With the economy now in “recovery” mode, party rental companies are seeing steady interest in food service equipment rentals to accompany such staples as inflatables, tables, chairs and tents.
Popcorn machines and “standard” food preparation equipment, like coffee makers and chafing dishes, continue to rank at the top of consumers’ rental lists. However, for at least some operators, the fact that certain pieces of equipment allow party-givers to offer items that cannot be made at home puts them neck-in-neck with traditional options.
Cotton candy machines comprise one key example. Adrian De La Rosa, owner of Mega Party Events, and Ocmara Ortega, owner of Party Rental Depot, both in Miami, Fla., deemed cotton candy machines their most popular rentals. In addition to being special because it is, unlike popcorn and hot dogs, a food few if any consumers can prepare themselves, cotton candy is a top performer given its unusual appearance and bright color, both operators asserted. “Plus,” Ortega said “kids like that it’s sugary.”
Mike Griffin, owner of Mike’s Moonwalk Rentals & Party Supplies in Boylston, Mass., concurred. He added that cotton candy machines are also the most popular food service equipment rental option among his customers based on the fact that they can be used “year-round, inside and outside.” This is not true of some other non-traditional machines available through the company, like dough fryers.
At Air Castles & Slides in Edison, N.J., the “can’t-make-it-at-home” factor puts Sno-Cone makers on an equal popularity plane with popcorn and cotton candy machines. Debbie Henderson, owner, recently acquired a Polar Pete polar bear-shaped Sno-Cone machine from Gold Medal Products. “When I first got it, I thought it would be a novelty that wouldn’t be rented as often as regular Sno-Cone machines, but people really love it, and it has become extremely popular,” Henderson stated. “It’s more attractive for backyard parties, and more fun for the kids.”
Henderson is also experiencing considerable success with food service equipment that enables customers to serve more novel items to party-goers. She cited as an example the Pucker Powder machine, from which children can dispense Pucker Powder powdered sour candy into tubes. Children are attracted by the flavor and color of the candy, and adults, by its resemblance to the Pixie Stix candy tubes of their youth.
The same trend has taken hold at PartyDelaware.com (also known as Margarita Matt’s Margarita Machine Rentals), a New Castle, Del.-based operator that rents all types of food service equipment as well as inflatables, tents and other party accoutrements. Owner Matthew Wolynetz recently added a complete tiki bar to his cadre of rental options. The popularity of tropical themed parties has kept a deluxe margarita machine at the head of Wolynetz’s list of top equipment rentals. Nonetheless, a desire among consumers to lend an element of food excitement to parties and make them stand out a bit from the crowd has also boded well for such items as chocolate fountains, grill carts and crab steamer pots.
Not surprisingly, event rental operators capitalize on the popularity and appeal of food service equipment through suggestive, and not so suggestive, upselling, as well as by offering a few “bonuses.”
For instance, customers of Air Castles & Slides are always asked whether they would like to incorporate fun food machines into their orders for inflatables and/or carnival games; those that have already requested one machine are urged to add another to give guests an even better party experience, Henderson noted. Such “extras” as a free table designed to make it more comfortable to dispense cotton candy from a cotton candy machine are also used to up the ante.
Toward the same end, Air Castles & Slides’ online rental-booking system has a built-in suggestive selling feature. “The system will automatically suggest food equipment as something other people ‘bought’ when booking an event” similar to the one for which a user is currently making a rental reservation with the company, Henderson explained.
At Mike’s Moonwalk Rentals & Party Supplies, Griffin and his staff point out to customers that renting a food service machine is less expensive than tacking on a second or third inflatable as a means of jazzing up their event. Individuals interested in renting tables, chairs and/or tents from the company are “reminded” about its cadre of food service equipment. Cotton candy machines are promoted as not only great for use during parties, but also as vehicles for creating an alternative or adjunct to traditional “goody bags” distributed at the conclusion of the festivities.
Special deals on food service equipment rentals further sweeten the pot, Griffin observed. One package, available for $280, offers a 50 percent discount on a popcorn or Sno Cone machine with the rental of any inflatable castle/slide or moonwalk. A $460 package includes a free cotton candy machine with any tent/chair/table combination.
Top Tips for Keeping Food Service Rental Equipment Clean
No event rental operator wants to develop a reputation for delivering less-than-pristine food service equipment to its customers. Following these tips should help to ensure that this does not happen.
- Don’t delay. Thoroughly clean all units immediately after they have been returned. You may not be able to do as complete a job if you delay it entirely or make a cursory attempt to clean equipment with the promise of a more comprehensive cleaning just before the next delivery, causing possible problems down the road.
- Follow manufacturers’ instructions. Only by disassembling equipment according to the vendors’ specifications and handling individual components as directed can you be certain that they are truly sanitary and, as such, “ready to go” when needed.
- Wrap it up. Enclose clean units in plastic or shrink wrap, removing the protective covering only upon delivering them to the event site. This will prevent dust and other particulate matter from accumulating on and inside equipment during storage and in transit.