Have you been operating an ice cream, Italian Ice or Gelato business for years, or are you just starting one? Are you missing opportunities to expand, grow or simply survive as a business simply because "you don't know, what you don't know"?
Once again, we hit the road and began sampling and reviewing frozen dessert businesses around the tri-state area. From menu issues, marketing missteps, or incomplete staffing training, check out what we found and advice on how you can improve.
Tip #1 - 14% Plain Ice Cream Mix is richer, not tastier.
One of the stores offered Cinnamon Crunch ice cream. The 14% Plain mix added a rich decadent texture, but the complete lack of cinnamon spice flavoring and minimal stale, soggy boxed-cereal pieces combined with a plain cream base was unappealing and unappetizing. 14% Plain mix is excellent for a gourmet product and a terrific base for a wide range of fabulous flavors, however you need to add flavoring or the proper variegates to it for a truly satisfying treat. A few tablespoons of cinnamon flavoring, a bit of sugar or vanilla, and crisp-ice-cream-friendly mix-ins would have made this a treat to repeat!
Tip #2 - Butterfinger ice cream should have Butterfingers in it!
Don't misrepresent a product. When you name an ice cream flavor, be sure you have the right ratio of inclusions, variegates or mix-ins contained in the product to justify the name. A regular scoop of Butterfinger ice cream recently sampled had less than 1/2 teaspoon of crushed Butterfinger pieces. The product was also made with a plain ice cream mix. The neutral plain cream base, plus skimpy inclusions equaled a very unsatisfied customer.
Tip #3 - Upsell!
"Would you like chocolate syrup or fudge with that?" "How about some crushed candy topping?" "Can't decide...would you like to mix it up with a scoop of each flavor?" "Would you like some pre-packed ice cream or ice cream sandwiches to go?" By simply training your staff to ask a few questions at point of order, you could be adding more money to each transaction and more profit to your bottom line. Maybe a customer can overlook an inferior ice cream product if it was doused with a healthy portion of quality toppings?
Tip #4 - Sell Other related products
Did you know that when it is really, really hot outside, ice cream sales decline and Italian Ice sales go up? If you have Ice Cream, you should also be selling Italian Ice. If you have Italian Ice, you should be selling ice cream! The profit margin for Italian Ice is higher than ice cream, and offers you an opportunity to expand your menu with a crisp, refreshing treat regardless of the weather. Layered with Ice cream, you can have a Gelati, topped with soda, you can have a terrific slush, blended with ice cream you can have a wide range of frosty, icy fun-flavored shakes! At several of the stores we visited, the offering was limited to one or the other, even though the same batch machines can used to produce both products. Can someone say "missed opportunity"?
Tip #5 - Offer gluten-free, fat-free, vegan alternatives to your menu board.
The world is changing, and while everyone wants to treat themselves, not everyone can do so. When asked if one store had a gluten-free or vegan option, the counter staff just looked at me with a glazed expression. Needless to say, the answer was "No". Every menu should feature alternatives for their dietary-restricted customers. Master Martini Gelato and FruttUp sorbet Mix are gluten-free, fat-free, and can be produced to be vegan. Simple, easily produced, and delicious. Diet-conscious rich & decadent or frozen, fresh & fruity! Be the place everyone goes to for expansive product offerings for the whole family.
Tip #6 - Dirty is, as Dirty does...
Two of the stores we visited had dirty finger-printed and dripped-upon counters, with half empty or congealed toppings bins. The door to one place was stained and cracked, the floors were un-swept, and the menu board was either taped over, partially-erased or difficult to read at a glance. Who knows how many health-code violations they were flaunting if they couldn't even keep the front of the house clean? Needless to say, we did not order any frozen treats to sample at these locations. Step out from behind the counter once in awhile and view your store through the eyes of a customer...or a health inspector!
Tip #7 - Advertise!
Give your business a catchy name that conveys exactly what you are selling, and then be sure to add signage to attract customers that is LEGIBLE and LARGE ENOUGH TO BE SEEN! Even though we had the GPS routed to a certain frozen dessert store address that has been around for over 5 years, we couldn't find it along the road. Their sign was only 18"x 24" and faded. Once we arrived to make our selections, the menu board was dull, basic and uninspiring. Every good business owner should know, that in order to attract and keep customers, you need to be noticed over your competition. A bright coat of paint, a colorful menu, great signage, local flyers, supporting a team in the area, constantly changing unique and fun products...all are considered ADVERTISING!
Tip #8 - Pricing - Last but not least...
At one of our last stops, we ordered 2 regular sized dishes of ice cream. We each received excessive (and overflowing) double scoop portions comparable to 2 pints of premium ice cream for less than $4.00 each. Pricing should take into consideration the volume of product scooped, plus the cost of a dish, a spoon, the utilities, the mortgage, the counter staff, the insurance, the owners salary...etc. Needless to say, this business will not be able to cover their long-term fixed and variable costs, especially in today's difficult inflationary-supply-chain-challenged market. You are in business to make money, or you will be out of business. Look at your menu selections & analyze your pricing. Make the necessary changes to your staff's scooping techniques and be sure to cover all of your costs PLUS profit margin.
Gil's Wholesale Ice Cream Supplies
322 W Oak Lane Glenolden PA 19036
610-237-6500 GilsWholesale.com IceCreamSupplesWholesale.com
Gil’s Wholesale Distributors/ Gil's Ice Cream Supplies is a family owned Pennsylvania based full service distributor with over 40 years of providing personalized service & product expertise for wholesale tobacco, cigars, cigarettes & tobacco related products, ice cream, Italian Ice, Gelato & frozen dessert manufacturing supplies, convenience store products, paper & plastic items, candy, concession, automotive and janitorial products.
Located 10 minutes from the Philadelphia International Airport, our delivery area is PA, NJ, and DE and we ship throughout the U.S. and abroad by common carrier, as well as offer convenient Pick Up services at our customer-friendly showroom. FREE Parking!
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