8 Things You Never Thought to Dip in Chocolate

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What ever happened to Fondue Night?  At one time, just about every household had a fondue pot with those colored-tipped skewers.  Nothing was better than reaching for a warm piece of crusty bread or moist piece of chicken and dunking into a gooey pot of cheesy goodness.  Or for dessert, there was juicy slices of pineapple and melons to swirl into melted chocolate.  Perhaps we’ve become a society of burger and fries on the run, instead of sitting down with friends or family for a good meal and conversation.  Working for a meal, has gone out of fashion, or we’ve lost our imagination when it comes to light dinners.  What we need to do is bring back the creativity of fondue and great conversations.  But rather than be predictable, we need to think outside of the fondue pot and ask ourselves what haven’t we dipped into chocolate that we probably should? Chocolate is an interesting dip because it can be mild in flavor and it intensifies the taste of whatever you’re dipping into it.  Think salt and sweet, like French fries instead of cheese.  The challenge is to try unique flavors with either white, milk or dark chocolate.  You may find the new flavors may be exactly that signature dish you’ve been looking for! Dipping Tip:  As you search for snacks to dip, keep in mind the chocolate is a liquid.  Therefore, your snacks should be relatively dry so chocolate doesn’t slide right off. So here are our snack options.  Feel free to try them or venture on your own.

  1. Doritos – The cheese and salt mix wonderfully with the sweetness of milk chocolate.  Very surprising.
  2. Mozzarella Sticks – Cheese and dark chocolate have a very unique flavor, one that will have you reaching for seconds.
  3. French Fries – Not those skinny ones from the fast food place, but the steak fries, or thick crinkle cut.  The milk chocolate increases the saltiness of the fry.
  4. Zucchini – Raw zucchini is often disguised in many other recipes, from apple pies to spaghetti, so why not dip in chocolate.  The mild flavor of the zucchini allows you to enjoy all the sweetness of the chocolate.
  5. Chicken – If you love chicken mole, try a lightly seasoned chick breast dipped into dark chocolate.  This is a meal in itself.
  6. Beef Jerky – Who knew!  The sweet milk chocolate with the dried salted beef really provided a surprise in flavor – a smoky, sweet taste.
  7. Cheese Ravioli – Now this one is a meal!  Instead of a tomato sauce, milk chocolate gives the smoky flavor of the ravioli a mild taste.
  8. Corn Muffins – This one is not as creative, but certainly worth the try.  Like the chicken breast, the flavor is reminiscent to a mole.

Don’t look at chocolate as a dessert, but as a creative option to the fondue pot.  If you and your guests are up for the taste challenge, you can come up with some new flavors.  So the next time Lay’s Potato Chips has a flavor contest, you can be the winner with your new creation. Adapted from The Daily Meal by Sara Kay (August 18, 2014).

Use Wood Displays and Barrels to Create a Self-Service Candy Shop

Many customers know what they want before entering a store. Most of them want to get it quickly, pay for it, and get on with their lives. Meet their needs while satisfying their sweet tooth with a self-service candy shop. Wood barrel displays make it easy to display wrapped candies, taffy, and more in bulk. Shoppers will find exactly what they are looking for and you will have less work to do.

Natural finish and stained barrels are available to enhance the look of the store. Color choices include cranberry, green, black, blue, and yellow. Natural barrels have a rustic look and are made from cedar and other attractive wood. There are even whitewash barrels to create a shabby chic look. Hinged, molded acrylic lids keep contents safe inside the containers. Adding acrylic sign holders and tethered metal scoops with holsters creates self-serve stations for wrapped treats.

Candy shops can even offer sweet treats for the four-footed members of the family. Large wooden barrels filled with organic treats for dogs and cats will be popular with animal lovers. After they fill a bag with candy for themselves, these shoppers will scoop out treats for Fido or Fluffy. Candy shop owners will have fun experimenting with pet treat recipes.

False bottom wood barrels are designed for inventories that are running low. They are impressive in size but hold a smaller quantity of goodies. These come in natural or painted finishes and can be enhanced by adding fabric to cover the bottom of the container area and drape over the sides. Storeowners can change this material with the seasons, holidays, or to draw attention to sale items.

