Myths & Facts of the Italian Ice Business

Posted by Lilly on October 22, 2015 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (5)

(myth fact graphic)

It seems we all start this Italian Ice business with an idea and a vision.  The videos and photos we first see online shape what we believe the business will be like for us.  And I'd love to see the numbers on how many of us got our first glimpse of the Italian Ice vendor's lifestyle through Little Jimmy's.  In their videos, there are always happy vendors, happier customers, and long, long lines.  Instant success.

Well, no discredit to Little Jimmy's, many of us do eventually get to that ice-in-the-sky moment.  But it's high time to separate the fact from the fiction in this business, for all the newcomers.  The myths are the following bill of goods:


1. Weather will always be sunny and warm on selling days. Expect balmy 75 degree temps, light winds and clear skies.

Truth:  my second gig out started beautiful, though cool around 72.  When it warmed up as the day progressed, however, an unexpected dark cloud came over the venue and it began to pour - not called for in forecast!  My tent saved the day, but I realizedside panels for my tent would be a wise investment as I lost napkins and other gear to rain water.  And sunny days can also turn on you, if the heat warms the ice too quickly, or you get a sunburn on one side of your face! 

2. You can start this business fast. 

In truth, four years later, I am still trying to get the business to the level I thought would take only two years to do.  Blame the Health Department for holding me back a year.  And blame my slack marketing efforts for another year when I thought word-of-mouth was taking off and stopped creating and sending mailers!

3. You can sell everywhere.

Actually, you can't.  Those parks and tourist spots you're eyeballing require permits granted by the city.  And all those are highly competitive venues. In New York, the waitlist could be years.  In time you learn that there are better places to sell than the ones you thought you would at first.

4. The best time to sell is between 12pm and 3pm.

One thing I've learned is that this time slot competes for food, not dessert.  People buy pizza and hotdogs by the pound at these hours.  Hunger is not conducive to Italian Ice.  Where I live and sell, the crowd loves water ice as an after lunch or dinner treat.  So, for me, it's been between 3pm and 9pm that I've consistently had my biggest selling days.  Take heart, those of you with jobs!  This makes selling Italian Ice a great part-time job after hours.

5. This business is easy! 

Actually, it's a lot (and I mean a lot) of hard, backbreaking labor.  Nothing, except the scoop, is light.  Tubs of ice at their smallest size of 2.5 gallons are heavy, and extremely cold to your hands.  The pushcart is heavy, the umbrella can be heavy, even portable coolers, once filled, are heavy.  Be ready to gain some muscle and a backache.  Long lines are demanding, and there's no chance of a bathroom break, so limit your fluid intake!  Customers can be picky or uncertain, and patience is a virtue in this business. 

6. You can be in and out of an event, making a killing. 

Not so fast!  You know the old adage... time is money?  Packing your vehicle with all the equipment and inventory is time consuming and must be factored in.  At the end of events, you may be the last one to leave.  Besides the inevitable final customers who run to your booth as they see you packing up, all that equipment and inventory must again be packed for your return home.  And once home, you have to unload and clean.  These are long days. 

7. That HOT new flavor is going to sell out! 

The tried and true standby you only brought one bucket of is always the first to go.  I have a freezer's worth of "hot new flavors".

8. Adults don't want kiddie flavors. 

This one goes along with #7.  But adults are just big kids, and Italian Ice reminds them of their childhood.  You'll be shocked when they pass up that Pina Colada flavor for Cherry and Blue Raspberry!

9. You can run this business alone. 

While there have been times when I've succeeded running a gig alone, I don't recommend it.  You never know when an emergency may hit requiring you to leave your booth.  All that equipment and inventory must be watched and locked up.  Working alone with all cash makes you a target.  Busy lines are very hard to manage alone, changing out empty tubs for full tubs takes time and stops the operation.  You will run out of change or spoons (or both at the same time), and the above-mentioned bathroom or even lunch break make operating alone unpredictable.  Having a helper is such a relief, even if that helper is your 10 year old kid! 

