Spec Check: Beverage Dispensers

Underestimating the beverage dispenser size needed and not allocating enough space for the unit are common specifying mistakes.


When choosing a beverage dispenser, it is first important to consider how the operation will use it. Self-serve applications are best served with all-in-one units that include both ice and beverage dispensing valves. Beverage dispensers are typically sized for foot traffic. It is not unusual for a single location to have two self-serve units in the front of house and another crew-serve dispenser that is designated for drive thru orders. Operations with behind-the-counter and drive thru beverage dispensing needs may want to consider a drop-in dispenser, which is set into countertops.


The amount of brands or products offered will dictate the size of the equipment and space required. Countertop ice/beverage units that are 22 to 24 inches wide typically provide six valves. The most common type used for self-service in both quick- and full-serve applications is a 30-inch-wide unit, which accommodates between eight and 10 valves. Large format dispensers, which are 42 to 44 inches wide and accommodate 12 brands, are most often used in convenience stores and for other retail applications. For high-volume use, there also are 60-inch-wide beverage dispensers that have 20 valves.


Foodservice operators also need to decide how many flavors will be offered. Staple varieties include cherry, vanilla and lemon lime. One newer innovation is flavor shots, which provide consumers with the ability to customize their drinks. Beverage dispensers are available with up to eight different multi-flavor valves for operations looking to diversify drink offerings. Newer multi-flavor valves provide up to 16 soft drink varieties in 30 inches of space and utilize four dispense points.

Ice Requirements

It is not uncommon for operators to underestimate the amount of ice needed for beverage dispensing. When determining how much ice is necessary, operators need to be aware that as much as 30 percent to 35 percent of ice will cool water and syrup with ice-cooled refrigeration dispenser units. This means that, for a 250-pound bin, as much as 87 ½ pounds of ice will not be available for use in dispensed beverages.

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