Ice Cream Shops: 5 Ways to Treat Your Customers (and Improve Your Bottom Line)

There is a direct connection between an ice cream’s bottom line and its ability to meet (and raise) its customer’s expectations. Truly, today’s ice cream shops can’t thrive with a stale menu and marketing plan. Instead, these ideas for new products and marketing ideas can help any ice cream shop (or campground, restaurant, or business) keep customers coming back and attract new customers.

Be basic and flavorful

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, American’s favorite flavors are vanilla, chocolate, cookies ‘n cream, and mint chocolate chip. Ice cream shops should take this information to heart and offer basic and unique ice cream flavors. As an added benefit, flavors like bubble gum, cotton candy, and blue goo can appeal to the youngest customers while more classic flavors like butter pecan and chocolate swirl satisfy more experienced customers’ taste buds.

The good news is that offering additional ice cream flavors doesn’t always require a large investment in ice cream machines. Modern ice cream machines can provide multiple flavors without taking up a lot of floor space or requiring a ton of maintenance. (More tips on choosing the right ice cream machine in this post.) Another way to deliver new ice cream flavors is to select commercial ice cream machines that add candies, nuts, or fruit to the product. (Contact a commercial equipment professional for options for ice cream machines.)

Sandwich customer favorites

Take-out foods are an integral part of a restaurant menu, including ice cream shop menus. One of those take-out (or eat-in favorites) are ice cream sandwiches. These ice cream shop favorites can be as basic (vanilla ice cream and chocolate chip cookies) or as over-the-top as customers wants (i.e. chocolate cookies, sprinkles, chocolate chips, dipped ice cream sandwiches, etc.) The biggest benefit of these flavorful ice cream treats is that they are fairly easy to store and freeze for easy sales.

Make creative new sundaes

Ice cream sundaes may be a classic ice cream shop dish, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for innovation. New sundae flavors are perfect for adventurous customers who love new dishes and customers with a huge sweet tooth who love toppings.

For another ice cream shop twist, these sundaes can also be combined into a delicious take-out favorite: the shake. This is an easy offering, that can be easily offered with the right commercial ice cream equipment.  

Showcase that tasty creativity

New products are only as appealing as the marketing that gets them in front of customers. There are numerous ways to do this: with eye-catching signs at the counter, on menu boards, on websites, and social media.

These new products can also be part of fun promotions and marketing campaigns. Think green ice cream desserts for St. Patrick’s Day, marketed before and on the day of. New products can be released on a schedule that customers follow, such as a daily or weekly new flavor (with FUN online announcements!) These unique flavors can also be offered in gallons or quarts to increase customer loyalty and the profit margin. Another new twist is to offer creative ice cream flavors as part of a meal plan that celebrates a holiday or community team.

Take customer suggestions

Just as important as marketing is an ice cream shop’s ability to listen to the customers. When customers make a comment, either online or in-person, owners and managers should take note. If customers rave over a particular flavor or dish, ice cream shops should offer that flavor again—and market it to draw in those loyal fans.

Another way to capture customer insights is to add a suggestion box to the ice cream shop or run a contest. The latter can be a fun way to get customer suggestions for new sundaes, flavors, or shake ideas. A contest is a great way to engage customers, and get unique ideas that can be rewarded with a promise for a free cone or sundae.

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