10. All the other vendors are just as happy and excited as you!

This may come as a shock to you, but human nature hates competition.  I've had a local restaurant owner with his food truck eyeing my line, and I don't recall him waving back.  Then there was that time the mobile pizza guy came checking out my operation wondering how he could add ice to his business (no, not trying to partner with me).  I sent him away with a free water ice. Hopefully it's true that kindness kills. ;)

And now for something we hope you'll really like:


1. Murphy's Law loves this business.

If it can go wrong, it eventually will.  But those horrible moments often lead to great learning experiences.  Look for the weather to turn, scoops to be dropped (with no extras), unexpected slow days and unexpected fast days. 

2.  Weather will laugh AND spit in your face! 

Either your future bestselling event with amazing community exposure will get cancelled, or you will spend the day in a booth with no customers, trying to keep your supplies dry, and goose poop off your tent (true story).

3. Events DO lead to more contacts and future business.

Sometimes the most unlikely of customers will become your biggest advocates.  And sometimes it's fellow food vendors who hook you up with your next gigs.

4. The contacts that are most enthusiastic are usually the ones that disappear. 

Similarly, it's the ones you never suspected or noticed, but quietly took your card at the booth, that call you for future business.

5. DO expect long lines on warm, sunny days. 

Get a reliable weather app, and pack your gear and inventory accordingly.  When the selling is good, it's very good.

6. You will sell (and sell best) at events and places you never thought about. 

At first I thought kiddie parks, dog parks, and the community tennis and volleyball courts.  But I never got that free reign to roam as a vendor in my town, and I had to come up with other ideas.  They turned out to be much better!  The aforementioned locales are hit-or-miss kinds of selling places, where I might have sold three cups in an hour.  I now sell only at local events with large crowds for a handful of hours... and a fistful of dollas!  Holla!

7. Expect to jump through hoops to start your business, especially with the Health Department.

Hoops with fire, no less!  Yeah, it can be that bad.  And finding a commissary may just make you throw in the towel.  DON'T!  These are painful, one-time experiences.  Once they're behind you, everything begins to move in the right direction.

8. Your business will experience growing pains. 

You will have to reinvent your business a lot to stay on top.  Don't worry so much about the perfect logo, branding and marketing,  If you're a quick learner, and understand how to pivot quickly, you will be fine. 

And saving the best for last...

9.  Very often, there is FREE FOOD!

I've yet to go hungry at an event.  Gourmet wood-fired pizzas, veggie gyros, hot stuffed peppers, raspberry & rosehip jam, spinach and feta dumplings... ahhh, the vendor's life for me.

Now, I know my experienced vendors out there have a TON to add to this list.  So let's hear it! 

All Eyes On You: Safety in a Cash-Based Business

Posted by Lilly on October 29, 2014 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (8)

If there's one draw to the business of Italian Ice, it's the fast, somewhat easy cash you can make day to day.  But if you think you're the only one drawn to that, think again. 

On more than a few occasions, I've felt that I needed to be on high alert as to my surroundings when selling Italian Ice.  But truthfully, I have continued to sell without much regard for my safety, not to mention that of my teen daughter who also sometimes sells with me.  However, the issue of prevention and protection came front and center the other day when I sold at a large Walk-Your-Dog-for-Cancer type event.  It was business as usual, until the end of the day.  Since I always seem to get the straggler sales, I opted to stick around a little longer to make a few more bucks instead of taking down my booth and leaving with all the other vendors.  It was at this time that a customer came up to buy ice.  As I was serving, he was eyeballing my operation, and as he began to walk away, he asked how I did that day.  I have certainly had folks consider getting into the Italian Ice business, and I can usually tell those types when they ask simple questions like how I keep the ice frozen.  But I this  guy's eyes wandered onto the apron around my waist, my money bag.  That unsettled me.  I very suddenly felt that this guy's intentions could turn in a different direction.  Luckily he was with a female companion, and she started to walk away, so he went with her and that was that.  But this encounter has lingered in my mind for a while, raising a lot of questions for next season. 

