Do not start a roll ice cream business yet.
Let me start off by saying that I am not assuming that people who have decided to invest in a roll ice cream business have no prior business experience. Even though anything with ice cream can be an easy sell, the business end of being able to sell your product is still crucial to success. I want to bring to your attention 7 different points that could help make a roll ice cream business successful for a first time business owner, as well as experienced business owners.
What and why is roll ice cream popular?
Roll ice cream is the basic ingredients used to produce classic ice cream such as milk, sugar, cream, flavorings, and extracts. The blend of these ingredients which is known as "the base" is then poured onto a freezing plate which gradually lowers the temperature, allowing the base to be more consistent.
Once the temperature of the base drops low enough (which happens rapidly) it can be moved around the cold plate and other ingredients can be introduced then blended into the mix as desired. Once the mix is thoroughly blended, it is flattened and spread on the plate until it is semi "dried", when it has reached this point, it can be rolled stating from the edges using a "spatula" type utensil that resembles a paint scraper.
A few reasons why observing the process of this great event captivates ice cream lovers are
1. You can observe your product being made live.
2. You can usually customize flavors and ingredients and walk away with a personal experience.
3. There is an aura and build up of anticipation to taste and satisfy the craving that brought you there in the first place.
4. Your brain releases feel good endorphins that chemically enhance your mood, temporarily bringing back our childhood memories of those happy moments when we received ice cream, obviously- duh!
7 points to consider before starting a roll ice business
1. Location, location, location.
If there is any point of importance this should be it, but probably not how you think. Yes, you want to open a roll ice cream business or any business period, obviously the location is key. When you think of a location keep in mind, it is not always about appearance of the building/unit you plan to occupy or even the amount of people who traffic the area. I want to emphasize a location that has tons of people passing everyday may not necessarily benefit you. The type of traffic you need should be relative to your target market.
Shoppers buy for a variety of reasons and they don't buy for a variety of reasons. You could have a great product good presentation and everything else and still not get the results you desire. When choosing a location it will pay off to observe the area and even interact with people, ask questions and get familiar with the "rhythm" of the location.
Briefly talk to different people who represent your target age group and ask questions like:
1. have you ever heard of roll ice cream?
2. What are your thoughts about it?
3. What are some of your favorite flavors, what are some of your children's, spouse, friends favorite flavors etc
4. Why do you shop in this area
5. Are there any other roll ice cream locations in the area? do you buy from them? whats your favorite item on the menu?
This can create a whole new perspective as to how you choose your location, someone else's customer may not be your customer. Closely observe the high /low traffic days in the target area and estimate earning potential based on the consensus you gathered. This will not be an exact estimate but it can give you an indicator as to whether or not you can cover your daily costs to run your business from that location.
You interviewed 100 people
50% of the people you interviewed fit your target customer, of those 50% they would spend an average of $7 per cup of roll ice cream when they visit the area 2 x per week, ask yourself what would be your potential income from those customers? multiply and scale according to the research information you gathered by the amount of customers you realistically believe you can get into your shop (always use the lowest estimates).
2. Organize and make sure you have all necessary permits and documentation.
Once you have decided you found a location and you can acquire it, start the process of gathering the paperwork needed to legally operate your food business. Contact the relative offices and submit your applications/registrations or hire someone who can get everything done at a reasonable price. I would like to emphasize contacting the local Health department and ask them questions about the requirements for operating a food business, be sure to find out if there are any special requirements or restrictions on the equipment you plan to use.
Usually this is an easy process and there are no major requirements for roll ice cream machines however there are some states that require ETL or NSF certified equipment, which can add to your start up costs. see http://www.intertek.com http://www.nsf.org
This certification process (US only) is for the manufacturer and must meet specific standards in order to receive the label and certificate.
3. What budget do you need to get started? and do you have a contingency?
A wise man once said " fail to plan, then plan to fail and another wise man said " Expect the unexpected".You have gathered all your figures, received your quote from the contractor, rent/lease security numbers, equipment/supplies prices, workers salaries, a little extra just in case and a potential grand opening date and cost, now you feel confident that your ready to pull the trigger!. There is always a sacrifice when opening a new business/location. When you plan to invest find a way to back up your investment if possible with a contingency, in addition to your existing contingency, sometimes a Plan B is not enough.
I have probably seen every scenario in the book of things that could go wrong, most of which could of all been avoided with better preparation or spending a little extra in order to save in the long run.
