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Ice Cream Shop Suppliers: How to Select Ice Cream Shop Suppliers and Vendors

Nick PerryAuthor

Ice Cream Shop Suppliers: How to Select Ice Cream Shop Suppliers and Vendors

Although it may seem like more of a seasonal treat, the ice cream industry is a formidable year-round industry, driving $13.1 billion in annual revenue. Fortune Business Insights projects a 46% revenue jump in the global ice cream market by the end of the decade, which means it’s not a bad time to open an ice cream shop.

Of course, ice cream is more popular at some times of the year than others, which means ice cream shop owners have to navigate varying supply needs from month to month. That can make running an ice cream shop challenging, and makes you even more dependent on suppliers than the average food establishment.

Like any restaurant, suppliers are absolutely crucial to an ice cream shop’s success. If you want your ice cream shop to compete with the national chains, you need to be able to keep prices low while offering the highest quality ice cream and service possible. Suppliers will help you do that.

In this article, you will learn how to find ice cream shop suppliers that can work with your shop’s varying demands to keep prices low and quality high.

The importance of great ice cream shop suppliers

Suppliers are vital for any food establishment for a number of reason, and — like ice cream — they come in a few varieties.

  • Food and beverage suppliers are the lifeblood of your business, allowing you to bring those innovative ice cream flavor ideas to life. These suppliers will have a direct impact on the cost to make your ice cream, thereby having a major impact on the prices you can offer customers.

  • Equipment suppliers and repair suppliers keep your ice cream shop operating smoothly. Ice cream shops require a range of speciality equipment, from ice cream makers to soft serve machines, and you need high-quality suppliers to ensure you can get and maintain that equipment at a reasonable price.

  • Laundry suppliers provide a convenient service to wash staff uniforms and kitchen garments, ensuring you always have clean, sanitary fabric in the workplace.

  • Technology suppliers will help streamline operations in your ice cream shop and ensure that you and your staff have the restaurant technology to offer the best service possible.

Essential ice cream shop suppliers

So, you know your ice cream shop needs suppliers, but let’s go into some more detail about the types of suppliers we mentioned above.

Food and beverage suppliers

Obviously, the core service of your ice cream shop is ice cream. As such, the ingredients you need to make ice cream are crucial to your business. Fortunately, there are many ice cream-specific suppliers out there, so you hopefully won’t need more than one supplier.

Menu needs

An ice cream shop’s menu is one of the key things that differentiates it from competitors. Sure, you’ll probably have staples like cookie dough or mint chocolate chip, but it’s the creativity you show in your other menu ideas that will really showcase your brand. So, when choosing a supplier, you must find one that can deliver all of the ingredients necessary to make your staple products.

Sales volume

You’ll need to perform some menu engineering and understand your financial projections to figure out exactly how much of specific ingredients you need in each order. Your walnut-focused ice creams probably won’t sell at quite the same volume as your chocolate chip-based ice creams, right?

Every restaurant is concerned about reducing food waste, and ice cream shops can do their part by figuring out how to maximize the ingredients at their disposal. xtraCHEF by Toast is especially helpful for helping you understand the inventory you have and what you need to make the right quantities of different flavors.

Delivery requirements

You probably need to make new batches of ice cream nearly every day. So, how often do you need deliveries? Do you have the storage to order frequently used ingredients like cream and sugar in vast quantities?

Different suppliers can offer different delivery cadences and arrangements, so think through exactly what your ice cream shop needs from a food and beverage supplier.

Equipment suppliers

Ice cream shops have unique equipment needs. You should consider these three things when exploring your equipment supplier requirements.

Consult your menu

For ice cream shops, this means figuring out how much beyond simply scooping ice cream you want to do. If you’d like to offer soft serve, milkshakes, or blended ice creams, you will need specific equipment to do those things. If you want to offer coffee, you’ll need a coffee machine and possibly an espresso machine.

Your menu will dictate what kind of equipment your ice cream shop needs.

Measure your space

What you can serve up depends at least a little on your space. A small ice cream shop may be limited to hard scoops of only a few flavors. A bigger one may be able to add multiple types of new equipment to expand the menu. Your ice cream shop’s design will play a big part in what you can do with it, but you always need to measure your space thoroughly before you start moving in equipment.

Consider new vs. used

Buying used equipment may be a more cost-effective (although more expensive upfront) option than leasing new equipment. Many equipment suppliers prefer to lease new equipment since they can retain ownership rights to lease it to another business when you’re done with it. Buying equipment used can allow you to do a one-time transaction with a supplier and be done with it, so there’s one less thing to manage going forward.

