Cartonomy 101: The Non-Refrigerated Vending Cart

Posted by Lilly on April 3, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Photo Credit: Nelson Manufacturing

Now that we've covered the electric and the cold plate vending carts, it's time to introduce the one that started it all... the non-refrigerated cart.  This is the cart of old when vendors secured ice, a cart, and a location and started taking in the cash.  No health-department, no business license, no restrictions.  You went where you wanted and sold to your heart's content.  Well, that cart still exists, although none of those other freedoms do.  Today's cart, however, is very well insulated, made with ever-improving materials.  It's durable and long-lasting.  It is simply a recessed well that houses your Italian Ice.  Because it doesn't have any electrical parts, plumbing or a compressor, this unit is the lightweight champ of frozen vending carts, coming in at around 150 to 180 lbs., without ice. 


How Does It Keep Italian Ice Cold?

The non-refrigerated cart keeps its contents frozen by materials and mechanics.  The insulation in the walls of some of these units can be from 1-2 inches thick and made from high technology foam that insulates far better than in times past.  The ice also stays cold by the science of hot air rising and cold air dropping.  This allows the upper portion of the cabinet to stay warmer than the lower area, allowing for easy scooping.  And the ice buckets keep each other cool by acting as their own self-contained ice packs.  You would put your ice into the cart at a slightly lower temperature than serving temp, and it would warm up enroute to your selling destination.  Depending on the outside temperature, these carts can maintain the contents at optimum serving temperature for between 4-6 hours on average.  On a very hot day, it's recommended to tote along or place at the bottom of the cart some reuseable cold plates or dry ice. 

One vendor has mentioned success with simply putting a piece of cardboard or a cut-to-size piece of styrofoam insulation on top of the ice during slow selling times, when the ice is too soft.  And another suggested leaving the flip door open or cracked, when the ice is too hard.


I recommend the use of a freezer thermometer, found at restaurant supply stores, placed inside the cart to display the temperature.  This will make it easier to know the temperature and more reliable than using the liquidity or hardness of your ice as a guage.  It may also reveal the rate of thawing, which will allow you to plan whether to stay selling for an extra hour or call it a day.


The Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Easily maneuverable
  • Requires no electricity
  • Fully mobile from venue to venue
  • Holds more product due to lack of electrical compoments and freezer compressor
  • Affordable

The Cons

  • Keeping product frozen can be difficult, especially for the new vendor and on excessively hot days
  • Possible shorter selling times

While this cart seems to be a bit more challenging to operate, it offers the perfect solution for an entry-level Italian Ice vendor, being the least expensive of all the carts.  It is, after all, the one that's been used the longest throughout street vendor history, so it must still be a great viable option.  With the added freezer thermometer and reusable cold plates, those challenges become more manageable, and the cart very useful.


See also:

The Electric Vending Cart

The Cold Plate Vending Cart

Reusable Cold Plates

Pushcart Manufactures & Resellers

Categories: Pushcarts

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1 Comment

Reply ProfitSee
10:11 AM on November 14, 2012 
This is the type I will be getting my hands on as it is lightweight and inexpensive. Though it is NR, hopefully the ice will stay frozen long enough for me to serve for the amount of time I am serving.