A common sight around America, ice vending machines remain a popular business opportunity since so many people need and use bagged ice. Ice machine franchises are simple, no-frills businesses that can be successfully operated without the need for employees or multiple types of inventory.
Interested in starting an ice machine franchise, but unsure of the details? We’ve gathered all the necessary information about ice machine businesses, as well as some of the nation’s top ice machine franchise opportunities.
What is an Ice Machine Franchise?
What is an ice vending machine franchise? An ice machine business is a company that owns and operates one or more ice vending machines at various locations, like gas stations, grocery stores and marinas. The organization earns money based on the purchases of bulk ice, bagged ice or other ice and water products.
When an established ice machine brand decides to license its operations to other small business owners who run their own ice machine businesses under the same brand, a franchising relationship is established.
The Ice Machine Industry in 2022
In addition to ice vending, the ice machine industry includes water vending machines and other ice-related products. Not surprisingly, the ice machine industry is thriving in 2022. In fact, the ice vending machine market has been called the fastest-growing segment of the $4 billion retail ice business sector, selling more than 1.25 billion pounds of ice vended directly to customers each year. The low-cost operation of an ice machine franchise offers franchisees an almost assured positive return on their investments with a scalable business model.
Why You Should Consider an Ice Machine Franchise
Interested in starting your own business, but unsure what market to enter? An ice vending machine franchise could be the perfect option. Not only is the ice industry booming, but operating vending machines can become a solid source of passive income. Before you know it, you soon could be running a company consisting of several ice vending machines.
Entrepreneurs should consider an ice machine franchise for the following reasons:
- Independence – As a franchisee, you get to be your own boss, and you get to operate your business as you see fit, provided it aligns with your franchise agreement. You even can decide to scale your business when you’re ready.
- Low-cost investment – The affordable cost to start selling ice with an ice machine franchise makes it an attractive option for entrepreneurs hoping to start a franchise business. Interested franchisees potentially can enter the business for less than $50,000.
- Brand awareness – A benefit of franchising is the brand awareness that it offers even new business owners. By purchasing a franchise, entrepreneurs are assured that customers are already familiar with their brand and products, even before the franchise location has made its first sale.
- Support – Parent companies want their franchisees to succeed, and so it’s in everyone’s best interest when brands provide ongoing support to franchisees starting and operating their businesses. Many corporations will provide initial training to new franchisees, as well as ongoing assistance the franchise might need.
Top Ice Machine Franchise Options
Even after you’ve decided that an ice machines franchise is an option you’d like to pursue, there are several different ice vending companies that offer franchising opportunities. Some of the top ice vending machine and water vending locations and franchise options include:
1. Ice House America
Founded in 2003, Ice House America boasts more than 2,500 independently-owned ice vending locations in 27 different states and more than 3,500 worldwide. Ice House America franchisees can monitor their businesses remotely, and the ice machines require little upkeep aside from regular maintenance. To start an Ice House America franchise, interested parties need to pay a $7,000 franchise fee and provide a cash investment ranging from $25,000 to $75,000.
2. The Ice Depot
The Ice Depot revolutionizes the way ice is made and delivered. Ice Depot systems eliminate inefficiencies while providing clean, pure, fresh and inexpensive ice. According to The Ice Depot, its machines don’t jam thanks to patented drum technology, which uses only a single moving part. Entrepreneurs investing in a franchise of popular ice stations with The Ice Depot are not charged any franchise fees, annual license fees or annual maintenance fees, and the company claims the cost of its franchises is $20,000 less expensive than its nearest competitor.
3. Kooler Ice
Another popular ice vending business, Kooler Ice claims to be part of the future of packaged ice with its automated ice and water vending machines. Ice is automatically bagged in Kooler Ice machines, and they boast low utility costs to operate. Partners can increase their revenue by adding optional water vending stations. Kooler Ice does not charge franchise fees, and their vending machines can be purchased with low upfront costs.
4. Bag of Ice
A leading manufacturer of ice and purified water vending solutions, Bag of Ice has been producing high-quality, cost-effective ice and purified water vending machines for over 10 years. The ice vending business offers multiple business models to accommodate franchisees, and storefront models are delivered to franchisees for simple installation. Bag of Ice does not require franchisees to purchase territories, pay franchise fees or insist that they participate in long-term maintenance programs.
