What A Treat: 4 Tips For Opening Your Own Ice Cream Shop

If you want to serve up tasty ice cream, it's important to keep in mind elements like accessibility and creativity. 

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May 20, 2016 4 min read

Americans love their food, from candy and sweets to hamburgers and steak. However, there are few other foods that strike an emotional chord like ice cream. This tasty treat comes in a wide variety of flavors, offers great relief on warm summer days and reminds many folks of simpler days. It’s no wonder, then, that the dozen or so major ice cream manufacturers in the U.S sold a few billion dollars worth of product in 2015 alone, according to Statista. If you’ve always enjoyed this frozen delight, why not use some of your experience gained in culinary academy and schlep some yourself? If you’re interested in filling the role of friendly neighborhood ice cream man or woman, here are four tips for opening your very own parlor:

“Try to be creative with your flavor options.”

1. Stand out from the crowd
These days, most ice cream shops go above and beyond chocolate and vanilla. According to Zagat, there are some truly crazy flavors sold at parlors across the world. That includes goat cheese cashew caramel, creamed cod, Sichuan pepper and banana curry. While you don’t have to go quite as far as some other ice cream shops, it’s important to be creative. People can get mint chocolate chip or raspberry anywhere; they may only be able to buy mango apple at your parlor. Not only will these unique flavors set you apart, but they’ll allow you to utilize some of your culinary knowledge. If you’re unsure if a flavor combo works, you can always recruit friends or family as willing guinea pigs.

2. Find good help
Gregory Cohen owns the Lofty Pursuits shop in Tallahassee, Florida. In an interview with Business News Daily, he explained that a shop owner’s biggest asset are the employees. Ice cream isn’t just about the flavors; it’s also a social experience. You need to have a staff you can rely on to facilitate those connections. However, as Restaurant Engine explained, turnover is a huge problem in the food service industry. To avoid that problem, it’s a good idea to use your connections and seek out referrals for any potential employees. Many servers may have past experience in other settings. It’s also important to ask the right questions during the interview and to get as specific to your business as possible.

Owning an ice cream shop can be a great use of your culinary skills.

Owning an ice cream shop can be a great use of your culinary skills.

3. Seasons come and go
For several years, Andrew Helfrich has run Lansdowne Cone in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. When asked by ShopKeep.com about one of his most unexpected challenges, he explained that not enough new owners recognize that ice cream shops are mostly seasonal. That is, the bulk of your business may only occur in half of the year, when it’s warm and people crave ice cream. Some shops conserve costs by closing during the colder winter months. Of course, Helfirch said it’s still possible to stay open during the entire year. Many shop owners simply scale back efforts – closing earlier or selling fewer products – during winter. No matter what you choose for your business, it’s important to recognize this dynamic of ice cream sales.

“Parking should be an important consideration.”

4. Don’t just open up shop
As mentioned above, severs are an integral part of operating any ice cream parlor. But perhaps just is vital is the location of your shop. According to the National Ice Cream Retailers Association, it’s important to consider the accessibility of your future shop. Ice cream is a huge draw for many families, and you need a shop that’s near a large residential population. It might also help to be near schools, recreation areas and parks, as these are also popular destinations for local families. If you need help to find these kind of hotspots, you can always rely on a local real estate agent. He or she can also help with your parking situation, taking into account whether you’ve got a large enough lot or you’re within walking distance to public transit.

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