Posted: 28/05/2019

Ice cream could be a hot option

If you’re looking for improved footfall and great margins, everyone’s favourite treat could be just the ticket, Baboo Gelato’s Sam Hanbury tells Michael Lane

Whether it’s a parlour, in-store counter or a kiosk, the concept is hardly new but selling ice cream by the cone or cup offers retailers decent margins and is an extremely effective footfall generator.

Dorset-based producer Baboo Gelato is proving this theory with its own kiosks in Lyme Regis and West Bay on the south coast and is setting up several more this season.

Co-founder Sam Hanbury tells FFD buying an ice cream should be special for consumers, so retailers must commit fully to it, rather than dragging out a stale chest freezer in July and August. 

“I’m always surprised that farm shops don’t make a thing about it because it’s such a catch,” he says. “People will stop their car and have an ice cream. And once they’ve stopped they’ll buy some cheese and charcuterie and a bottle of gin.”

Done right, Hanbury insists ice cream is not just a summer proposition and surely the margins on offer will tempt many retailers to try it (see box). 

That said, having a location that guarantees a natural flow of people is essential, says Hanbury, both commercially and from a technical perspective.

“If you have a scooping tank with 40 ice creams and you’re only selling a few of them and they don’t turn over very fast that ice cream’s going to get crystallised, it’s going to get gooey, the quality goes out of it.”

Gelato’s serving temperature is slightly warmer, at -12°C, than regular ice cream but staff need to monitor it for consistency by eye. If ice cream is poor in quality or, worse, a health hazard, Hanbury estimates this could dent sales by £5,000, from something like a bad Tripadvisor review, whereas throwing away a container of ice cream won’t cost more than £25.

Keeping your range tight also reduces wastage. Baboo opts for serving only 10 flavours at a time. That gives them enough space to include some classics, sorbets for dairy-free and vegan punters, and some experimental flavours.

As with all food, customer service and cleaning are key to success but the inventory management of your kiosk or counter is critical. The last person out of Baboo’s kiosks at night sends a detailed inventory (ice cream, cones, pots etc) to the head office by tablet, to ensure that sales aren’t dented by running out of something essential when queues are building up.

If you’ve got room for a scooping counter but it still sounds too much like hard work, why not consider renting an experienced ice cream operator the space at your premises. Baboo has just opened a similar set up at Felicity’s Farm Shop. 

If potential customers can spot ice cream from the road, then they’ll surely stop and spend.

Margins in focus

  • 100g per scoop
  • 50 scoops per 5-litre Napoli
  • £2.50 retail price per scoop (Hanbury says it is in the middle of a pricing spectrum that runs from about £1.80 to £2.75)
  • Turnover of £125 per container 
  • Subtract cost of ice cream (£25), VAT, staff and running costs, etc.
  • Roughly £75 profit per container

This story appeared in the May issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

Read more of the latest news from Fine Food Digest here

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