Invented by an operator, the Q-Tote is quickly emerging as a beverage-handling game-changer

June 26, 2024
An operator from Kansas City, Dean Prather was faced with the industry-wide problem of dealing with beverages that come in many sizes. He went the extra mile to find a solution, and it's now being widely adopted by operators.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” The ancient proverb is right on target, and this time, it relates to a new product designed for vending, micro market and pantry service operators. Dean Prather, a partner at Quality Vending and Coffee in Kansas City, saw a need within his own operation. That prompted the invention of Q-Tote, a solution for handling and transporting beverages.

A widespread problem

David Marler, the LightSpeed specialist at 365 Retail Markets, said the problem that Prather solved with Q-Tote is something he hears about from operators regularly.

“The question I get all the time is, ‘How do I pre-kit beverages?’ The bottle size variance is getting wider and wider, and using the Coke/Pepsi trays doesn’t provide the stability on a truck that is required. Using the bottler trays is the cheap route to take since the trays are free, but if you don’t have experienced pre-kitting staff in the warehouse — those would be people who literally understand how to play Tetris with the bottles — the route driver ends up with a mess on their truck.”

“Dealing with beverages was a big problem for us,” said Prather. “Anyone who is pre-kitting soda understands the issue. When you are filling those beverage trays with individual bottles, you have to put the tallest product on four outside corners. Otherwise, you can’t stack the trays. And even when you do, because the bottles are of various heights, the stacked trays aren’t necessarily too stable. As a result, we kept looking at ways that we could improve on the process. We built a prototype that basically was tall enough so that the soda or the drinks that went inside the tray could be of various heights, but by design, would be easily stackable.”

A new issue with trays

Prather points out that there is a new problem for operators who want to use the bottler trays for their beverages. “Bottlers aren’t providing the trays anymore. They are sending in products shrink wrapped,” he said. “When we invented Q-Tote, we did not realize that was coming, but apparently, the bottlers stopped using trays a while ago. Our region was the last one to be impacted by this. Sometimes the Midwest can be a step behind.”

Inventing a product is expensive

Prather explained that Q-tote was developed to solve a problem at Quality Vending and Coffee. There was no intention to sell the invention to other operators until Marler saw the product and encouraged Prather to make it available to other operators to solve an industry-wide challenge.

“Knowing how much time and money we spent on the prototype development, the CAD design, the injection molding and the testing of the Q-Tote, all of which was very expensive, selling it to other operators made a lot of sense. so we decided to move forward. Q-Tote is now available, and it is being sold nationally,” he said.

Part of the challenge of inventing the product was the timing itself. “We started this project just before COVID hit, so that added another level of difficulty,” said Prather. “I tell people, you can't make this stuff up. When we first started building the mold, in the process of getting it back to us, it got lost, it got stuck, it was broken. You can't imagine the headaches that were all pandemic-related. There were many times we considered just throwing in the towel, but we persevered and continued pushing. Now, we are glad we did.”

Positive reviews, clear benefits

Marler said he is hearing positive reviews from operators who have moved to Q-Tote. “Operators love it because they have fewer spills, they use fewer totes, and their drivers are happy because they can move the totes quickly and easily without having to worry about the stacks falling over.”

Prather said that while the Q-Tote works perfectly for Quality Vending and Coffee and has been adopted by over 100 companies right now, he understands that Q-Tote may not be for everyone. “Operators are entrepreneurs, and everyone must do things in a way that works best for them. Some have specific truck-related racking issues, some are just not ready to make changes to the way they have been doing things for a long time,” Prather said. “I get it, but the benefits we see with Q-Tote are clear.”

  • Easy stacking. “The Q -Tote allows you to pick various beverage products, regardless of size, shape or flavor, and put them into a tote that is able to stack on top of another tote, without ever having to touch and arrange the product.”
  • Space saving. “Once it's empty, you turn the Q-Tote 180 degrees, and it sits down inside itself. It takes up minimal room in a warehouse and in a van.”
  • Easy to clean. “The Q-tote is vented, so that if a product were to break and you get soda or juice or an energy drink all over the inside of your tote, you can rinse them off and they dry out really quickly.”
  • Lighter. “Because of the venting, Q-Tote is lighter and easier for the route driver to handle.”
  • Time-saving. “Both in the warehouse and for the driver, the Q-Tote makes the job so much easier, saving time and money.”

“Despite the high development costs, we have a program that is designed to make the Q-Tote easy to try and affordable once an operator decides to bring Q-Tote on board,” Prather said. “Buy the starter pack of five Q -Totes. It gives the operator enough totes to be able to test it, feel it, touch it, play around with it, see how it fits. And if it works for you, we're here to help you and make your operation better.”

The Q-Tote Starter Pack is $110 for five Q-Totes. The unit cost decreases when purchasing by the pallet. For more information about Q-Tote or to place an order, visit the website at

About the Author

Bob Tullio

Bob Tullio is a content specialist, speaker, sales trainer, consultant and contributing editor of Automatic Merchandiser and He advises entrepreneurs on how to build a successful business from the ground up. He specializes in helping suppliers connect with operators in the convenience services industry — coffee service, vending, micro markets and pantry service specifically. He can be reached at 818 261-1758 and [email protected]. Tullio welcomes your feedback.

Subscribe to Automatic Merchandiser’s new podcast, Vending & OCS Nation, which Tullio hosts. Each episode is designed to make your business more profitable.


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