For starters, I'm a woman.  Secondly, I often sell alone.  Thirdly, a profitable event leaves a noticeable bulge in my apron!  But really, regardless of whether the first two issues apply to you or not, the last one is the key exposure.  You're carrying cash, and everyone knows it.  Heck, the thieves hit up Italian Ice stores, for crying out loud!  So, besides quitting this business (which isn't going to happen, I love it too much), what are my options for protection?

1.  Sell only during day events. 

This has a good probability of reducing my chances of getting muggged, but I don't like to lie to myself that it solves the entire problem.  There's always a desperate criminal who sees me as an easy mark, day or night.

2.  Get outta Dodge! 

The "Safety in Numbers" rule applies here.  Close down the booth when every other vendor starts to do it.  Luckily my takedown is lightning fast, so I can get out before everyone else a lot of times, for which not sitting in a jammed parking lot alone is a great reason to bolt. 

3.  Get a dog.

Having a dog, preferably on the larger side, is always a deterrent to would-be thieves.  Additionally, it might even be a draw for the kids, if it's cute!  This is a win-win.  A protective dog is a great asset to have guarding my back as I take down the booth, and a great companion for the rides home at night.  Better yet, I could keep the money belt ON the dog!  Luckily so far, nearly every event would allow me to have a dog present too.  So, looks like I'll be hitting up the pet adoptions!

4.  Get a gun.

This one sounds extreme, and may be, but it's still a viable option, and not near as hard to do as it seems.  In fact, in the majority of states, it's easier to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon than it is to get approved from a Health Department to sell mobile food!  To learn a little bit more, read this Wikipedia article.  The only issue here is what a trained gun carrier told me... only take it out to actually use it, never to just warn.  And that's a little scary to me.

5.  Keep a bullhorn at hand.

No, really.  Okay, you should know by now that I don't think like most folks, so this idea actually is plausible to me.  Thinking about a home and how we protect it, there are lessons to learn.  A home alarm system serves really only one purpose, and that is to SCARE OFF THE BURGLARS & ROBBERS.  So the same principle applies.  If I'm alone and about to be mugged, an exceptionally loud noise will hopefully scare off the criminal, but more importantly, it will draw attention from anyone nearby.  And for only $20 for one with a siren, it's worth it!

6.  HIre security.

While this is more a joke idea, maybe it's a way to go.  Bring on a tough friend who has nothing to do that day and would love to be paid with Italian Ice.  Let him sit in your booth all day.  On a similar note, I tend to get into conversations with lots of my customers, and I think that helps too.  And when I get offers of help from other vendors to take down, I now take them up on it, for the company.  I have had up to seven people (customers, friends, kids, kids' friends, even politicians!) in my booth just chatting with me and each other at the end of events.  While fun, it allows me to leave in safety.  Lastly, I make friends with my local police.  They are often at the events where I sell.  I need to get clever and offer all cops free ice at the end of the gig!

7.  When needed... LIE.

If I get a snoopy customer asking obvious questions like "Is this your business?", "Do you run it alone?" or "Do you need any help with your tent?", I have now opted to lie.  Yep, I simply tell them my partner or friend is coming back to help me, or went to get the car, or I'm waiting for my crew to come back.  Anything that makes them think twice and leave.

8.  Use your bank's drop box.

While you still have to close down your setup and  get out of the event safely, one way to make yourself less of a target on your way home is to use your bank's drop box.  if you have a business account, you can ask for those plastic bags bank use for after-hours drop offs and dump your cash right after each event.  UPDATE:  also make use of a locking cash box.

Which leads to...

9.  Never drive home directly.

if a would-be thief thinks he can't get to you at an event, he may consider his next best option, which is to follow the money...  meaning you on your way home.  Think it can't happen?  Read this story!

I'm still grappling with all of this, and may come up with some other useful ideas.  But I bet you've thought of it too or encountered a similar situation.  I want to hear what you think.  Share your ideas in the comments! 

Questions to Ask Every Event Organizer

Posted by Lilly on June 23, 2014 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (3)

Over time, every Italian Ice vendor will come up against circumstances that teach them how to become better and more experienced.  But so many of these lessons are learned only after the fact, when things have already gone south, for whatever reason. 

