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Caterboss guide to buying Ice Cream Display Freezers


Ice cream scooping displays can be a great addition to shops, cafes and restaurants.  Selling ice cream can generate excellent profit margins and increase footfall.  Your budget, requirements and type of ice cream (or gelato) you wish to sell can all influence the type of unit you purchase. You can categorise ice cream scooping displays into three main different types.

Budget scoop ice cream displays are essentially chest display freezers converted to be suitable for ice cream scooping. You can get everything from a 4 pan unit (Tefcold SC Ice Cream Display Range) up to the massive Boston 210 with 22 napoli tubs on display. They can all achieve a temperature of between –14°C and -18°C  which is essential to make ice cream easy to scoop. They have what is called a skin evaporator (the part of the refrigeration system that gets cold) – this is where the refrigeration system is built into the wall of the freezer – it is a simple, reliable yet very effective way of keeping product frozen. Also as they are based on chest freezers, they maximise space, so you find you can display many tubs for a relatively small unit. They are excellent where budgets are limited. Disadvantages can be that you don’t tend to get a rear serving shelf on this type of cabinet. Storage tends to be underneath the ice cream pans on display (so you have to lift these out to access tubs stored underneath). Some of the units also have a sliding lid under the sneeze screen to access the ice cream. Also as they are a static cooled system you can get ice build-up over time – though you can reduce this by making sure lids are properly closed and not left open unnecessarily. These cabinets make a great entry level unit into the world of ice cream sales and the IC-SC and IC-SCEB are some of our best selling units proving to be both reliable and popular.

This is where some people would say “proper” ice cream scooping displays start. This area of the market is dominated by excellent units from Framec and ISA with the massively popular, Top Ice Cream Counter Range, Framec J-Range, and Isetta Display Range. These are specifically designed for display of ice cream and generally accept 4.5 - 5 litre napoli tubs. They will have a rear shelf to aid serving and will come with an internal light either in the glass canopy or at the back of the unit to illuminate the ice cream and help create a mouth-watering display. Commonly, they have a light yet effective hinged rear lid to help insulate the unit, yet allow quick access for serving customers. Generally they have separate refrigerated under storage accessed through a door at the rear of the unit, so you do not have to remove pans from the display to access extra stock.

At the higher end of the market you move into ventilated (sometimes called fan assisted) ice cream scooping cabinets.  ISA and Bermuda make some of the best scooping units available. The cost increases for this kind of unit but so do the benefits. The temperature is more consistent over the whole display and the unit will be able to deal with high volume of ice cream being served. Ice build-up is less likely as they have automatic defrost to help prevent this. Ice cream can also be positioned higher in the unit creating a more attractive display. A well know high street chain selling ice cream increased its sales by 20% by changing to a cabinet that displays ice cream right near the top of the unit – making the ice cream more eye catching to passing customers. Also with ventilated cooling enabling more consistent temperature they are ideal for gelato which is more temperature sensitive. Ventilated units generally do not to have under-storage so you will need a back-up freezer for extra stock.

Things to consider when buying an ice cream display

  • How much space do you have for a display?
  • How many flavours do you want to sell? -  make sure you are going to be displaying the most popular flavours.
  • Who is going to supply your ice cream? Most suppliers tend to sell in plastic napoli tubs that slot straight into the stainless napoli pans. Some supply 4ltr (or both). It’s worth checking this out first.
  • Are you happy to have extra stock that you have to access from the top. Or do you want under storage accessed from the rear. You need to make sure you have sufficient back up stock especially if the weather is fine and sales increase. If you have a high end ventilated scooping unit, do you need an extra storage freezer (upright or chest freezer) to keep extra stock in?
  • Do you have a suitable power supply for the unit you are buying. The smaller ones just tend to run off a 13amp 3 pin plug . Larger more premium units are sometimes 20amp, 32amp or some of the really big display units are 3 phase supply.

Don’t forget the extras you might need. Signage both inside and outside your premises to advertise your ice cream. Your ice cream supplier can often be of help.

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