5. Everest Ice and Water
According to Everest Ice and Water, its vending machines are the most energy efficient on the market, boosting profits for franchise owners. In fact, 10 pounds of ice can be made with an Everest Ice and Water vending machine for just about 7 cents, but they can be sold for between $2 and $3, resulting in impressive profit margins and a quicker return on investment. The company advertises low capital investment requirements, and it does not charge licensing or franchise fees to its investors.
6. Twice the Ice
Twice the Ice is another successful ice vending business that boasts more than 3,300 locations worldwide. Small business owners who purchase a Twice the Ice franchise enjoy professional real estate location services, multiple machine models, several financing options and even special programs for veteran franchisees. The initial costs to purchase a Twice the Ice location range from $43,000 to $150,000.
7. Polar Station
Prospective small business owners who want to invest in a Polar Station ice vending machine business can expect to offer healthy ice and water from a user-friendly vending machine. The Polar Station ice and water vending machine use a patented purification process, and it can produce more than 7,500 pounds of ice each day. To open a Polar Station ice vending machine, interested entrepreneurs need at least $90,000 in liquid capital. The promised return on investment is what makes ice vending popular.
Under its parent company of Ice House America, Iceborn began franchising in 2012. Iceborn machines are available in a variety of sizes, and they can dispense both water and ice options. Often placed in retail center parking lots, Iceborn machines feature an accompanying app that franchisees can use to remotely monitor their properties from a smartphone or computer. Iceborn charges a $7,000 franchise fee, and the initial investment to start an Iceborn franchise ranges from $111,550 to $242,845.
9. Just Ice
Just Ice is committed to being the ice vending machine industry leader and plans on using its custom focus and cutting-edge electronics to achieve that goal. The company provides franchisees with a profitable, employee-free source of passive income with one of its ice vending stations. The only requirements are restocking bags for ice bagging and collecting money. Just Ice charges no franchise fees, royalty fees or any other fees after the initial purchase.
10. Polar Ice Express
A popular self-serve ice machine franchise business, Polar Ice Express offers a 13-foot-long vending station that can fit into a single parking space. Polar Ice Express is known in the industry for boasting the fewest number of moving parts among leading ice stations. The system is well designed and requires little upkeep, only the removal of money, placement of bags, and cleaning up after customers. The liquid capital and total investment required to purchase a Polar Ice Express franchise is $90,000.
How to Choose the Best Franchise to Set Up Your Ice Vending Machine Business
With so many great ice and water vending franchises from which to choose, how can a hopeful small business owner pick the best franchise for their professional needs and goals? If you’re considering starting an ice machine franchise, be sure to ponder the following details:
How much does the franchise cost? Be sure to consider more than the franchise fee. Many companies require their franchisees to hold a certain amount of liquid capital or even a minimum net worth. Other costs to consider include building costs, equipment costs and fees like license fees and royalties.
Does the company offer franchise opportunities in the location you desire to live? Many franchises assign territories to their franchisees, so be sure the available locations are reasonable to where you reside or plan to live.
What sort of training and ongoing support does the brand offer its franchisees? Does the company warranty its ice machine equipment, and for how long? These considerations are important as a franchisee is running their business.
Does the ice vending machine company offer its franchisees a mobile app to help manage their businesses? What type of technology do the ice machines use? Can it simply sell a bag of ice, or can the same machine offer water vending or a bulk ice option?
- READ MORE: Most Profitable Vending Machines
How Much Does It Cost to Start an Ice Vending Business?
The cost of an ice machine varies greatly depending on factors like location, size and capabilities. Most ice vending machines range in price from less than $50,000 all the way to $150,000. Other costs like franchise fees might apply when starting an ice machine franchise. Many entrepreneurs finance their initial investments with loans and other funding options.
How Profitable Are Ice Vending Machines?
Ice vending machines can be a profitable source of passive income for a franchisee. According to sources, ice vending franchisees can expect to earn more than $3,500 per month by offering a vending machine dispensing water and ice to keep customers cooler.
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