Sure enough, as probably many of you have also done, I jumped into every event I could find when I first started selling.  I said yes to everything because I needed the exposure and the scooping practice.  I needed to learn which flavors were favorites and how fast ice would melt "in the field".  I needed to guage customer reactions to my prices and my serving sizes.  And I needed to learn how to put that &!@$# tent up by myself and how to shave hours off my setup time!  But after a number of these events, I returned home to count the cash and found out, a little too late, that it wasn't near the income I expected.  Why?  Well, it didn't occur to me to ask a few key questions in advance.  Like, how long is the event?  What time does it start?  An 8:00am start is not conducive to Italian Ice sales, unless you live in Arizona!  If sales won't pick up until 11:00am, you better determine what equipment to bring that will keep your ice frozen for all those dead hours. 

Will there be light at a nighttime event or should you bring your own?  This lesson I learned quickly after one of my first events started at 5:00pm, but ended at 10:00pm.  I didn't even think to bring lighting for my booth!  Try scooping and finding the right dollars for change in the dark!  The night ended with my local firefighters, who were luckily part of the event, using their halogen lights atop their extended ladder pointed at my booth.  Blinding!  But also very helpful... and more than a little embarrassing. 

Outside of the now obvious questions such as start and end time of the event, I've learned there are some other rather important questions you need to ask your event organizer when they first call you up or you reach out to them about inclusion at their gigs. 

1.  How many attendees are expected based on previous years' headcounts? 
You need to know how much ice to bring and how much to expect to earn.

2.  Is there electric (if you need it)?

3.  Any other frozen dessert vendors?  If so, will you be close to each other?  Competition can hamper sales and this needs to be taken into account when facing an event fee.  Is it worth it?

4.  Can you leave early if you sell out? Not a common question, but I got this from an ice cream vendor who told me to prepare for being stuck at a certain event if I sold out, because the organizers didn't want any vehicle traffic where there were pedestrians, for safety, until the end of the event.  He had to spend a few hours doing nothing.

5.  How much is the event fee or profit share percentage?

6.  What happens in event of rain? Do they cancel or have a raindate?  This is important, as the raindate may interfere with another event you've booked.  Or worse, you'll be committed to selling in the rain.  How will you handle that situation if (or rather, when) it occurs?

7.  What if weather affects sales - can flat fee be reduced?  If possible, you have to minimize risk when paying a flat fee for an event.  Negotiate this one.  The risk disappears with profit sharing.

8..  Is there a refund in case event is cancelled by organizers, under what circumstances?  Make sure everyone is on same page when it comes to fees.

9.  Do you require proof of insurance and to be listed as additional insured?

10.  Who is the contact (and what is cell #) for day of event, in case of unforeseen issues/emergencies?

I still consider myself a newbie Italian Ice vendor.  So, I have yet to come across all the questions to ask and lessons to learn.  The ones above are some of the basics, but I'm sure there are more.  How about you?  All you experienced vendors, what other questions would you add to this list?

How to Sell Out Tubs of Italian Ice

Posted by Lilly on June 16, 2014 at 7:55 AM Comments comments (4)

In my second full year of selling italian Ice, I am finding there's no shortage of learning when it comes to becoming more efficient.  Recently, I faced a frustrating inventory issue that was driving me crazy.  After every event, I would repeatedly return with half tubs of Italian ice.  Half tubs stink! 

For starters, there's nothing nicer than starting out  a selling session with beautiful, untouched full tubs of Italian Ice.  It's a great presentation.  But starting your day with half tubs, especially if customers can peek inside your cooler or cart, looks like... well... leftovers.  And essentially they are.  But to the vendor, they are still income.  Next gripe, they make a mess of your freezer organization and inventory management.  You end up with a mix of full tubs and half tubs.  And when stacked on top of each other inside a chest freezer, you then have ongoing, back-breaking sessions of lifting tubs off each other to see what you have to get rid of at your next event.  And lastly, at that upcoming next event, you now have to take both those hated half tubs plus full tubs as backup, since, of course, you will empty those half tubs very quickly.

