post , but keep in mind that your blenders will need to stand up to the strain of being run continuously throughout the day. Most non-professional, residential blenders are designed to be used once or twice a day at most, and will wear out much faster than a commercial grade product, causing downtime and unnecessary expense while you wait for replacements. Hamilton Beach , Vita-Mix , and Waring are all excellent places to start when shopping for commercial blenders. Aside from your ingredients, your blenders will be the backbone of your smoothie business, so try to avoid cutting corners on this part of your budget.
Immersion blenders are a great way to quickly prep ingredients for commonly ordered smoothies, or to break down larger fruits that don’t blend as well as other ingredients. With finely crushed ice, commercial immersion blenders can even be used to mix up entire smoothies in a pinch, or to “finish off” partially mixed smoothies by carefully mixing in smaller ingredients to ensure an even blend. They are also much easier to clean than countertop blenders, making them ideal for quick jobs around the smoothie kitchen.
While your blenders will take care of most of the “heavy lifting” in your smoothie shop, pre-juicing ingredients can often help speed up the process. Heavy duty juicers make quick work of fruits with tough or bitter skins, and eliminate the worry of accidentally including an inedible seed or core in a customer’s drink. Sugar cane juicers are also a popular smoothie shop tool for adding a fresh, organic sweetness to your drinks and smoothies.
Cups and Glasses
Many smoothie shops prefer to use disposable cups when serving their smoothies, as many customers take their smoothies to go. However, if your store is set up to promote a “coffee shop” mentality and people tend to stick around to socialize or do work, reusable cups may be a worthwhile investment. Large, plastic tumblers fit the bill nicely, and will generally offer the widest variety of sizes to fit your menu. Glass is always a great choice for a professional, high-quality feel, but glass beverageware rarely comes in sizes larger than 20 oz. and, of course, is at greater risk of breakage. Serving your “dine-in” orders in reusable cups will save money on disposables and will give your establishment an air of community and permanence, but it also means that your shop will require a larger sink or a dishwasher for washing dishes.
As with most foodservice establishments, a large, functional sink is a must-have to keep your operation running smoothly. While most smoothie shops will have considerably less to clean than a full-scale restaurant, a spacious compartment sink will make all the difference when it comes to cleaning up both mid-operation and at the end of the day. If you plan on using reusable glassware in your shop, a standard three-compartment sink with large drainboards will help greatly speed up the glass washing process.
Good kitchen knives are sometimes overlooked as an essential piece of equipment in the smoothie shop. While chopping up fruit to toss into the blender may not require as much precision as julienning zucchini for a stir fry, having sharp, reliable knives in your prep area is still just as important as it is in the professional kitchen. Dull knives are slow and unsafe, regardless of what is being cut. Investing in high quality implements will come at a higher initial cost, but good knives—when kept properly sharp—will offer you years of safe and reliable cutting power. Also, be sure to equip your prep area with a variety of different knives: large knives for chopping and slicing and smaller pairing knives for quickly peeling smaller fruits with inedible skins (like kiwis).
Without a set of quality cutting boards, premium knives are an empty investment. Although easier to clean—especially when washing away sticky sugars from fruit—glass or marble cutting boards should generally be avoided in most situations. Cutting boards made from hard materials will dull your knives faster than you can sharpen them. High-quality wooden cutting boards are generally agreed upon as the best choice for most all-purpose chopping, and they will last longer than plastic cutting boards when properly maintained, but plastic boards are generally less expensive and are dishwasher safe for quick and easy cleaning.
Keeping your ingredients at hand makes for much quicker preparation. Undercounter refrigeration units at the prep area are a great way to keep your employees from having to constantly fetch ingredients from “the back,” ultimately increasing efficiency and speeding up serving times.
Ice is a necessary element in any smoothie. Busy smoothie shops need to have a constant, replenishing supply of ice to keep things running, especially when primarily serving larger sizes. High-production ice machines (800 lbs./day and above) from companies like Hoshizaki , Scotsman , and Manitowoc are all excellent choices when selecting an ice maker for your smoothie shop. Getting caught without a fresh supply of ice during peak hours can be fatal to the day’s business, and—if it is a recurring problem—may even reflect poorly on your smoothie shop’s reputation. Be sure that your budget allows for a top-quality, appropriately-sized ice machine.