Choosing the Right Commercial Popcorn Popper for Your Business

Popcorn Popper Machine Buyers' Guide

The high profit margins associated with selling popcorn make the purchase of a commercial popcorn popper a potentially lucrative one. They are fairly straight-forward, simple machines that require relatively little maintenance yet generate high profit margins. A popcorn popper is a solid investment for your concession stand, sports arena, or other entertainment venue.


For smaller venues or areas where use may be occasional, poppers that pop 4 to 20 ounces of popcorn will most likely suffice. These poppers will be placed on countertops or can be placed on stands or carts. In areas where volume may be higher, such as movie theaters or sports arenas, industrial popcorn machines that can pop between 28 and 46 ounces of popcorn may be needed. Some of these units will have dual poppers that pop up to 46 ounces each and can produce up to 75 pounds of popcorn in an hour. These bigger models are most often mounted on stands to create a floor model.


A number of kettles are available that will help keep your popcorn flowing. These kettles are typically made of stainless steel, and some are specially coated to make clean-up a breeze. With either single or twin arms, they offer stability to keep the kettle from flipping over uncontrollably.

The kettle is where heat, popcorn, and oil meet to create popcorn, aided by a mechanism that will stir the mixture to ensure even heating. Some models even come with a convenient oil delivery system, so you don’t have to add oil with every batch. Units with an updraft filtering system will remove steam and vapors, leaving you with crispy popcorn and cleaner air. However, the aroma purposely escapes into the atmosphere to help you generate sales.

Once the corn is popped, it tumbles down to fill the cabinet. Many poppers have a heated deck or an infrared heat lamp to keep popcorn warm and crisp until you’re ready to serve it. Some models also have perforated decks that allow unpopped kernels to fall away from the batch of popcorn, ensuring you only serve your customers the corn they want.

Maximizing the number of kernels that actually pop will go a long way toward ensuring that the machine is working for you. Once they’ve popped effectively, the kernels can be kept in a staging cabinet that may have thermostatic controls to keep the corn crisp and warm until serving.


The best popcorn poppers will not only have high wattage, but will use that wattage to pop the highest percentage of kernels. The smaller machines range from 688 to 1300 watts, while the larger ones come in at more than 8000. With wattage basically equaling speed, you’ll want a machine that has the wattage to keep up with quick demand. The higher the wattage, the more quickly the pressure from expanding steam will build up within the kernel, causing it to erupt into a fluffy, crispy puff of perfection.


Commercial popcorn machines have cases that are made of tempered glass or Plexiglas, with stainless steel or aluminum bases and corners. If your popper will be visible to your customers, you’ll want to make sure that the model you choose has scratch- and warp-resistant glass to keep your popper looking its best. Some of them have vibrant graphics and highly decorative stands, bases, or carts that may be offered separately. A few models have staging cases to help promote your product.

The next step in ensuring your popper merchandises your corn effectively is maintaining a proper cleaning regimen. While the daily cleaning of a popcorn machine is relatively simple, even with this cleaning grease and residue will build up on the kettle over time, which can cause poor performance. KaTom offers specially-designed kettle cleaners that will keep your popcorn popper working like a new one.

Flavored Popcorn

You can also take your popcorn to the next level by offering special flavors like cheese, caramel, or kettle corn. There are also kettle corn poppers that are designed to deliver a popcorn with a satisfying balance of sweet and savory flavors.

Cooker mixers will allow you to present fresh, sweet caramel corn in as few as 15 minutes. You’ll want to make sure that you choose a popcorn that expands widely, in order to have enough surface area to fully cover the popcorn. A wide selection of colored and flavored glazes and salts can add some variety to your selection.

Staging Cabinets & Carts

There are two types of staging cabinets. The ones with deep wells keep popcorn hot, crisp, and visible until it’s ready to be boxed or bagged. The other holds packaged servings so you can get ahead of the rush. Whichever type you choose, most will have good lighting, a heating element, and vibrant graphics to help generate impulse buys. Many of them will also be on rollers, making it easy to clean under them and reposition them in your establishment. Carts will also give you mobility, and many have retro designs to add some nostalgia to this classic treat.

Serving Containers & Supplies

It will be important to have a variety of serving sizes for selling customers exactly the amount they want. You may need a tray with an area for a cup for the kids or a giant tub for the whole family. Containers range in sizes from .3 to 28 ounces in size and may be in the shape of a bag, box, or tub. You’ll also want to make certain you have dispensers to add the perfect finishing touch: butter. These dispensers will allow you to ladle or pump the topping right over the popcorn to allow precise amounts for the perfect butter to popcorn ratio.