I love the research involved in writing articles about ice cream and Italian Ice. Often times it involves travel to far flung locations and lots and lots of taste testing. One day my travels took me to two shops located less than 1/4 mile from each other on opposite sides of the street. The weather was sunny and 80 degrees and traffic in the area on a Saturday evening was a promising predictor of great frozen dessert sales. Business A had a line of 14 people with a busy parking lot. Business B had no line but a random stream of customers.
With similar traffic on both sides of the street, why did A have more robust sales than B?
Let's start with business A.
A's store signage was big, bright and colorful and could be easily seen from the road. The building was in good repair, offered a safe outdoor eating area, tables, benches and ample trash cans, with a socially-distanced-designated Take-Out area. The menu board was clean, clear and concise, offering pre-packaged selections such as Fudge Sundae and Strawberry Shortcake Sundae and a host of already-prepared Novelties such as ice cream sandwiches and take-home “Family Night Pre-Packaged Sundae Kits. Signage stated you needed a mask to place an order.
My ice cream selection was priced appropriately for its size. Traffic in and out of the parking lot was congested and the store was in a strip shopping center with a dry cleaner and a florist. Business A offered only hard and soft serve ice cream.
Now let's talk about business B.
B's signage was almost non-existent except for a faded marquee above the awning. The building was self- standing with a large parking lot with separate road access for an entrance and an exit. Everything needed a new coat of paint and the order window was clouded with small signs taped on it instructing customers about payment methods. The menu board was very old, peeling, faded, and had new prices and products taped on top of prior menu offerings. Everything was ala carte. You had to search for the toppings list and flavors of hard ice cream. They did not offer any pre-packaged Novelties and if I wished to grab a pint of their ice cream to take home, I had to wait for them to scoop and fill the container.
My ice cream selection turned out to be over-sized and under-priced. I believe they were losing money on the sale. There was one trashcan on the premises, no markers or directives for social-distancing/ mask-wearing while ordering, and poor lighting at the order window. B also had Italian Ice and Gelato, in addition to hard and soft serve ice cream...but I didn't know that at the time since the menu board was confusing.
Question #1- Who has a more successful business?
The answer is business A without a doubt. Business A knows how to attract customers in a welcoming family-friendly environment. Service was fast and efficient and customers were able to quickly and safely make their selection due to a streamlined menu, and clear social-distancing guidelines. More customers served per hour means more money for the business. Every time someone ordered a cone or a shake, the salesperson asked if they would like any treats to take home for the freezer for later. The overall cleanliness and maintenance of the premises gave the impression that the back-of-house food preparation area was equally clean and well maintained. A comforting thought when taking the kids out for ice cream, especially in the midst of a Pandemic. I enjoyed sitting at one of the benches savoring my treat instead of sitting in my car. Although I spotted the Ice Cream Parlor immediately from the road due to its very noticeable signage, I did have a problem navigating the parking lot.
Question #2- Which business has the most potential for future sales?
The answer is business B. B has a stand-alone store with its own large parking lot. The store also has drive-thru capabilities. In today's market, the simple addition of a drive-thru means roughly a 25% boost in overall business due to a longer, all-weather selling season and the convenience of fast and easy pick-up. A drive-thru also gives customers a more secure sense of social-distancing than standing in a line.
Business B could also maximize their sales potential by telegraphing their location with more adequate signage, cleaning and doing maintenance to their facilities and adding a simple outdoor eating area in front of their store. Cleanliness is crucial especially at this time. Customer turnover can be increased by replacing their old menu board with an attractive, customer-friendly menu showing clear and concise product offerings. Novelty items should be added to the menu as well to capitalize on their drive-thru.
Sizes and pricing should be analyzed to produce the best customer experience in conjunction with the best profit per item sold. The very fact that they also have Italian Ice and Gelato, gives them an advantage over their competition. Not only can they offer ice cream, but now they can combine the Italian Ice with their ice cream to create a whole series of new product offerings. Gelato sales are trending significantly higher since today’s customers are looking for a more healthy, gluten-free, low-fat, and decadent alternative to typical ice cream fare. Current industry studies prove this trend is something to be considered by any frozen dessert business. Business B already has this product. Now all they need is to advertise it through social-media, signage, and by participating in community events.
Now, ask yourself... what if Business A added italian Ice & Gelato? They may not have a drive-thru but they are obviously savvy business owners who understand how to run their shop.
The moral of this story is "Customers often judge a "book by its cover". If you don't market your business & your products properly, and create a welcoming environment for your customers, they will go to someone who does.
Gil's Wholesale Distributors
322 W Oak Lane Glenolden PA 19036
Gil’s carries a huge selection of Ice Cream, Italian Ice and Gelato Supplies, paper & plastic products, candy, snacks and concession items such as Candy & Caramel Apple Dip, popcorn, cotton candy and snow cone flavors and supplies. With over 8,000 items, we pride ourselves on over 40 years of excellent service and product expertise. We deliver all over the world with our fleet of trucks and by common carrier. Ask about our convenient Pick-up services. Free Customer Parking.
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