Start a Gormet Ice Cream Parlour

Opening an ice cream shop is something many people have wondered about. Most people with a sweet tooth have been in an ice cream shop on a hot summers day and looked at all the amazing flavours and happy customers and thought “this is a license to print money!”

Ice cream is a business that will never go out of fashion, in fact, Britons now spend £1.1bn each year on ice cream! The industry is evolving all the time with new funky flavours such as Blackjack, Cake Butter and Anchovy.

The other great thing is that there’s still a lack of quality ice cream parlours in the UK. Anyone that’s been to places like Italy, Spain and Portugal will probably have been in some amazing ice cream parlours that we just don’t have over here so there’s a real gap in the market.

Interesting Fact: The earliest evidence of anything approaching ice cream being made was in China in the Tang period (A.D. 618-907). It was first introduced into the UK in 1671 at a banquet for the Feast of St. George at Windsor Castle

So, How Do I Start An Ice Cream Business?

Just being an ice cream fan isn’t enough to qualify you to start your own business. There’s lots of planning and preparation to do before you can start scooping in the money.

Step 1: Initial Plan

Why do businesses usually fail? Generally it’s because of the lack of a plan and initial research.

It’s important to research and plan out all aspects involved in setting up a business. For an ice cream parlour, things to consider are:

  • Health, Safety & Regulation
  • Equipment Cost
  • Labour Costs
  • Insurance
  • Product Costs/Ingredients
  • Signage
  • Premises
  • Marketing
  • Website Costs
  • Franchise Fee (if applicable)

Step 2: Decide on a Location

Where should you open an ice cream store?

As usual, that depends on your business model. You want an area that will attract lots of footfall, high visibility and easy access.

As pop up shops and food markets are becoming very popular now this could be an excellent choice, particularly if you are aiming at more luxury, adventurous flavours as these markets tend to be frequented by young professionals that wont think twice about spending over £5 on an ice cream.

Concession shops within big shopping centres like Westfield would get huge footfall and the set up costs of a concession shop are vastly less than a full retail unit.

Step 3: Understand the Product

The ice cream industry is changing as customers become more demanding with their tastes and people become more aware of some of the great flavours developed in European Ice Cream parlours.

Customers also have a lot of choice, ice cream sections in supermarkets are now much, much larger than they used to be with all sorts of variations from frozen yoghurt, dairy free, lactose free as well as popular brands like Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerrys.

The Ice Cream Association run Recipe Formulation Courses in Derby. The cost for the courses is as follows:

  • £155 + VAT for ICA Members
  • £195 + VAT for Non Members

There are plenty of other Ice Cream training courses around but this is a great place to start.

Step 4: Understand Pricing & Costs

You will also need to think about what to charge for each product.

As with other food service businesses, your cost should generally run about 25 to 30 percent of the total charge customers pay, so that you also cover waste, samples, and overhead expenses.

Here’s a rough calculation:

  • Average cost per 3-gallon tub of ice cream: £20
  • Serving size: 4 ounces
  • Servings per tub: 55
  • Cost per serving: £0.36
  • Add £0.14 per serving to cover additional costs such as waste, samples, cones, spoons, napkins etc.

Your price would then be £1.50-£2.00 per serving.

However if you’re targeting the high end market you could easily charge around £5.00 per serving

Step 5: Understand Any Regulation

Any shop serving food and drink requires high hygiene standards both from a regulation perspective but also for reputational risk reasons.

There are common statutes covering the preparation and sale of food and these must be adhered to at all times.

The Food Safety Act 1990 is a British piece of legislation that provides the framework for all food legislation. The General Food Law Regulation 178/2002 covers general food safety. These are ‘food law’ legislation and separate to food hygiene legislation.

With regard to food hygiene, ensure you speak to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to make sure your practices and procedures are fully compliant with food hygiene regulations as the law changes regularly.

The Advanced Food Safety company hold food safety courses that have been approved by the Ice Cream Association:

  • Food Hygiene Training Level 2 course at £16.50 plus VAT per person
  • HACCP Training Level 2 course at £19.00 plus VAT per person

Step 6: Identify Suppliers

What equipment do you need to open an ice cream store?

According to the Ice Cream Alliance (, you’ll need the following:

  • Electronic Scale
  • 4, 8, 12 or 16 hole/tray dipping cabinets
  • Credit Card Machine
  • Self-serve Reach-in display freezer
  • Stainless Steel prep tables
  • 1, 2, or 3 door hardening cabinet, or walk in hardening cabinet
  • Soda machine
  • Walk-in freezer
  • Milk Shake Mixer
  • Cash Register

This isn’t a complete list, there are obviously many more things that you will need and it will vary depending on what kind of retail unit you are going for.

Step 7: Promote Your Business

Without any customers, it doesn’t matter how great your ice cream is if no one is coming to taste it! So what do you need to do to promote your business?

Well, there’s the old fashioned way and the modern technology way. You need to be doing both!

First, some visible signage up so people can easily see your shop as they pass by. Of course, you’ve got to use attractive, clean photos of your offerings so people know what to expect.

Stand on the sidewalk and hand out coupons and flyers to passers by.

Let people know that you’ve set up shop and that it’s open.

Do the same at local sporting events and parks.

Go where your target market is! People love a good coupon, and giving away a free scoop of ice cream is worth the £0.35 cost to bring in a new customer more so if they bring friends!

Take advantage of social media and digital marketing.

As far as digital marketing goes, make sure to pay attention to your website.  Publish your menu online, along with daily and weekly schedules. Another great way is to create a Facebook page for your store.  and make sure to respond promptly to inquiries and messages sent through it.  By doing this, you’ll be clueing them into the type of customer service your shop has.

Ways to Expand Your Business

If you have succeeded in creating one profitable outlet you may want to start thinking about expanding your empire. Options for this would be to open new outlets or think about franchising your business. Read our guide on How to Franchise a Business for insight into the process involved.

The Bottom Line

Opening an ice cream business, like any business, is a lot of work and without careful planning you will be in trouble.

But if you do it right, it will not only be financially rewarding but also a great deal of fun and you’ll be putting smiles on peoples faces all day!

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  1. August 18, 2018

    […] You could do special events for lovebirds, like private screenings, or packages that incorporate dinner and bubbly. Why don’t you provide a waiter service or gourmet ice cream? […]

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