I love the research involved in writing articles about ice cream and Italian Ice. Often times it involves travel to far flung locations and lots and lots of taste testing. My recent travels took me to two shops located less than 1/4 mile from each other on opposite sides of the street. The weather was sunny and 82 degrees and traffic in the area on a Saturday night was a promising predictor of great ice cream sales. Business A had a line of 14 people with a busy parking lot. Business B had no line but a random stream of customers. With similar traffic on both sides of the street, why did A have more robust sales than B?
Let's start with business A. A's store signage was big, bright and colorful and could be easily seen from the road. The building was in good repair, offered a safe outdoor eating area, tables, benches and ample trash cans. The menu board was clean, clear and concise, offering pre-packaged selections such as Fudge Nut Sundae and Strawberry Shortcake Sundae. My ice cream selection was priced appropriately for its size.Traffic in and out of the parking lot was congested and the store was in a strip shopping center with a dry cleaner and a florist. Business A offered only hard and soft serve ice cream.
Now let's talk about business B. B's signage was almost non-existent except for a faded marquee above the awning. The building was self standing with a large parking lot with separate access for an entrance and an exit. Everything needed a new coat of paint and the order window was clouded with small signs taped on it instructing customers about payment methods. The menu board was very old, peeling, faded, and had new prices and products taped on top of prior menu offerings. Everything was ala carte. You had to search for the toppings list and flavors of hard ice cream. My ice cream selection turned out to be over-sized and under-priced. I believe they were losing money on the sale. There was 1 trashcan on the premises and poor lighting at the order window. B also had Italian Ice in addition to hard and soft serve ice cream.
Question #1- Who has a more successful business? The answer is business A without a doubt. Business A knows how to attract customers in a welcoming family-friendly environment. Service was fast and efficient and customers were able to quickly make their selection due to a streamlined menu. More customers served per hour means more money for the business. The overall cleanliness and maintenance of the premises gave the impression that the back-of-house food preparation area was equally clean and well maintained. A comforting thought when taking the kids out for ice cream! I enjoyed sitting at one of the benches savoring my treat instead of sitting in my car. Although I spotted the Ice Cream Parlor immediately from the road due to its very noticeable signage, I did have a problem navigating the parking lot.
Question #2- Which business has the most potential for future sales? The answer is business B. B has a stand-alone store with its own large parking lot. The store also has drive-thru capabilities. In today's market, the simple addition of a drive-thru means roughly a 25% boost in overall business due to a longer, all-weather selling season and the convenience of fast and easy pick-up. Business B could also maximize their sales potential by telegraphing their location with more adequate signage, cleaning and doing maintenance to their facilities and adding a simple outdoor eating area in front of their store. Customer turnover can be increased by replacing their old menu board with an attractive, customer-friendly menu showing clear and concise product offerings. Sizes and pricing should be analyzed to produce the best customer experience in conjunction with the best profit per item sold. The very fact that they also have Italian Ice, gives them an advantage over their competition. Not only can they offer delicious flavors of a cold treat, but now they can combine the Italian Ice with their ice cream to create a whole series of new product offerings.
The moral of this story is "Customers often judge a "book by its cover". If you don't market yourself and make yourself attractive to your customers, they will go to someone who does.
Gil's Ice Cream Supplies
A leader in wholesale ice cream supply and Italian Ice products distribution for nearly four decades.
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320 W Oak Lane Glenolden, PA 19036