Here's where I'd get snagged in the past.  I used to take my most popular flavors, and also take backup of those flavors.  I figured, when I sold out of the favorite flavors, I could just refill those flavors from backup tubs, keep my menu board full and pretty, and keep my customers happy with choices.  Well, it quickly backfired on me, having to later lug half empty tubs back to the freezer.

Now for the lesson I learned rather late.  (For all you vendors much smarter than me, you can move on to the forums now, or go post some beautiful photos of your perfect operations in the gallery.  This blog post is not for you.)  At my last big event, I tried out a different scheme.  I considered the number of hours the event would last.  Knowing I can scoop about a tub per hour alone and two tubs if I have a helper, I decided to take only the number of full tubs I expected to sell, plus two for backup, in case we did well.  

During that event, I implemented tried-and-true psychological marketing, which I share with you now!  The SOLD OUT trick!  When I sold out of a favorite flavor, I did not restock it.  Instead I removed the flavor from the menu, announced that we sold out of that flavor and only had the listed flavors remaining.  It's amazing what happened next!  The line grew!  People freaked out!  The Scarcity Principle kicked into high gear.  They moved on to their second favorite flavor.  I never even considered that people were so flexible with Italian Ice.  Turns out they love more than one flavor, and I could  steer them like a school of fish in whichever direction the flavor current moved!  When mango sold out, they switched to Captain America (red, white and blue).  When The Captain sailed, they moved to cherry.  When cherry went and there were only scrapings of lemon, they took that too!  And when I brought out backstock of blueberry, rock solid and couldn't even be scooped, they demanded it!  It didn't matter if I took the flavor off the board - the customers could still see it in my cooler and that it was a full tub of Italian Ice.  They wanted it like vultures want roadkill.  And still my line grew.

By the time the event was ending and fireworks starting, my line was huge, and we just scooped blueberry, cup after endless cup.  I yelled out that all we had was blueberry, hoping to thin the line, but nothing changed.  I then yelled out that the frozen yogurt vendor had slashed prices in half, and we lost a few customers.  But then they returned!  It turned out the froyo was one small scoop of vanilla only at $2.00, down from $4.00 - not near the bargain we offered at a very full cup of refreshing blueberry Italian Ice for $3.  To end the story, we sold out of eight tubs of Italian Ice in 3.5 hours. 

Not a single half tub went home.  Can I get an AMEN?!

Free Samples of Italian Ice: Yay or Nay?

Posted by Lilly on April 25, 2013 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (7)

Street vendor offering a sample

New Italian Ice vendors must repeatedly make choices when starting up their businesses. Many of these choices involve money, and if we can avoid spending it, that's usually what we prefer to do. As a new vendor, I am faced with two opposing mindsets when it comes to whether or not to give out free samples of Italian Ice to potential customers. 

On the one hand, I have a mindset - I call her Grudgy Greta to keep my internal dialogue interesting - that thinks of the cumulative expense over time that free samples would create.  When I'm faced with constant thoughts of my bottom line, giving out free samples looks like I'm standing there handing out cash to every passerby!  I understand the idea that the sales I gain from this marketing tactic from purchases customers may not otherwise have made will more than offset the cost.  But then I think of how many people will take the free sample, thirst quenched, and mosey right along without buying a thing.  That's possible.

The other mindset - she's Samplin' Sally - of course, gives out free samples... freely. This practice allows folks who are unfamiliar with Italian Ice to learn what it is and how it differs from other frozen desserts.  And for those who know what it is, it allows them to compare my Italian Ice with another (hopefully inferior) vendor's ice.

So what to do?
Believe it or not, psychologists and marketers have spent good time and money to answer this very question: to sample or not to sample.  One study conducted at Stanford University (Wadhwa, Shiv & Nowlis) arrived at the interesting revelation that most people (81%) believed, like Grudgy Greta, that a small sample of something sweet would satisfy a customer's craving and make them less likely to buy a product.  Aha!  Are you also one of the 81%?