Laundry suppliers

Ice cream shops go through a lot of towels and rags to clean up messes. You also may have staff uniforms. As such, it’s important to shop for laundry suppliers.

Laundry requirements

Different food establishments have different laundry requirements, and an ice cream shop’s are probably pretty basic. Still, it’s good to have a laundry supplier so you don’t have to take all the shop’s dirty towels and rags home with you each day. It’s far easier to have a service handle your laundry for you.

Since you won’t have any real dry cleaning needs, you should be able to find a local or national laundry company for a good price.

Budget

Doing all the ice cream shop’s laundry yourself may be cost-effective, but it costs money out of your pocket using your water at home rather than out of your business’s pocket. You can still do the laundry yourself if you’re on a very tight budget, but hiring a supplier shouldn’t be too expensive.

Reputation

Of course, laundry is a personal thing, and you don’t want just anybody handling it. Make sure to do your due diligence to find a laundry supplier that’s well-regarded. You can look at online reviews or ask other ice cream shop owners or workers what they think about their laundry supplier.

Repair suppliers

It’s possible that your equipment supplier can also operate as a repair supplier. However, if you’re looking for a second supplier to do maintenance, consider the following.

Equipment expertise

As we just mentioned, sometimes the best repair supplier is the group that leased you the equipment in the first place. They may offer maintenance as part of your monthly payment and are likely to be experts on the equipment that they work with on a regular basis.

Otherwise, repair suppliers should have expertise with freezers, ice cream machines, and coffee equipment if you offer it at your shop.

Reputation

When you shop for any kind of service, you want to know you can trust that service. Just like shopping for a laundry supplier, check out the reviews and gather as many first-person testimonials as you can.

Reliability and speed

If a freezer breaks, you could be looking at a huge mess and loss of revenue. As such, repair suppliers for an ice cream shop must be prompt and reliable. Your equipment is essential to your business functioning correctly, so you want to work with a repair supplier that is fast and does the job right the first time.

Technology suppliers

These days, there are many types of restaurant technology that can help ice cream shops save money, streamline operations, and make life easier for all managers and staff.

From QR code generators for quick and easy ordering, to an efficient point-of-sale system, and software to manage staff schedules, payroll, and finances, a technology supplier can not only make life easier on restaurant managers, but it can also help your ice cream shop scale.

With Toast’s restaurant-first platform, you can keep everything running as smoothly as possible, from staffing to accounting. Resources self-service ordering via kiosks or mobile services, best-in-class hardware to support staff, multi-location management, and more can all help you get a head start on your ice cream shop business.

How to find ice cream shop suppliers

Knowing the suppliers you need for your ice cream shop is just the first part of the process. The tougher challenge is finding the right suppliers for the right price. Fortunately, suppliers want your business just like you want theirs. So, here’s what you can do to find them.

Online directories and marketplaces

Ice cream suppliers are pretty niche, so you’ll probably find some great options by simply Googling them. There are myriad online directories and marketplaces to find your local suppliers, including the Yellow Pages. Any supplier worth their salt can be found on the most prominent sites.

Spend a little time online and you can sort by location, specialization, budget, and more to find precisely what you need.

Industry associations and trade shows

As we’ve alluded to in previous sections, first-person testimonials are a great way to find the best suppliers for your business. And a great way to gather those first-person testimonials is by linking up with industry associations and attending trade shows. 

Ice cream is everywhere, so ice cream associations are everywhere, too. Local leaders can help you find local suppliers for your shop at prices that you can afford. They’ll be able to give you first-hand testimonials of working with suppliers, just like you’d be able to gather while working the room at trade shows. (Plus, at trade shows, you might meet some suppliers in person who you can negotiate with.)

Cold-calling and prospecting

Finally, good old-fashioned cold-calling and prospecting to find suppliers is a tried and true method. You shouldn’t have to call too many people to find companies that want your business. Just remember to gather more than one quote to make sure you’re getting the best price and arrangement for your business.

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Suppliers are absolutely crucial to the success of any food establishment. They’ll help increase your ice cream shop’s profit margin, and ensure that you have the equipment and support your business needs to flourish. They’ll help you get the best ingredients for your ice cream while still managing costs, allowing you to offer the best prices you can. Just make sure to shop around and vet any candidate before signing on the dotted line.

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