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Using large scoops encourages customers to take hearty helpings of taffy and wrapped candies. However, shoppers may not want to go overboard. Install some hanging scales to help them stay within budget. Shoppers can weigh their bags, adding or removing treats as needed. There will be no surprises when they reach the sales register.

Selecting displays is one of the most fun parts of opening a candy store. When wooden barrels are chosen, storeowners receive attractive containers that can withstand years of use. Whether the barrels are large or small, full capacity or feature a false bottom, they look impressive on a sales floor. Shoppers will help themselves to all the goodies they want and can weigh their bags to keep their purchases reasonably priced.

The Candy Buffet: A Pastime In The Making

Everyone loves candy. So why not create a candy buffet for every occasion? Whether it’s a birthday party, a baby shower, a wedding or a small family gathering, a table full of candy is sure to please all your guests. Here are a few tips on how to build a new hobby out of creating candy buffets. You’ll be a natural before you know it.

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Courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Building a candy buffet can be simple if you follow a step-by-step process. How are you going to display each type of candy? Pick out several unique glass jar. What types of candy are you going to serve? Chocolates and hard candies? What is your budget? Are you going to try to convey a theme? What is the main color scheme? Answer these questions and make a list of where you have to go and what you have to buy.

The following tips include important things to consider and how you can best convey your theme to guests.

Optical Illusions

Some of the candies you’ll want in your buffet are expensive, like chocolate covered espresso beans. Yum! So how do you create a look of abundance without going over your budget?

  • Use jars that are tall and thin or have a stands or stems and therefore appear larger than they actually are; the actual fill space of the jar should be on the small side.

  • Some jars have a cylinder built into the middle, normally used for flower arranging. However, you can fill the outside with candy and maybe place a decorative object in the middle, therefore saving space and using less candy.

  • About 25 to 40 percent of the jars you use should be small and easily filled with no more than a bag of candy.

Quantity and Quality

This chart from the Lifestyle section of Boston news makes it easy to figure out how much candy you’re going to need based on how many guests you think will show.

  • 1-50 guests: 5 jars candy

  • 50-100 guests: 10 jars candy

  • 100-150 guests: 15 jars candy

  • 150-200 guests: 18 jars candy

  • Over 200 guests: 20 jars candy

Tools of the Trade

Picture a guest getting his or her hand stuck in the thin neck of a candy jar. Not only is this unsanitary, it’s embarrassing for you and the person trapped. If you have the right tools, these embarrassing, and hilarious, moments can be prevented.

  • Use different sized spoons and tongs that go with the different types of candy. For example, metal tongs probably won’t work well with M&M’s.

  • Most of your vases should have wide openings, but if you must use a narrow vase, make sure it’s filled with a candy that can be picked up with tongs.

Backgrounds

These wonderful backgrounds, found by Jessica, a DIY enthusiast and professional blogger, really help convey the theme of each candy buffet.

  • Backgrounds can include easy-to-hang streamers, garlands, posters, photographs, mirrors and other colorful and eye-catching items that can help you intended theme come across successfully.

  • Sometimes a large flower arrangement sent towards the back of the table can act as a background, as well as a sculpture or type of standing decoration.

Creating the perfect candy display can be a fun and creative process if you jot down the details first, like your budget. Make sure to arrange your buffet before the day of the event, just in case you need to change some last minute aesthetics!

Which Candy is Both Attractive AND Healthy? – Single Colored M&M’s

Those hard-shelled, colorful chocolate candies are among the most beloved treats in the world. Since 1941, M&Ms have been tickling the sweet tooth of people around the globe. Traditionally, they were made in packages that featured a variety of colors, but in recent years, single colors have been marketed. While there is absolutely no difference in the taste from one color to another, you will find that people certainly have their color preference. And, if you run a candy store, adding a single color display of M&Ms to your candy showcase is not only visually pleasing, but it is actually healthy, too.

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The Makeup of Solid Colored M&Ms

Those solid colored M&Ms are made of a basis of real chocolate. This real chocolate contains a combination of ingredients, including unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter and sugar. This combination of ingredients is similar to how ice melts, which helps to create a full-bodied experience when the candy melts in your mouth. This melting experience supersedes the melting experience that is offered by other manufacturers that produce similar chocolate because their chocolate often contains vegetable fat, which creates a waxy feeling when it melts.

