The ice cream business is a rocky road, paved with profits in the summer and zilch in the winter. People don’t buy ice cream when it gets cold, do they? Hold on a minute. Ice cream shops somehow survive, and some even thrive, when the weather starts to change. Here’s how they do it.
Build Up A Reserve Account
Figure out your average income for the year, and divide that number by 12. So, for example, if you expect to make about $50,000 during the few months that you’re open during the summer and fall months, you could stretch this out the whole year by building up a reserve account.
In the off season, when you’re not working, you simply draw from the reserve.
Offer Seasonal Items
You can get around the slump by offering seasonal items. For example, create custom ice cream cups and holiday flavors like pumpkin or candy cane for the holidays. If you have a dine-in establishment, crank up the thermostat and invite people in for a little ice cream taboo when the snow flies.
You can use this tactic to extend the season, or to create a full-time business. For example, springtime is usually when ice cream shops think about opening, but you could coast through the winter with “winter flavors” and supplemental items like hot chocolate or holiday herbal teas.
In the spring, you can offer fresh flavors that incorporate fruits into the ice cream mix and, in the fall, turn back to more rustic flavors.
Make Custom Flavors For Special Clients
If you have large corporate clients, you can make custom flavors. If you don’t have corporate clients, get some. They can tide you over for a few months, or replace your stand for several months of the year when business is slow. They can also build up your reserve account during the busy months so that you have more to live off from in the off season.
Some ice cream shops thrive on custom orders. They’re good for a couple of reasons. First, custom orders have a higher markup. Secondly, custom orders have a tendency to create long-term business relationships. The types of customers that need or want customized orders tend to be customers who are willing (and able) to pay for value and are themselves concerned with offering value to their clients and employees.
Sell To Retail Locations or Local Restaurants
This one is overlooked by a lot of ice cream stands. Sell to your local retail stores or local restaurants. Many restaurants are jumping on the “local” bandwagon, and this is a great way to supply them with ice cream that’s fresh and interesting in the off-season.
You can even do seasonal flavors for restaurants or custom orders that jive the company’s menu. While people may not come to an ice cream stand when there’s six inches of snow, they will still order ice cream for dessert when they’re at a sit-down event.
Regina Johnson used to drive an ice cream truck along the coast of California. Now retired, she likes to help others who want to work independently. Look for her informative articles on a variety of websites and blogs.