Ice cream has topped the list of most popular desserts for a long time and shows no sign of ceding its position to some upstart torte or mini-canelle. Ice cream sales reached 25.1 billion in 2011, and restaurants accounted for 57 percent of those sales. It’s a smart idea to add this easy-seller to your menu, but first take into consideration some strategies and supplies necessary to make your ice cream program a success.
Know Your Target Market
The first step toward planning your ice cream program is determining your target market. Your target market should be based on your current customer demographics. It is also important to consider what kind of customers you’d like to see more of. For example, a sustainability-focused restaurant would do well to add house-made, artisanal ice cream to the menu and a family-friendly restaurant could benefit from adding snack-sized ice cream at a lower price-point. The key is to appeal to the whims of your customers’ indulgences, however they may manifest themselves.
Create Daring Flavors
Part of the reason ice cream’s popularity promises to continue among patrons and chefs alike is its extreme versatility. Though vanilla continues to be the most popular flavor, daring and delicious flavors have been growing in popularity and selling well in certain segments across the nation. Here is a sampling of some of the more creative and delicious flavors we’ve seen:
- Fresh Plum and Earl Grey
- Lemon Basil Sorbet
- Cinnamon Corn with Blueberries
- Sweet and Sour Orange Sorbet
- Celery Sorbet
The success of unique and previously unheard of flavor-combinations has shown to do well with the FoodNetwork-loving crowd. If your location sees more traditional vanilla and chocolate traffic, consider trying out one new adventurous flavor at a time. Introduce your customers to new flavor combinations and discover what creations are keepers and which ones to leave in the dust.
Think of the Children
According to the market research firm Technomic, kids choose an ice cream-based dessert (this includes ice cream cake) 68% percent of the time. Statistics also prove that most children’s favorite flavor is whatever their older sibling is having. However, unless little Johnny’s brother is rather adventurous, it is a good idea to stock some standards such as vanilla, chocolate and Superman for the little ones.
Consider Alternative Formats
Ice cream doesn’t just come on cones any more. Well, technically it hasn’t just come on cones since 1874 when the ice cream soda was invented, but no matter. While over the past few years ice cream sales have declined somewhat, ice cream novelties, milkshakes and floats have been steadily rising. Presentation can make all the difference for customers deciding between ordering dessert and going without.
Whether you’re serving house-made ice cream, soft serve or milkshakes, you’ll need some supplies to keep your operation running smoothly. Here’s a breakdown of the basics:
Batch freezers are commercial ice cream makers as well as dispensers. They make creating your own flavors easy: just add the ingredients and let the machine do the work. Batch freezers vary by reservoir capacity, with machines holding either 5 or 10 quarts of ice cream at a time. The larger sized freezers are typically used for ice cream parlors or gelato shops that need to produce a lot of ice cream at once.
Ice Cream Scoops
If you are serving hard ice cream, ice cream scoops are necessary for easily scooping and shaping those delectable little balls of deliciousness. Some ice cream scoops come with a spring release, making it easier for employees to dispense ice cream without using and extra utensil or their fingers.
Ice Cream Spades
If you’ve ever tried to get the last bits of ice cream from a tub using a regular ice cream scoop, you know why an ice cream spade is an indispensable tool. This handy helper ensures you won’t waste a morsel by allowing workers to easily scrape and shape ice cream from the sides of the container.
Soft Serve Machines
Soft serve machines make adding ice cream to the menu a cinch. Though traditionally operators purchase soft-serve mixes for use in the machine, it is also possible for enterprising chefs to cook up their own creative mixes. Soft serve machines also work well for frozen yogurt. Soft-serve machines vary by capacity, number of flavors and overall width. Most machines can only accommodate one or two flavors of ice cream at any given time.
While milkshakes can be made in a blender, this is a messy and time consuming operation. Milkshake machines make the process quick and easy, just load a malt cup onto the spindle and watch your milk get shaken. Milkshake machines vary mainly by shake capacity, with machines that can make between 2 and 13 shakes per minute.
Ice Cream Units
For caterers and other businesses that cannot lug around an entire freezer, an insulated ice cream unit provides a portable solution for serving ice cream on location. These containers keep ice cream cold and ready to serve for several hours, and make for an attractive display while they are at it.
Dessert dishes are designed to hold ice cream without letting it drip over the edges as it melts. These dishes are available in a variety of materials, from stainless steel to traditional glass, and make scoops of ice cream even more attractive than they already are.
Malt cups are the iconic silver cups designed to fit onto milkshake machines. These cups are wonderful products because you can both make and serve milkshakes in them, as customers love to get the extra milkshake left over in the malt cup after the shake is poured into a glass.
With these strategies and supplies combined with the timeless charm of ice cream, you should be able to tap into your customers’ desire for sweet indulgences and see dessert sales soar.