The result of this waxier melting experience creates a less satisfying experience. While these competitors chocolates may be less expensive, they usually aren’t worth the investment because most people want to have the more satisfying experience that the real deal offers. As such, it is not worth your while to even offer these imitation candies in your store.

Health Benefits of Single Colored M&Ms

Many people are under the assumption that chocolate isn’t healthy; however, contrary to popular belief, chocolate actually offers a number of health benefits. Because this treat is plant-based, it is filled with favonoids, which are known for their antioxidants. With the ability to help the cells of the body resist damage from free radicals, antioxidants are quite beneficial. These flavonoids are what give chocolate its powerful, tasty flavor.

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While dark chocolate is highly regarded for its health benefits; however, while milk chocolate may not offer as many benefits, it does provide certain health benefits, which are a result of these flavanoids. And, because researchers are looking for ways to retain the amount of flavanoids when milk chocolate is processed, it will maintain a higher percentage of health benefits. In fact, many health professionals indicate that it is perfectly fine to enjoy a small amount of chocolate each week in order to get necessary antioxidants and to enjoy the health benefits that they provide. As the proprietor of a candy shop, offering displays of colored M&Ms can actually help your customers decrease their risk of heart disease.

The old saying goes, ‘Everything in moderation,’ and this certainly applies to eating chocolate. In order to enjoy the maximum health benefits of this treat, the trick is not to eat too much. And, it should be noted that customers who are looking to gain the maximum amount of health benefits from chocolate should choose candies are primarily made of chocolate, like colored M&Ms.

Make your candy display super attractive by offering M&Ms in a variety of colors. Fill bins and canisters with combinations of color. You can include the staple M&M colors, like green, brown, yellow, orange and blue. You can also include some of the newer colors, like purple, pink, silver, gold, and even black and white.

Candy and Colors: A Guide to Seasonal Candy Buffets

The phrase “like a kid in a candy store” is used to express utter joy like you would experience as a kid when the world was limitless and looking up at the bins of candy was so overwhelming you’d think you could swim in a pool of wrappers by the time you were done. Candy buffets have been becoming increasingly popular for this exact reason. Perfect for any event including birthdays, weddings, and holidays because here’s the catch: you are not making anything! All it takes is an eye for design and some simple tips that will turn an ordinary room into Candyland. They make for a dazzling presentation and everyone can pick and choose what they like, everybody leaves happy.

The key to creating a stunning display is to create height and to draw the eye to different areas of the table. You can even place a box underneath of some fabric to create interest in depth. Begin by choosing a color theme for your candies. There is a method to this madness and you don’t want your buffet to look like the bottom of a trick or treating bag. Think of recurring colors in your party and go with that.

If you are throwing a party around the holidays, you might think of including shiny foiled candies such as Ferrero Rocher. Silver Jordan almonds are quite beautiful as well. This one toned candy bar is so classy!

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Pastels are a good idea for springtime or baby showers and bright primaries are fun for the summer. Candy dots, necco wafers, and m&ms come in all the colors of the rainbow for this theme.

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Various chocolates and caramel are appropriate for the fall. Think caramel corn, marshmallows, and chocolate covered pretzels. Yum!

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Don’t be afraid to mix in a pop of color, the beautiful thing about candy is that it is colorful; there is no need to fight what candy has going for it.

Carefully choosing which tablecloth you would like to use is another very important step. You will want it to go with the colors of your candy but you don’t want the candy to get lost in the tablecloth so make sure you pick a color that will make your display POP. Polka dot fabric or shimmer and crystal accented ribbons are the perfect accompaniment to your assortment of candies. Using opposite colors on the color wheel is a surefire method to ensure that your candy will stick out, but there is also nothing wrong with a simple white tablecloth to act as the backdrop for your masterpiece.

Don’t forget to include a couple of your classic favorites but you can always order your chocolates by color online from retailers. Rock candy, swirl lollipops, and taffy are a few items that are easy to buy bulk of in one color. The more variety your candy buffet has, the more visually enticing it will be!

