Chapter 5 Your Product Line
Chapter 5 Your Product Line
The product line is important in any business but even more so when selling commercial ice cream. Operations that just sell scoops often fail if they have to compete with competitors who also sell light food. In the old days, famous brands like Dairy Queen and Swensen sold only ice cream. We calledDairy Queen “out-the-window sales’ because they would just hand you your ice cream out the window. Today most of those brands sell more for items that ice cream. they learned that having a broader product line increased sales.
To illustrate my point, take a look at what Dairy Queen offers:
- Standard Soft Drinks
- Malt Drinks
- Special Beverages
- Deserts 5 types
- Soft Serve 2 Types
- Ice Cream 6 flavors
- Sundaes about 30 flavors
And that’s not all. Here’s the food:
|Deluxe Double Cheeseburger|
|Grilled Chicken Sandwich|
|Crispy Chicken Sandwich|
|Grilled Chicken Salad|
|Crispy Chicken Salad|
|Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad|
|Crispy Chicken Caesar Salad|
|Chili Cheese Dog|
DQ originally started as a custard-out-the-window operation but now has a huge product line, snappy graphics, a lot of equipment with a big investment, their own training school, marketing division, international advertising and nice uniforms. This proves that expanding product line is important for success.
Ice Cream Point-of-Sale Problems
Sandiness: Sandiness is caused by lactose precipitating out of the ice cream, forming little crystals. It is usually the result of the manufacturer using too much whey in the mix. The problem may not be apparent either when the ice cream is made or delivered. I can occur days or weeks later.
Lactose is the least soluble of all the sugars in ice cream. As the ice cream sits, more and more liquid water becomes ice and finally the remaining concentration of liquefied lactose becomes too great to remain dissolved and it precipitates. This problem is a manufacturing defect and the ice cream should be returned.
The most common defects are the result of handling after the ice cream is received:
Heat Shock: This problem is the result of warm air hitting the ice cream when it is in a display case. This causes the surface of the ice cream to slightly melt and then freeze, resulting in surface ice crystal formation and if it happens again and again, it can result in an ice glaze and flavor deterioration of the product. If the problem is not too extensive the ice cream can be mixed up with a spatula to distribute the damaged surface.
Coarseness: The next step after heat shock is when the entire product develops large ice crystals, usually caused by loss of power and the ice cream rises above -16°C. This is the temperature where about 60% of the water becomes semi-liquid, or like a slurry, allowing water molecules to migrate to the ice crystals, increasing their size. When power is restored and the ice cream re-freezes, large ice crystals form which are unpleasant. The only way to fix this problem is to allow the ice cream to melt completely and reprocess it.
In the U.S. ice cream route sales drivers earn about $38,000 USD. This is slightly less than the median US income whereas route drivers that sell food, such as lunches, do better earning about $46,000.
This is the main reason why route ice cream sales have greatly declined in the US but in developing countries there are enough people looking for any kind on income to support this industry. You just don’t want to be one of them—you want one or more of them to work for you.
Seasonal or Special Events
Prime territory of special events are fairs, flea markets, music festivals and night markets. The foot traffic is intense and if you have an attractive stand and a good product, my how the money rolls in! But, don’t get me wrong. Working the fairs is no romp in the park! It is a tough, tough business, very stressful and full of unexpected problems that grinds people down. Only the fittest survive.
Getting started: Getting started isn’t easy. You need to learn about local laws and apply to many different festivals. One of the hardest parts of vending food is getting your first break at a festival or fair. You’ll need to convince the organizers that you should be vending food at their event. After all, their choice of vendors makes or breaks their effort! You’ll need a convincing application in order to become a food vendor and this is where being a franchisee (such as ours) can be a big help—because the franchisor is a larger, successful operator and therefore so are you.
In order to gain acceptance, having a good-looking or unique stand or outlet is important. If you have a stand, trailer or vending truck you will need good photos of it. If you have no setup, you should consider making one in Photoshop or hiring a professional to do a rendering. It does no good to plan if you cannot convince the organiser to let you in!
If you are making your own ice cream, vegetarian or vegan events are a prime source. Not many companies make a prime vegan or vegetarian ice cream such as our Soy-So Delicious! Also, offering a Light Line of sugar-free, healthy products is both unique and appealing. As they used to say, “you gotta be a jive cat and look hip or they gonna give you the cold shoulder.”
Research the specific fair or festival carefully. Think of ways that your products fit in. Find out what paperwork you will need. You may need a license for vending food. Most festivals have a list of the licenses, insurance and permits they require. You will have to present them with your food vendor application. Find out about insurance requirements, if health permits are needed for your workers, if you need to be a registered company and if so, what docs you must present.
In most of these places visitors know and accept that prices are higher. The number of passers-bye is intense which is ideal for ice cream and dessert sales. Big competitors such as McDonalds and Burger King rarely set up at these places and frequently they are barred because the fairs specialize in letting smaller operators flourish.
These events, being time-limited are high pressure. A machine failure is a disaster. Two to three times the number of workers are required and the hours are long—but oh Lord, how the money rolls in!
Some vendors set up in temporary buildings or tents. The advantage of this is that they cost much less than a vending van or trailer. But of course a tent or temporary building is much less mobile and in the summer, tick tock, tick tock, time is money. You need to start planning for the summer schedule as early as possible so that you can move quickly from one event to another. Don’t start planning later than Christmas! People who plan well often make enough money in the summer to live the whole year.
Vendors at fairs sell either food or desserts. The dessert vendors usually sell a mix of ice cream, soft serve, cotton candy, hot fudge sundaes, milk shakes, slush drinks and soft drinks. In addition to the big decisions about what to sell you must decide on a refrigeration source.
Obviously plugging into an external power source is ideal, leaving you with only the problem of how to deliver frozen products to the trailer, which is usually done by packing the products into urethane fish boxes and adding dry ice.
Generators are important for long hauls but it is uneconomical to buy a really big generator and try to run the entire operation from it because so much power is required and the generator must be run continuously during the event. Normally a chest freezer is added beneath a work counter and this is where frozen products are stored during trips. If the haul is less than 18 hours, dry ice will do the job.
Ice Cream Carts
Ice cream carts usually sell low-end ice cream at low prices and if you are pushing, peddling or driving the cart, it’s a hard way to make a small amount of money although you, too can sometimes gain entry to local fairs and events. But if you have a good source of inexpensive ice cream (not gelato) and enough capital to buy a number of carts, plus the business and organizational skills to organize licenses and permits, lease space (sometimes) plan routes, resupply, replace absent workers and a calm when things go wrong, it can be quite lucrative.