Should Your Ice Cream Shop Stay Open This Winter?

When the ground is covered in snow and the air is chilled, cravings for ice cream treats tend to diminish. Many ice cream parlors see a decrease in traffic and a loss of profits during winter months. But, of course, many factors contribute to the decision of whether to stay open for business or close your ice cream shop for the winter. We'll help you decide so you can prepare your business for winter.

Reasons to Serve Ice Cream in Winter

Open Sign for Ice Cream Shop

While it may seem counterintuitive to keep your ice cream shop open in the winter, there are several reasons why this option might benefit your establishment. Many ice cream shops make use of takeout windows to serve customers, which puts your business in a good position to stay open. Consider these three factors when deciding to keep your ice cream parlor open:

  1. Ice cream shop location: The geographic location of your business plays a big role in whether you should keep your doors open all winter long. Regions of Florida, California, and other states rarely, if ever, see snow, making them prime real estate for winter ice cream parlors. If your town gets many wintertime tourists fleeing from cold weather, you may want to keep your business running.
  2. Paying rent: Some ice cream shop owners have found that it’s in their best interest to remain open year-round because they need to pay rent on the space regardless of whether or not they’re open for business. In these circumstances, ice cream parlor business owners often adjust their menus to get through the cold months of winter.
  3. Recognition: Many customers look to ice cream for celebrations or to satisfy a sweet tooth. Staying open in the colder months means that they still have access to ice cream in the winter, while other shops may be closed. Keeping your business open in winter can keep your name at the forefront of customers’ minds when the busier days of summer roll around. By staying available in the winter, you may create some loyal customers year-round.

How to Make Money in the Winter with an Ice Cream Shop

If you’re looking for helpful ideas on how to prepare your shop for winter and make the most of your ice cream business, consider implementing a few of these tips:

  • Implement seasonal hours: Scale back your hours of operation by staying open just on weekends in the wintertime rather than 5 days a week. Or instead of being open 7 hours a day, cut back to 4 hours. Having limited hours can create more of a demand for your products. You can also bring in some cash while saving on operating expenses during the week.
  • Offer seasonal work: Hiring seasonal staff can give you the flexibility to manage your expenses. During the winter months, you can reduce your staff size due to the decrease in demand. If you’re an independent business owner, you can oversee your own shop in the slow season, reducing payroll expenses.
  • Produce less ice cream in the winter: Cut down on your ice cream flavor options and quantities during the winter months. You’ll have less product to worry about selling while still keeping the old favorites on hand for your die-hard fans.
  • seasonal ice cream flavors
  • Create seasonal flavors: Offering unique flavors that are only available for a limited time is a great way to create some hype around your business. Some winter-themed flavors to consider include candy cane, gingerbread, and eggnog. Bring a nostalgic flavor to your menu by featuring malted milkshakes. You can even use your regular vanilla ice cream to create an innovative milkshake flavor by adding different types of flavored syrups.
  • Package to-go ice cream containers: While going out for ice cream may not be as popular during the winter, people will still serve ice cream at birthday parties and other holiday events. By giving your customers the option of taking your product with them, you can broaden the potential for your sales. Try adding pre-packaged pints or ice cream cakes to your merchandiser freezer.
  • Offer seasonal promotions: Keep your customers engaged with your business through advertisements or marketing on social media by offering discounts during the winter months.
  • Make menu adjustments: You may choose to broaden your menu or change it entirely during the wintertime. One option is to add a warm drink menu featuring hot chocolate, coffee, and hot cider for customers to warm up with. Another alternative would be to include seasonal desserts like pumpkin pie, apple pie, or warm brownies that naturally pair well with ice cream. You can even re-brand for the season and offer a new menu altogether with the inclusion of seasonal soups like pumpkin, barley mushroom, split-pea, or lentil soup.

Reasons to Close Your Ice Cream Shop This Winter

If your ice cream shop is located in an area that is sparsely populated or relies on the summer tourist crowd, you may want to consider closing your doors when the snow starts to fall. If the rent for your shop is inexpensive enough, it may wind up costing you more to staff your business than if you simply covered the cost of renting your dormant shop.

The best way to approach this decision is to sit down and look at your finances. If it will cost you more money to staff your establishment, it’s probably a good idea to take a break and spend the season planning out your summer.

A Winter Ice Cream Shop Business Plan for Closed Parlors

If you decide to close during winter, there are a few different ways you can stay productive and ensure a successful reopening in the spring. Consider reading our article on how to write a restaurant business plan to learn more about this topic.

  • Brush up on industry trends: Winter is a great time to do some research on ever-changing foodservice trends. Spend some time going to food shows and conventions, or reading articles on the subject. Even something as simple as visiting new ice cream shops can help give you a better sense of whether you’re keeping up with trends.
  • Brainstorm marketing strategies: Embracing new marketing strategies can help you to stay relevant and grow your brand while your shop is closed. You can get involved in local events, host talent acts at your shop, or organize some other activities that will help customers get acquainted with your brand. Some ideas might include an ice-cream-making demonstration, or a flavor development session that’s open to the public. Familiarizing customers with your brand can help boost sales come summer.
  • banana split in ice cream shop
  • Sell your ice cream to other businesses: Try distributing gallons of your handmade ice cream to other restaurants in your area so they can include your product in their dessert menu. Starting a partnership with other local business owners can help to create a sense of camaraderie while reaching new customers that will keep you in mind when the seasons change.
  • Develop new products and flavors: Use the winter to come up with exciting new flavor combinations and test them out before introducing them to the public. This way, you can begin your summer with a list of new flavors and frozen desserts to rotate and keep your ice cream supply interesting.
  • Prepare for summer: A decrease in traffic is inevitable during colder seasons, but that doesn’t mean this time is wasted. You can spend your free time organizing summer events, producing marketing materials, renovating the business space, or purchasing nonperishable supplies to use when it’s finally warm again.
  • Make your ice cream mobile: Use this downtime to invest in an ice cream truck! When the summer starts again, this is a great way to bring in more profits aside from your brick-and-mortar store. You can even market your ice cream truck to cater private events, or simply park your ice cream truck where you've obtained the proper licenses and permits.

If you’re an ice cream shop owner, there can be a lot to consider when it comes to closing or staying open during the winter months. You may choose to poll your customers to gauge their interest in ice cream availability as the days grow colder and shorter. Whatever you decide, if you find that it didn’t work for your business this year, you can always try something else next year!

Posted in: Management & Operation|Seasonal|By Janine Jones
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