Valentine’s Day: An Ancient Rome Tradition Still Celebrated

February 14 has become synonymous with the celebration of love. All around the globe, people purchase flowers, candy jewelry and other trinkets and tokens of affection to shower their loved ones with. This celebration of love is all thanks to a man by the name of St Valentine; but do you really know the story behind this man and behind the holiday? Why is St. Valentine so important and why has this holiday become synonymous with love?

If you have ever wondered about the history of this international day of love, read on to find out about how it came to be, and how it is still celebrated today.

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St. Valentine’s Day: A History

The holiday of Valentine’s Day dates back to a Fertility Festival that was celebrated in Ancient Rome. This pagan holiday was marked the celebration of a man’s entry into adulthood. The festival began on the 13th day of February, which was a day that was reserved to celebrating peace and love. On the second day of the festival, February 14, the names of young, single and willing women were placed in an urn and selected by the young, eligible men. The women were paired off with the men that selected their names. Oftentimes, the couples who came to be as a result of this activity often became married.

Fast forward to the fifth century of the Christian church, when the church was trying, in vain, to erase any traditions that were associated with pagan holidays, and that is when Saint Valentine’s Day began. In an effort to erase the aforementioned pagan tradition, the church created a holiday that commemorated a Christian saint by the name of Valentine. Saint Valentine was known for his adoration and devotion to love. During the new Christian holiday, the drawing of names remained, but instead of placing the names of eligible women into an urn, the names of saints were placed into the urn. Both men and women pulled the names of these saints from the urn and it was their job to try to live like the saint that they drew. Since this new holiday eradicated the opportunity for single men and women to be partnered off, they began presenting gifts and written notes to one another.

As the years passed, the tradition of exchanging tokens of love was continued, but it was again modified. In medieval England, the names of single men and women were then placed into urns and they were drawn in pairs. The pairs that were drawn would honor one another with a gift and would become linked, or ‘sweethearts’ for a year. This new tradition became quite popular and beloved and February 14 was officially named Saint Valentine’s Day by King Henry the VIII.flowerheart

Today, the tradition of drawing names from an urn may be gone, but the tradition of honoring love and bestowing loved ones with gifts still remains.

This Valentine’s Day, when you are purchasing sweets and treats for your loved ones, remember that this holiday is steeped in tradition and dates back thousands of years – which makes the holiday even more romantic.

What to Include in Your Store When Decorating for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to entice and inspire your customers to new levels of sweetness.  Candy and Valentine’s Day go together—as Forest Gump would say—“like peas and carrots.”

It’s Not a Party Without the Balloons

Greet your customers with a cloud ceiling or window full of balloons. A mix of red, pink, silver, and white will be stunning or just one color will do.

Tie a ribbon to each balloon and let them float to create a seductive sea of color or tether each ribbon to a candy bundle. Have fun with bundles: taffeta, tulle, or ready-made drawstring jewelry bags (inexpensive and available at bead and craft stores) will add to the romance.

Play with the colors. Red balloons with Tiffany blue bags and ribbons.  Pink balloons with bright orange bags. Silver balloons with white ribbons and red candy bundles.  Think of how the candy in the bags provides the color as well.  A striking balloon display will draw customers in like bees to honey.  You can also use the balloons as a thank you gift given with a purchase.

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Candyswipe

Now is the time to use your display devices (baskets, acrylic bins, racks, and tubes) to showcase the colors of love. Fill a display tube with red hots, next to it add another swipe of color with pink lemonade gumballs, or champagne bubble gum drops that glitter like diamonds.  Have fun with it.  Create a color theme and carry it throughout your store.

Romance is in the Air

Use display tables and flat surfaces to set-up romantic vignettes.  Stack champagne glasses—place a large circle of glasses on the bottom.  Fill the glasses with one color of candy or rotate colors to make a pattern.  Next stack a smaller circle of glasses on top of the first circle.  Fill them with the same color or fill with various colors to continue your pattern.  Repeat until you top your display with one single glass.  Put a ring box in it with an engagement ring. Viola welcome to the LOVE SHACK.

Teddy Bear Picnic

Create a romantic table with a sweet dinner for two. Put two teddy bears in chairs.  Place a table in-between—cover it with a cloth or make placemats or a runner (you may need a glue gun here) out of candy hearts, red hots, jelly bellies, or you get the idea—use your imagination.

