The Scoop on Dishers

Posted by Lilly on May 1, 2012 at 8:40 AM


Starting an Italian Ice business is a lot like learning a new word or seeing a new car.  Suddenly, everywhere you go, you encounter this new "thing".  So, in starting my business, I've been hyper-aware of all that I took for granted when I'd visit an Italian Ice or ice cream shop.  And the most noticeable tool is that ubiquitous scooper.  I've italicized that word because it's what we laypersons call them.  It's an ice cream scoop, right?  Well... no.  We're entrepreneurs and experts now in this Italian Ice subculture, so you must now learn that scoopers are the actual people who scoop your Italian Ice or ice cream.  And a scoop is a non-descript tool that scoops ingredients in no discernible, measured amount.  It's a tool you would use to scoop dog food into your dog's bowl.

The proper terms for the tools used by Italian Ice and ice cream vendors are dishers and spades.  A disher is the tool that has a metallic rounded bowl and a clicking mechanism for ejecting the product out of it and into your serving cup.  A spade is what's used at Rita's, which is a large, flat looking spoon.  It gets the product out of the tub and into the cup with no particular shape.  When the cup is full, the spade is used to flatten the top of the Italian Ice and clean up the look of the served product.  Personally, I prefer the appealing rounded ball presentation, so I plan to use dishers. 

But, don't think this lesson is over yet.  As dishers go, there is still much to learn.  There are a number of different types, with different ejecting mechanisms and multiple sizes.  Learning all these differences is like getting a PhD in Italian Iceology.  Believe it or not, you can encounter charts showing the different sizes with variances by manufacturer and other criteria.  But, here's what I did.  I asked my wholesaler what size disher they use when they sell retail.  I already know I like how their served product looks, and I want to achieve the same look.  Easy enough. The answer, by the way, turned out to be the blue #16 disher. 

For those just venturing into this aspect of the Italian Ice business, I'll go into more detail.  Dishers are sold by numbers.  In our business, the most common are #12, #16 and #20.  The numbers represent the amount of scoops in a quart.  Yeah.  Their purpose, however, makes a lot more sense.  They are divided into how much they serve as a way to ensure consistent proportions every time.  Not only is this fair to customers that they each get the same amount.  But it's ideal for the vendor to control product cost.  So it's a win-win solution.  Spades, unfortunately, do not offer this advantage.  though it explains why Rita's gives a flat topped Italian Ice.  In this way, they are controlling portion sizes by using the cup itself to determine consistent servings.

To make life easier, the handles of dishers are universally color-coded by the number of the disher.  So all #12 disher handles are green, and all #16 disher handles are blue, regardless of manufacturer.  Please don't do as I did and get your hopes up on a beautiful color that would complement your business scheme only to find out you can't use it, unless you plan to scoop malt ball-sized portions.

You will encounter all kinds of dishers in your search for supplies.  One caveat is to make sure the one you select is NSF approved.  This is the governmental stamp that assures your disher will meet sanitation codes for commercial selling.  And by all means, if you have a local restaurant supply store, go there and try the dishers out yourself.  I found that my hands are too small to work the one I was planning to buy.  I'd have ended up a very unhappy worker with carpal tunnel syndrome.  So I found ergonomic ones online that work perfectly for my small hands and that my children can also operate, when they help out.

Categories: Equipment & Supplies

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Reply ProfitSee
10:01 AM on November 14, 2012 
Good Info here as I was also going to go by color then realized it was color coded for size. I think I will use the Yellow disher.
Reply Lilly
3:28 PM on November 20, 2012 
If you're lucky, yellow's the color you like and also the size you need.
Reply oldsoldier
8:52 PM on December 29, 2012 
OK, what is the most common size for italian ice? How many scoops per serving? Selling price? Someplace on this site I saw a picture of a italian ice in a pleated paper cup. The biggest pleated cup I can find is a 5 oz. Is this acceptable?
Reply Lilly
9:13 PM on December 29, 2012 
The blue disher is the most common I've seen (Famous, Via Veneto & Little Jimmy's use it). The pleated cup is a New York/New Jersey thing and extremely small. The only one's who use is are pretty much Little Jimmy's vendors, and I think they charge too much for that small amount ($3). But it all depends where you are and what people in the area will purchase. Scoops per serving depends on size of cup you're using. Get that down first... 7 oz, 8 oz, 9oz, 10 oz. Every vendor is different. I have a blog post on pricing your ice that may help.
Reply Yulandop
8:06 PM on March 22, 2014 
Where did you purchase your dishers?
Reply iceman838
1:48 PM on April 24, 2014 
What's the most common size for forum members? Thanks
Reply Lilly
2:05 PM on April 24, 2014 
Yulandop says...
Where did you purchase your dishers?

Wherever was the cheapest. ;) I think it was Webstaurantstore.com. Bulk pricing. I bought 6 to start, but need more this year for backup and to expand.
Reply Lilly
2:06 PM on April 24, 2014 
iceman838 says...
What's the most common size for forum members? Thanks

Iceman, good question. You can post that in the forum under Equipment to get responses from other vendors.
Reply Ann Marie
12:54 PM on July 20, 2014 
What brand do you recommend for dishers for italian ices? I've been buying cheap ones (what I can get locally at a restaurant supply store) but they are absolute garbage. The sweeper is constantly popping out of the hole. Please help me. I'm ready to purchase in bulk of 12 online but want to make sure they can handle italian ices....thanks!!!
Reply Lilly
4:57 PM on July 20, 2014 
#Ann Marie: I used to recommend the Zerroll EZ Universal dishers. They were amazing. But they recently changed their design and the new ones I got don't work nearly as well. That said they are still a thousand times better than the cheap ones with thumb clicker mechanism. My rep at Zerroll said they are working with their China company on quality issue, because they've gotten a lot of complaints. New ones or fixed ones may be coming, just not sure when.