How a Cooling Vest Is Helping Fast Food Workers Beat the Heat

For a Maryland Chick-fil-A with employees who stand in the sun for hours taking drive-thru orders, the vests have been a game-changer. “They’re able to stay out a little bit longer. We’re able to swap them out not as often,” a franchise owner said

NBC Universal, Inc.

From the front-lines to the drive-thru lines. A Virginia man’s invention is helping people who have to work in extreme heat stay cool under pressure.

The ICEPLATE by Qore Performance is a body-forming icepack that fits snugly into a backpack.

Company Co-Founder Justin Li lives in Northern Virginia now but used to work as a police officer in San Diego County, patrolling mountainous terrains and deserts — and trying to avoid getting heatstroke. He said he realized that if he could offload some of the heat the body produces, he could boost his endurance. He left the police force and took a crash course in apparel design and American manufacturing.

“It's absorbing the heat that your body would normally attempt to discard using radiation or conduction or evaporation,” he explained.

The ICEPLATE is now worn by tens of thousands of employees who work in the heat. Li’s clients include the Army, Boeing, FedEx and some Chick-fil-A franchises, including one in Laurel, Maryland.

How the ICEPLATE Vest Is Affecting Fast Food Restaurant Staffing

For employees who stand out in the hot sun for hours taking drive-thru orders on a tablet, the ice vests have been a game-changer.

“They’re able to stay out a little bit longer. We’re able to swap them out not as often,” franchise owner Richard Plank said.

Li said the ICEPLATE improves productivity and most businesses are able to recoup their investment within a few weeks.

“We increase your labor pool capacity by about 20 to 25% without you doing anything else to your business. It’s just because you don’t have to rotate people out so frequently and you don’t lose time to breaks or exhaustion,” he said.

The company’s list of customers now includes a growing list of major fast food chains, Li said.

The company also made the ICECASE iPad cooling case. Li said he and his partners were surprised when Apple first contacted them.

“We were like, ‘Wow, really Apple?’ The guy had to tell us, like, ‘Hang up, call the 800 number on the website, ask for this extension. I’m real.’ And we did and he was real,” Li said.

In addition to vests and iPad cooling cases, the company is looking into developing more fashionable gear and possibly working with athletic gear manufacturers.

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