Plate a sugary meal for two: a salad of green watermelon rock candy studded with red cinnamon gumballs (for the tomatoes!). For the appetizer: a plate of blue gummi sharks.  The entrée: a plate of watermelon sour belts for pasta—throw on some green jelly bellies for a parsley garnish.  For dessert: candy heart covered cupcakes. And don’t forget the champagne and cigars: fill two champagne glasses with white rock candy—and no Valentine’s Day is complete with a pink chocolate cigar.

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Hearts & Flowers

Flank your checkout area with vases of roses—the classic Valentine’s Day choice.  Take two vases of the same shape—one small (but large enough to hold the flowers) and the other large enough to put the small vase inside.  Fill the space between with candy in a color that contrasts or complements the flower color. Try light blue rock candy strings or powder blue sixlets with rich red roses, or cherry sours with elegant white roses, or go wild how about: navy blue sixlets with yellow roses?

These ideas will not only captivate your customers but may inspire them to stock up on candy and DYI- Do it themselves at home. Get creative and make your store the sweetest spot for this sweetest of days.

Throwing a Candy Themed Super Bowl Party

Impress your guests with your creativity by throwing a candy and sweets themed super bowl party this year. Rev up the fun with colorful treats, chocolate dipped fruits, and tiny football truffles.

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Chocolate Dipped Football Pretzels

This is a fun snack to make and serve, whether or not you have a kid’s table, or the adults are being kids…

  • Melt a medium-sized bowl of chocolate, then dip your pillow pretzels and lay them out on a wax sheet to dry.

  • Melt some white chocolate or candy melts in a squeeze bottle and draw the football laces on each pretzel once the dark chocolate has hardened.

Mold Your Own Candy

Cindy, a celebration expert at Little Miss Celebration, found football themed candy molds at Michael’s craft store.

  • You can mold any food with these plastic pieces. Whether it’s jello or chocolate, your guests will appreciate your handiwork.

  • Place the chocolates in festive foil wrappers and the jello pieces in a glass bowl with small spoons for guests to serve themselves.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Footballs

Similar to the football pretzels, these sweet treats will delight any football fan.

  • Melt the chocolate in a coffee cup and dip in the strawberries halfway. Use a fondue fork or other utensil to avoid making a mess.

  • Melt white chocolate chips in a squeeze bottle to add the football laces.

  • Arrange the strawberries in rows on a plate or tray to serve.

  • Head over to Jackie’s Domestic Fits blog for the visual step-by-step recipe.

Candied Popcorn (Team Colors)

This is a fun and festive snack for any super bowl party. All you need is microwave popcorn, 14 oz. of condensed milk, 1 box of Jello (choose a color), and butter.

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees to pop popcorn. Pull out all unpopped kernels and thinly coat a shallow roasting pan with butter. Spread popcorn on pan in a single layer.

  • Mix condensed milk and Jello, cook on medium heat until hot and bubbling. Pour mixture over popcorn.

  • Bake popcorn for 20 minutes while stirring every 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a piece of lightly buttered foil.

  • Break into clusters.

Football Candy Pouches

You will need brown cardstock, needle and thread (or a sewing machine), a white marker, small candies (chocolates, M&Ms, or skittles) and scissors.

  • Cut two football shapes out of the brown cardstock for one football pouch.

  • Draw the football laces on with the white marker.

  • Sew the two football shapes together, leaving a small opening at one end.

  • Fill with assorted candies and pass out as party favors or have them around the house for people to pick up.

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Football Oreo Truffles

Follow this truffle recipe from Bakerella and have your own little football shaped truffles to serve.

  • Shape truffle mixture into tiny footballs.

  • Dip each one once in melted chocolate, let dry.

  • Pipe white rings on each end, but not entirely around. Don’t forget the lacing.

Excite your guests with these creative candy and sweets ideas for a colorful super bowl party. Your friends will leave happy and satisfied. Happy super bowl season!

What to Consider When Preparing A Candy Buffet

Candy buffets: the wave of the future.  The wave of the future for wedding receptions, anyways.  These days, it seems that no wedding reception is complete without one.  And why not?  They’re delicious, and fun for all ages — think of it like an open bar that the kids can enjoy too.  And they’re not just limited to weddings — they take center stage at a lot of fancy birthday and anniversary parties too.  So how do you create the very best candy buffet?  Read on for tips!