Examples of some scenarios where things went south
1. Major electrical upgrades needed at location
2. Roll ice cream equipment not functioning and local refrigeration tech cant repair it.
3. Error code or need parts and cant reach the supplier
4. Delivery issues
5. Health Inspection issues
6. Family issues/emergencies
7. The ice cream did NOT come out right.
8. Need more equipment due to higher expected volume.
The list goes on, but this should not deter anyone from going forward, the vast majority of roll ice cream businesses do find equilibrium after a rocky start.
4. Who are my customers and what do they really want
This goes back to researching your target market. Flavors and tastes vary from City to City, State to State, Country to Country, even down to the colors you use for your brand and products, think cars, some colors are available in some states and others are not, due to market preferences. this challenge is more trial and error, over time you will know exactly what your customers want, but you have to pay attention to detail, remember the " Cure for ignorance is a question".
5. Did you test your finished product?
I'm sure you will have the best tasting ice cream in the universe, but it wont hurt to allow others you trust, probably friends and family to offer an honest opinion. Once you have your base mix down packed, it will be time to test it on the equipment you plan to use and observe how it reacts to cooling and blending with ingredients. Obviously taste, texture, mouth feel all contribute to the "quality" of your product just as much as the variety of flavors you will offer. When introducing new flavors into your menu you can try offering them as specials first, get feed back then add or improve as necessary.
6. What machine should I buy?
The answer to this question really depends on a few other questions.
1. How much space do you have available for the equipment
2. What budget are you working with
3. What daily average volume do you expect based on the research you did.
4. Do you plan to only operate in one location and never move the equipment from that location? or do you plan to do events and venues from time to time.
In general, I will always recommend you start small. You can always scale up as you see progress, plus you have a contingency right? so if you need to order more supplies because things are taking off fast, then you can. Here are some highlights of good quality Roll ice cream machines, remember not all ice cream machines are created equal, many of them are just actually evil twins!
Roll Ice cream machine Pro's & Cons:
Roll ice cream machine type
Lighter 80-300 lbs, durable on wheels, 1 compressor usually good start up cooling 2-3 minutes, 304 stainless steel,easily upgraded assembled quickly, can have top and bottom compartments, inexpensive upgrades, easy to repair, cost less so you can get the benefits of 2 pans compared to a larger double pan.
|If the machine stops working for any reason it cant be used, sneeze guard not standard,|
|Double Pan||Impressive design, 2 and sometimes 3 compressors, pre cooling,can usually have refrigerated compartments top and bottom. 304 stainless steel, heavy duty thicker steel, usually digital display controlled by a computer board that is easy to replace. If one pan stops working you can still use the other pan.sneeze guard is standard||Heavier 300-500 lb, more power usage compared to 2 single pan machines|
7. Will I receive after sales support after my purchase? Do I have a true warranty?
There are so many scenarios of customers who purchased expensive and sometimes cheaper machinery only to find the supplier went ghost. In addition to this many suppliers cant help customers in the US all the way from China. After sales support is key, for your business to continue a smooth stress free operation. Someone you can contact with minor or major issues that can understand you and your need, who is willing to work and find a resolution. Warranties are supposed to be enforceable through the payment processor used to purchase the equipment, they can be pretty helpful, but may take valuable time to resolve.In cases where you realize your "warranty" has not been honored, you need an immediate solution.
I suggest you find suppliers that can communicate with you and help resolve issues as fast and efficiently as possible. Many times labor is not covered in a warranty but you can ask your equipment seller/supplier if anything should go wrong within the warranty period what can you "the buyer" expect. You can ask them if they will be willing to reimburse reasonable labor costs, it doesn't hurt to try, but it might hurt if your left with a 3 or 400 lb hunk of metal you cant use.
All said, the roll ice cream business can be a low cost high profit, high customer volume business virtually anywhere in the world. There is no slowing down at this stage from a suppliers perspective and there are still several regions that have remained untapped. I encourage customers to go forward but do your homework, take time by asking yourself these basic questions and a few others. Be analytical in your approach to a new business and a trending market keep in mind trends have a lifespan try to understand why something works so that you can build on it scale it up and be in front of the trend shift. I left out a few more points but as you can see this blog is long enough. No one is perfect and We are all students! hope this was helpful.
Some links that may be helpful in calculating your costs: