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Should Your Ice Cream Shop Stay Open This Winter?

When the ground is frozen and the air is chilled, cravings for cold 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, there are many factors that contribute to the decision of whether to stay open for business or close your ice cream shop for the winter. Let’s explore the pros and cons of keeping your ice cream parlor open all year long.

Reasons Why Your Ice Cream Shop Should Stay Open This Winter

Open Sign

It may sound obvious, but the geographic location of your business plays a big role in whether or not you should keep your doors open all winter long. Of course regions of Florida, California, and other states never see snow. These are places where the rest of the country goes to escape winter and going out for ice cream is just another way your guests can indulge in imagining that it’s still summertime. Because nothing says summer quite like a cone of soft serve ice cream.

Another major reason why it makes sense to stay open during the winter is that ice cream is a great celebratory treat. It’s common for parents to take their kids out for ice cream as a reward for getting good grades or accomplishing something important with their sports team or club. This is why many national chains stay open through the winter months. Chains also use this tactic because staying open during the winter also ensures that customers don’t forget about your business and start seeking ice cream elsewhere.

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. If you’re a small business owner, you might consider trying to sell different food items for the seasons. You can specialize in ice cream, sundaes, floats, and banana split bowls in the summer and then provide the town’s best hot chocolate through the winter months.

Strategies for Ice Cream Shops to Use During the Winter

If you’re looking for other helpful ideas of how to make the most of your ice cream business, while it remains open during the winter, consider implementing a few of these tips:

  • Only hire seasonal staff during busy months. If you’re an independent business owner, you can oversee your own shop in the slow season, reducing payroll expenses.
  • Have seasonal hours of operation. If your shop is open 5 days a week during the summer, try staying open just on weekends in the wintertime. This helps keep your business in the front of customer’s minds, and you can bring in some cash, while saving on operating expenses during the week.
  • Produce less ice cream in the winter. It makes sense that if your staff and hours are cut back, you should make sure to cut down on your ice cream flavor options and quantities, too. You’ll have less product to worry about selling, while still keeping the old favorites on hand for your die-hard fans.
  • ice cream to-go
  • Try creating 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 great ideas for winter flavors include: candy cane, gingerbread, and eggnog. You can even use your regular vanilla ice cream to create an innovative milkshake flavor, by adding flavored syrups.
  • Package to-go containers of ice cream. While going out for ice cream may not be as popular during the winter, people will still have birthday parties and other occasions where ice cream is served, so giving your customers the option of taking your product with them can broaden the potential for your sales.

Reasons to Close Your Ice Cream Shop in Winter

If your ice cream shop is located in an area that is either sparsely populated or relies on the summer tourist crowd, you may want to consider closing your doors when the snow starts to fall. Additionally, 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 take a 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 Few Ways to Stay Busy at Your Ice Cream Shop Through the Winter

If you do decide to close down during winter, there are a few different ways you can stay productive and ensure a successful reopening in the spring.

  • Brush up on industry trends. The foodservice industry is constantly changing and any business owner knows that keeping up with the competition is an important part of the job. So, do your research. Spend some time going to food shows and conventions. Read articles on the subject. Even something as simple as visiting new ice cream shops that may have opened recently can help give you a better sense of whether or not you’re keeping up with trends.
  • Brainstorm new marketing strategies to try. You can get involved in local events, host musicians or other acts at your shop, or organize some other type of activity 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. Anything to help people become more familiar with and invested in your brand.
  • banana split
  • 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 on their dessert menu. Creating a partnership with other local business owners can help to create a sense of comradery within your foodservice community, and selling your product in new places is a great way to reach new customers that will keep you in mind when the snow thaws again.
  • Try developing new flavors. Customers will always have their old favorites, but they love trying new things too! Use your winter to come up with exciting new combinations and test them out before introducing them to the public. This way, you can begin your summer with a whole set of new flavors to rotate and keep your ice cream supply interesting.
  • Use your spare time to plan for the summer months. 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 events, producing marketing materials, or testing new flavors to release when it’s warm again.

So, if you’re an ice cream shop owner, you have a lot to consider when it comes to closing or staying open during the winter months. The good news is that making a pros and cons list can help make this decision easier, so you can take into account the factors that pertain most to your unique situation. Maybe that means that you’ll only close your doors for a few days a week, maybe it means you’ll spend the whole winter focusing on ways to get the most out of your summer. Whatever you decide, if you find that it didn’t work for you, you can always try something different next year!

Posted in: Management & Operation | Seasonal | By Jessica Wieser
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