When we work with individuals who wish to open a retail ice cream shop, we begin with the menu. Many times the initial menu consists of ice cream, gelato, sundaes, milk shakes, etc. As the project progresses, we usually begin to define retail profit centers that include coffee, baked goods, sandwiches, crepes, and other items that make sense for the particular operation. These additional profit centers are an excellent way to balance out income opportunities throughout the day and within the various seasons of the year. The upfront definition and brainstorming that takes place during the planning start up phase is often underdeveloped as the project unfolds and after the store is open. It is easy to overlook the creative potential within the various sectors of our stores.
Our organization has helped many frozen dessert stores begin and been there to assist the owners as their businesses unfold. In December of last year, we opened Summerfield Creamery, our first ice cream retail store. As we have stepped into the management and operations of this venture, our eyes have really opened to both the challenges that our clients face as well as often overlooked opportunities. Whenever we have clients who come to our headquarters, we always visit our retail store. This has enabled us to keep a sharp eye on what we do as our new clients explore their dreams with our ice cream store being used as a model.
During the winter months, we sold a good amount of gelato and ice cream as well as specialty coffee, muffins, cake and pies. The reason we did so well with cold items in the cold months is that we are naturally in tune with frozen desserts since we have all lived most of our lives in this industry. We offered pumpkin flavor during Thanksgiving and candy cane flavors during Christmas. When warm weather arrived a month or so ago, the frozen desserts increased, the baked goods remained stable and the coffee side died. Why? We were not paying attention to the opportunities that were available in the unfolding season. Sure, people are not drawn to hot coffee as much as they are in cold weather. But they are interested in cold drinks such as frappes. It is important to remind your clients that these items are available. We have made signage and reminded our staff to make the suggestion.
Profit potential does not always have to be associated to the defined centers. Profit potential can lay with-in popular fads. For example, we offer fresh gelato style ice cream, sorbet and sherbets. The yogurt craze has swept the western states over the last few years has now made it to the eastern side of the country. There are a few yogurt shops springing up in our area that are doing well.
Another hot topic is local grown and the emphasis on reducing our carbon footprint. In response to these two evolving concepts, we developed a recipe for local grown strawberry, blueberry, peach and apple yogurt. What a hit! We visit the local farmers market, buy the fruit and take pictures of the farmers who grow the crop. Then we post these pictures and their stories alongside the yogurt. Our customers love the outcome and they buy.
If your concept includes a baked goods profit center, your menu should be visited as the seasons change. Heavier cakes and pies can be replaced with lighter feeling ones for spring and summer. For example, we have replaced our pecan pie with key lime and blueberry. Our hummingbird cake has now been replaced with coconut cream for the warmer seasons. Emphasizing fruit flavored cheese cake and other lighter feeling desserts are more appealing during hot periods of the year. Offer pairings as well that include specialty drinks and frozen treats alongside pies and cakes. As apple pie remains in demand, always offer to warm the pie and add a scoop of the customers favorite ice cream on top.
After many years in the frozen dessert business, I find it is easy to overlook opportunities and focus on routine. However, businesses that constantly monitor their operations, their menus and their clients’ desires are more successful. Listen to what is important in your community and explore ways of blending those important concepts inside your business. We all have regular customers and in addition to having that favorite place they can go and have a pleasant experience, they also enjoy new things that they may find in their familiar special place.