However!  There's more than meets the eye when it comes to free samples.  Some will say that free samples induces a kind of customer guilt, an obligation for them to "pay back" for getting something free.  Others say that instead it makes customers grateful to have received something free, but still they feel they want to do something in return.  And yet others say that free samples take away risk, allowing the customer to feel more comfortable parting with their money knowing that the sample is something they would, in fact, like more of.

In another study, marketing researchers  were able to show that food and drink samples actually make shoppers hungrier and thirstier and puts them in a reward-seeking state of mind.  Knowing a little bit about how our seemingly irrational minds work reveals more.  See, a sample of something, particularly food and sweet food at that, creates desire.  We're quite literally "doped up" after having a sample, thanks to the dopamine release in our brains.  Dopamine causes us to crave.  And once that craving begins, it's very hard to get it out of your head!  I know when I pass up a free sample of delicious, juicy teriyaki chicken from an Asian restaurant at the mall, I kick myself for not taking it, and I begin looking for a non-obvious way to pass by again!  This dopamine, however, does nothing for satisfaction.  Only obtaining the object of a craving (called the reward) can truly quench your thirst, so to speak.  So when a hot, thirsty customer walks by your cart, and you offer a spoonful of sweet, refreshing Italian Ice, you are extremely likely to  make a sale.

Now for the twist.  Another study, usually referred to simply as The Chocolate Study (Lammers), revealed something that may be of interest to you as you go about offering those free samples.  In this study, potential customers were given a free, small sample of chocolate at a chocolate store in a major mall.  The samples immediately increased chocolate sales.  Nothing new there.  But the chocolates which were bought were different varieties than the the chocolate they sampled.  Could this be a way to increase sales of Italian Ice flavors other than the ones you're sampling?  That will make an interesting blog post for another day.  I'll have to conduct my own experiment to find out. 

One final tidbit of information seals the deal for me.  It turns out Italian Ice sampling is a tax deduction, which shuts up Grudgy Greta and puts a smile on Samplin' Sally.  The trick, however, is figuring out how much I give away in samples versus how much I sell from the same bucket of ice.  Hmmm.  

So will I offer free samples?  Absolutely!  Which mindset are you?  Are you offering samples, or do you think it's not necessary?  Share your $0.02 by using the comment link at the top right of this article.

5 Mistakes Not to Make When Asked to Donate Italian Ice

Posted by Lilly on February 14, 2013 at 4:05 AM Comments comments (2)

Last Spring, I wasn't two steps into starting up my Italian Ice business when the unexpected happened.  I was searching for a commissary, and I thought it wise of me to ask local churches and synagogues with kitchen space whether they'd partner up with me as my commissary. Shortly after receiving a rejection email from one organization, their contact person turned right around and asked me if I would donate tubs of Italian Ice to their annual 5k event.  Interestingly (and quite clever), she mentioned that the local Rita's had already committed to one tub.  Well, naive, anxious and not to be outdone, I found myself committing enthusiastically for TWO tubs of Italian Ice.  In return, she promised, I would get free advertising exposure in their 5k marketing flyer.  At the time, I thought it was a wonderful opportunity!  A year later, a year wiser and more jaded, I view it very differently.  Let me explain.

On the day of the event, I loaded their two selected Italian Ice flavors into a marine cooler to take over to their event, at 8:00 am on a Saturday morning.  First, the entire point of becoming an Italian Ice vendor is to run by my own rules and my own hours.  Typically I won't sell until 11:00am when it gets good and hot and I've enjoyed sleeping in.  Already, bleary-eyed, I was not as enthusiastic as when I'd made the commitment.  

Next, upon arriving at the event, there were tons of people and volunteers, but my contact was nowhere in sight.  I asked random people to lead me to her, but in the end I never met her.  A kind soul took me to the kitchen freezers where I dropped off my Italian Ice.  Nevermind that their kitchen and walk-in freezer was huge and state-of-the-art!  The freezer shelves were empty.  And yet, they'd declined my request for a commissary.  Yeah, that got to me. 