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Candy varieties

The first thing to consider is candy variety.  Is there a certain theme you need to adhere to?  A color palette?  There are so many different fun ideas: some candy buffets feature only the wedding party’s very favorite candies, some feature all white candies (think Jordan almonds and white chocolate) — I even went to a party where all of the candies were themed around the birthday girl’s birth year.  It was quite fun — as she was born in the twenties, the buffet featured retro candies like chocolate kisses, U-no bars, Baby Ruths, and Butterfingers.

There’s sure to be some way to tie your candies in with your theme — be it with a little tongue and cheek, or something as simple as color palette.  Or, you can just go with your favorites and forego a theme completely!  Your guests are sure to be equally pleased either way.

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Presentation

Once you’ve chosen your candy, it’s time to figure out just how you’ll present it.  Glass is the standard choice — many get creative, using everything from the specially designated candy jars to vases and even fishbowls.  For hygiene’s sake you’ll probably also want some scoops (unless you’re using wrapped candies).  A third thing to consider is the table itself — what kind of tablecloth will you use?  White is always a nice choice, as it’ll make the colorful candies pop by comparison.  Or, you can choose to match your color theme — whichever works best.

Bags

You’ll want a bag of some sort for  your guests to take the candy away with — its what elevates the candy buffet from “fun” to “party favor” level.  If your bags are cute enough, you can even choose to forego any other form of favor — though the choice is up to you, of course.  There are lots of options when it comes to bags: cellophane is classic, aesthetically pleasing — and a tiny bit luxurious.  Paper bags can be whimsical and rustic; you can have a lot of fun with paper bags, as they are quite easy to decorate.  You can even use something like takeout boxes — mini Chinese takeout containers is a fun choice (plus, you can fit a lot of candy in there!).

So there you have it — everything you need to start planning your candy buffet!  Once you’ve figured out your candy varieties, your presentation, and your preferred method of candy transportation, you are well on your way.  Now all that’s left is to stand back and indulge!

Don’t Forget Your Dry Toppings Dispenser For Your Yogurt Shop!

If you have not noticed, everyone seems to be opening a yogurt shop these days. Many of the establishments are self-service, minimizing labor to the point that employees are not needed. A solopreneur can single-handedly establish and run this business, making it the perfect venture for someone with the money and drive to succeed. Explore this idea because it will get you out from behind a desk and into the entrepreneurial world.

When planning the shop layout, the business owner should think about how yogurt toppings will be dispensed. If the shop will be self-service, countertop or wall-mounted dispensers should be used. Customers can use scoops to get toppings out of bins and into their yogurt cups. Stackable bins offer more toppings per square foot. These containers come in a variety of sizes and styles, some with divided compartments that hold two toppings in one bin.

Tall toppings dispensers allow storeowners to load up to five pounds of toppings like M&Ms into the containers, minimizing refill frequency. The magnetic attachment holds the lid up to make scooping easy. A notched lid holds the spoon in place so it will not get lost and a holster with a spoon is also available. Shorter dispensers with rounded bottoms store almost the same amount of product. For small stores, these may be better choices because they will not overwhelm the counter area.

Dispensers that mount on the wall consume no floor or counter space and display dry toppings like candy pieces, cereal, and chocolate bits. Available in different sizes and styles, these are ideal for yogurt shops with little square footage that offer an assortment of toppings. Some styles feature adjustable portion control that allows storeowners to regulate portions between ¼ and two ounces in 1/8-ounce increments.

If you will be dispensing the yogurt toppings, consider a countertop system that resembles the wall-mounted units. A triple container bulk dispenser featuring a wooden base and metal stand will look attractive behind the cash register area. Each container holds 1.3 gallons of yogurt toppings like nuts, candy, cereal, or granola. With a single twist, you receive a measured amount of toppings.

When considering new store equipment for your yogurt shop, review these and other styles of toppings dispensers. Choose those that complement the appearance of the shop and fit into the designated toppings area. Whether you dispense the toppings or let customers do it, these containers are up for the task.