How to Market Ice Cream Shops in 2018

It’s summertime, which means everyone is screaming for ice cream. And since people are willing to stand in line in the hot sun just for a cone, ice cream stands are often starving for extra staff to serve guests on the hottest days of the year. With that in mind, which restaurant marketing strategies can help these ice cream stands to scoop the competition?

Ice Cream with whipped cream as a marketing gimmick

1. Increase sales to those who are there.

Try doubling your sales by upselling each and every customer on another product. At busy ice cream stands, this isn’t a common practice because the lines are long and customers need to be served, but it’s easy to boost profits by asking questions like:

  • Would you like a drink with that?
  • Do you want to try one of our special caramel-filled waffle cones?
  • Do you want to add whipped cream and hot fudge to turn that bowl into a sundae?
  • How about an iced coffee for yourself, to go with all those kiddie cones? You’re gonna need it!
  • Would you like a free sample of a new flavor we have?

You can also create menu items outside of ice cream, like iced coffee or frozen lemonade!

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2. Create unique ice cream flavors (like vegan).

It’s important to have the staple ice cream flavors, but those may not be the ones that keep people coming back. Susan Soorenko, owner of Moorenko’s Ice Cream in Silver Spring, Maryland says that custom, unique flavors are one of the keys to her success.

“One of our constant favorites is honey lavender, which is honey ice cream made with fresh French lavender. Then the cotton candy with gummy bears, which is the kids favorite,” store manager John Landis told CNN Money.

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In Puerto Rico, there’s an ice cream shop called Heladeria Lares that specializes in unique and exotic ice cream flavors. Purple potato (featured above), spaghetti & cheese, cod fish and garlic-flavored ice cream are all on the menu. As you can probably imagine, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern has been in to visit.

Want to bring in more millennial and Generation Z customers? Add vegan ice cream and all natural dairy from local farms.

3. Host a contest.

Every successful business has one, and they work fairly well. Mora Iced Creamery doesn’t show ice cream at all in their store. Each flavor of ice cream is stored individually in their own stainless steel containers so that the flavors don’t mix and the temperatures are ideal for each individual flavor.

ice cream marketing strategy - sell iced coffee

Ana Orselli and Jerry Perez from Mora’s write, “instead of asking customers to ‘taste with their eyes,’ we encourage our customers to taste, really taste, as many flavors as they like before making their final selection.” Gimmick doesn’t need to mean something negative, it’s just simply something that you have that’s different from everyone else. Brain freeze? Here are a few ideas:

  • How about a giant ice cream cone outside? People love to take photos with roadside attractions.
  • Or perhaps a real 12-scoop ice cream cone? Man vs. Food is still on the air for a reason… Heck, why don’t you hold a contest?
  • Offer a large selection of lactose-free and guilt-free options. This is uncommon, and as health concerns rise, more people are looking for options with less fat.
  • Create a variety using all-natural ingredients. Ice cream is so pure in itself, so all you may really need to do is slap the “all natural” tag on it. If you want to make it organic, you may have a few more steps to take.
  • Get into soft serve, where you have the option of offering hundreds of flavors from a single machine. It’s the “300 flavors” sign that are the marketing part of it.
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Meghan is an award-winning journalist and content marketing manager who lives to tell stories. Her favorites include highlighting all things restaurants, from front-of-house hospitality to back-of-house grit. When she's not writing about them, you can find her eating her way through Providence and Boston searching for inspiration with a rye Old Fashioned in hand.