The Scoop on Ice Cream Franchises

Frios Gourmet Pops Ice Cream Franchise

A Look at 10 Sweet Franchise Opportunities

On a sweltering summer day – or any day – ice cream is an irresistible treat that makes people of all ages happy. America’s ice cream franchises are well-known and beloved worldwide. Ice cream is a billion-dollar industry that contributes over $13.1 billion to the economy and adds 28,800 jobs. The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) estimates that over 6.4 billion pounds of ice cream and other frozen desserts were produced in the U.S. alone. 

Any way you shake it, ice cream is a sweet business. But like anything else, it has its pros and cons. So why invest in an ice cream franchise? 

Pros to investing in an ice cream franchise:

  • High Demand: According to the IDFA, the average American consumes 23 pounds of ice cream and other frozen desserts annually. There will always be a demand for ice cream in your area. 
  • Seasonal Business: With an ice cream franchise, you can have a part-time business that you operate during the peak summer season. This allows you to have the flexibility to pursue other endeavors for the rest of the year.
  • Happy Customers: An ice cream shop is a fun, feel-good business that makes people happy. 

Cons to owning an ice cream franchise:

  • Not-So-Healthy Food: Let’s face it. Ice cream may have calcium, but it’s also full of fat and sugar. However, there are many lower-calorie options available at most ice cream franchises.
  • High Turnover Rate: You will likely always need to be on the lookout for new employees.
  • Machine Maintenance: Ice cream machines often break down or need to be replaced.

Top Ice Cream Franchises

Frios Gourmet Pops

Frios Gourmet Pops, ice cream franchise

With the Frios Gourmet Pops franchise, you don’t have to wait for customers to come to you; you go to them and sell popsicles right from your mobile unit, which the ice cream franchise calls the “Sweet Ride.” Festivals, children’s birthday parties, and sporting events are great opportunities to reach as many customers as possible. Unique aspects of the “Sweet Ride” include a slide-top freezer for your product, a customizable menu board, a built-in service window, and external Bluetooth speakers. As a “Happy Hustler” with Frios Gourmet Pops, you will enjoy low overhead and the flexibility of owning a mobile business. The ideal “Happy Hustler” understands the importance of networking, giving back to the community, and loving what you do.  

Baskin-Robbins

Baskin Robbins New Look

Baskin-Robbins is an ice cream franchise that can be found in Dunkin’ restaurants. It also has standalone shops and is one of the world’s largest ice cream chains, with more than 2,400 locations in the U.S. Over 70 years ago, Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins had the idea of offering 31 flavors of ice cream while all the other ice cream shops offered only vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. Since 1945, the brand has made over 1,400 flavors of ice cream. These range from turkey dinner flavored ice cream to Pralines n’ Cream. Recently, Baskin-Robbins has also rebranded and came out with a new logo, ice cream flavors and merchandise. 

In addition to serving delicious ice cream, Baskin-Robbins also partnered with Dunkin’ to raise money for hungry children with the Joy in Childhood Foundation. Baskin-Robbins is also a proud member of the International Franchise Association’s VetFran Program and waives the franchise fee on the veterans’ first location. If the veteran signs a multi-unit agreement, the franchise fee is discounted by 20% for up to four additional stores.

Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen, ice cream franchise

When it comes to the top ice cream franchises, Dairy Queen is king. Dairy Queen, often abbreviated DQ, is a chain of soft-serve ice cream and fast-food restaurants with more than 6,800 locations in the U.S., Canada, and 27 other countries. In addition to ice cream, DQ also sells burgers, french fries, and more. With 95% brand recognition, millions of consumers are familiar with the brand. Dairy Queen’s flagship concept called DQ Grill & Chill is designed to balance the looks of today and yesterday and makes guests of all ages happy. The ideal DQ franchisee has leadership skills, commitment to the local community, and prior business experience. The initial investment ranges between $1,461,200 – $2,426,990.

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream 

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream, ice cream franchise

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream has been known for its sweet, homemade ice cream since its founding in 1945. Alice Handel founded the company in Youngstown, Ohio, and the ice cream brand still uses her original methods and techniques to make fresh ice cream at each location. Handel’s just makes ice cream the old fashion way, and franchisees will appreciate that they can be actively involved in the community. The initial startup costs range from $225,000 to $725,000. 

