Cartonomy 101: The Cold Plate Vending Cart

Posted by Lilly on April 3, 2012 at 9:50 AM

Photo Credit: Nelson Manufacturing


Welcome to another lesson on the diversity of Italian Ice vending carts.  Today we will learn about the cold plate cart. This marvel of modern technology is a great cart that combines the use of electricity with the mobility of a non-refrigerated cart, which makes it the go-to cart for many Italian Ice vendors.


What are Cold Plates?

You can imagine cold plates to be like extremely large versions of the blue, plastic ice packs you might put into a lunchbox or cooler to keep the contents cold.  In the same way that you need to place those packs into a freezer the night before for the next day's lunch, you need to freeze the cold plates of this cart at least 24 to 48 hours in advance by plugging in its heavy duty electric cord.  Once the cold plates are frozen, they will maintain their temperature for a good many hours.  So when you're ready for your event, you unplug the cart from its electrical source, load it with Italian Ice, and head off to sell, unencumbered by whether the event has electricity available.  You are completely portable and able to move about as you need to "go where the people are" (a common Italian Ice vendors' phrase).


Because these units have electrical parts, an onboard compressor to freeze the cold plates, and the cold plates themselves, which are filled with freezing fluid, they can be very heavy.  Even one that only holds 6 cans of Italian Ice will weigh in the vicinity of 300 lbs. to 400 lbs, without ice.  If you require a sink, you can expect that weight to go up. This creates the problem, as with electric vending carts, of unwieldiness for the one-person operation.  


It's very important to understand one interesting fact about cold plate vending carts.  The cold plates are filled with freezing fluid that will hold your desired temperature when the cart is unplugged.  The fluid inside the cold plates is very specific to the product that you're selling.  For instance, if you're selling ice cream and novelties, you would need to order or find a cold plate cart that holds the correct temperature of that ice cream inside.  Italian Ice is served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream, so it's imperative you get a cold plate cart that holds temperatures in the +10 to +20 range.  If you were to buy a used cold plate cart, say on Craigslist, it might not be disclosed to you that you need this temperature requirement.  Truly, in this case, knowledge is power.  A reputable company that sells cold plate carts will understand your need and be sure to ask you what you intend to sell with it.


The Pros

  • Can be used with electricity or without
  • Excellent for events lasting many hours
  • Can be equipped with temperature control dial, allowing you to keep your ice at a set temperature for as long as you're selling


The Cons

  • Heavy
  • Expensive to purchase
  • Expensive to repair
  • Must remember to plug the unit in to freeze the cold plates at least 24 hours in advance
  • Requires access to electricity at your commissary or where you store your cart

This cart is often the choice of Italian Ice vendors due to its fantastic versatility and ease of use, eliminating any headaches of temperature control and maintenance.  But, due to its price, weight and other factors, it is also not usually the choice of startup Italian Ice vendors.  That crown goes to the non-refrigerated Italian Ice cart.  Additionally this cart, like all of them, can be used with reuseable cold plates or dry ice should the unit malfunction, allowing vendors to continue to sell ice without loss of sales.

See also:

The Electric Vending Cart

The Non-Refrigerated Vending Cart

Reusable Cold Plates

Pushcart Manufacturers & Resellers

Categories: Pushcarts

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