About two weeks later, I got a a thank-you email from an unknown party for that organization, informing me that my Italian Ice was a hit and that it was gone after one hour of continuous scooping.  What I didn't get, however, was any proof of that advertising they'd promised.  Nor did I receive any letter formally detailing my donation, so that I could write it off on the following year's business taxes. 

So, what did I learn that I now share with you, dear readers? 

  1. Have any organization which wants you to donate tubs or time write you a formal request in advance, that you can choose to approve or disapprove as you see fit.  You could have a page on your website for these organizations with a downloadable form that they can fill out and physically mail to you.  This will create a paper that you can file away with no extra work on your part.  I don't believe we should take time or funds away from our businesses to print out any online requests.  Put the onus on the requesting organization.
  2. Once you approve the organization's request, have them pick up the donation!  My contact clearly had the space for Italian Ice tubs available, and a more suitable time for pickup by her would have been the night before, even a week before - not the vendor making any deliveries the morning of their event.
  3. Have them provide you a copy of their marketing piece showing where they placed your company in their advertising, as promised, before you let any tubs of ice leave your possession.  This marketing material will be printed far in advance of their event, so this is not a difficult request.  And as business owners, we need to obtain proof of agreements. 
  4. Do not provide dishers (scoops) for organizations!  This only makes you have to pick them up (think fuel cost and time).  Or, as in my case, I simply never got it back.  There went a $12 piece of equipment with two free tubs of ice.  I certainly can not afford to do that repeatedly. 
  5. If their event goes well and you get positive feedback, as I did, ask for their permission to use their comments as a testimonial on your website.  This, at least, I did right!

in the end, I learned, and I'm more business savvy.  And I'm certainly not opposed to donating and helping organizations out... on my terms.  So, how about you?  Do you have any lessons learned from times when you were asked to donate Italian Ice to an organization's event?  I'd love you to share them with us in the comments.

Is Your Italian Ice Cup Half Full or Half Empty?

Posted by Lilly on April 7, 2012 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (2)

Photo Credit: Roadfood.com

In all businesses there are tips, tricks and tools to help you gain the highest profit from what you sell.  And the Italian Ice vending business is no different.  There are a number of ways that you can maximize your earnings.  And while not all of them seem entirely ethical, I'll leave that debate up to you.

At any rate, here's a tip I learned from one Italian Ice industry veteran.  I won't disclose his name in the event you feel this one falls under the "less than ethical" umbrella.  At first, that is what I thought when I heard it, but upon further consideration, I now disagree (with myself). 

Here's the trick... when you serve Italian Ice to your customers and you're using styrofoam or paper cups, any opaque material, you scoop the first scoop and drop it gently into the cup.  Do not push down on the ice or try to level it.  Follow with another scoop or two, however you are choosing to present your ice, that is placed on top of the first.  You want to take care not to push down on the ice.  What this does is create an empty space at the bottom of the cup.  This means you can use less product per serving, but you still achieve that "over the top" presentation that customers find so appealing.  It appears that they are getting more than they actually are.

Keep in mind, this trick only works with harder Italian Ice in taller non-seethrough cups.

So, now, the debate.  What do you think of this practice?  Do you think you would employ it?  While I originally found it bordering on deceptive, I now think that if every customer is still getting the same amount and each one paying the same price, then this trick might just fall quite naturally under the marketing umbrella.  Many companies sell product that visually looks like the same quantity as another, when in fact it's not.  Take, for instance, whipped icing or whipped chocolate bars.  These are a newer product meant to produce a lighter, fluffier consistency, while still looking the same size as other icings and chocolate bars.  The problem here, of course, is that those companies sell the whipped product for the same price as the non-whipped product, so you are in effect paying more for air.  But we don't do that in our Italian Ice scenario.  It's just meant to look like a larger serving, but the actual ounces each person gets is the same.  But, naturally, using less product, you are able to make more profit per customer.

I'm interested in your take on this.  Share your thoughts and comments with me.  And if you have other ideas, email those to me, and I will feature it the next Tricks of the Trade blog article.