Rita’s Italian Ice

Rita’s Italian Ice, ice cream franchise 

Many Americans associate Rita’s with summer. There’s a reason why lines for the Italian ice franchise wrap around the block all summer long. In addition to its signature ices, Rita’s offers frozen custard, gelato, milkshakes, frozen drinks, sundaes, and more. What makes the brand unique is that its products aren’t mass-produced and sold in stores, and it is also one of the few brands in the Italian ice market. The company, which now has almost 600 franchise locations, also offers franchisees a range of accessible location options, such as a walk-in, walk-up, mobile, or a unique venue. As a franchisee with Rita’s, you will enjoy bringing people together and sponsoring community events. Rita’s is also trying to reach out to younger people by offering third-party delivery service options like DoorDash and using social media. 

Kona Ice

Kona Ice, ice cream franchise

Kona Ice is a mobile business that serves shaved ice. You can go to customers where they are, such as at a carnival or sporting event. With Kona, you can partner with schools, teams, youth groups, and other community groups for fundraising events. In addition to trucks, franchisees can also give out Kona ice cream in shaved ice carts, kiosks, and trailers. Franchisees also appreciate Kona’s amazing culture. Kona’s patented Flavorwave allows customers to customize their ices. Since there are no brick-and-mortar Kona Ice locations, franchise owners have lower overhead and a flexible work schedule.

Andy’s Frozen Custard 

Andy’s Frozen Custard, ice cream franchise 

Andy’s Frozen Custard is a quick-service restaurant that exclusively offers frozen custard treats. Customers can enjoy a range of flavors from vanilla or chocolate cones to seasonal favorites like Pumpkin Pie Concretes and Strawberry Shortcake Sundaes. Additionally, about 80% of its franchisees are multi-unit owners, so those looking to own multiple locations are ideal candidates. While the ice cream franchise offers treats from late morning to late night, franchisees can expect that most of their sales will come during the night and weekend hours. Franchisees can also enjoy semi-absentee ownership. 

Marble Slab Creamery 

Marble Slab Creamery is an independently owned and operated ice cream franchise chain that specializes in homemade ice cream and other desserts. The ice cream franchise’s menu also includes smoothies, shakes, sundaes, banana splits, and much more. Franchisees can operate at non-traditional locations, such as train stations, office buildings, community centers, and big-box retailers. Marble Slab Creamery is one of the restaurant franchises with FAT Brands, a well-known umbrella franchisor.

All American Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt Shop

All American Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt Shop, ice cream franchise

The All American Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt Shop is a fun, cash-based business that appeals to a wide variety of customers. The ice cream franchise’s menu allows health-conscious customers to choose from an array of low dairy, low-calorie soft-serve frozen dessert treats, juice smoothies, and soft drinks. It is an ideal franchise opportunity for newbies as there is no need for a large staff or long hours. The initial investment ranges from $145,000 to $265,000. Foreign investors are also incentivized to invest in The All American Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt Shop since it works with E-2 Visa holders. 

Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s, ice cream franchise

Ben & Jerry’s is a Vermont-based ice cream franchise that has a huge following. The frozen dessert company manufactures ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet. Ben & Jerry’s is also known for its fun ice cream names, like Americone Dream, Brewed to Matter, and Cherry Garica. Founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in 1978, the company began franchising in 1981 and has grown to over 550 franchise locations globally. Ben & Jerry’s is proud to source non-GMO and Fairtrade ingredients and use eggs from Certified Humane cage-free farms. Additionally, its milk and cream come from family farms in its “Caring Dairy” sustainable farming program. The company is looking to expand to locations with a lot of foot traffic, like the downtown of a city, as well as entertainment venues and boardwalks. The location sizes can be a full-size shop, an in-line scoop shop, or a kiosk. Initial investment costs depend on the type of shop you want to open.

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Haley Cafarella is a passionate journalist and content developer. In her role as content and marketing specialist for IFPG, she creates original content for the franchise broker network's ongoing initiatives and writes articles for FranchiseWire.com.
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