How to start an ice cream shop

how to start an ice cream shop

You love ice cream, but do you love it enough to sell it?

Opening an ice cream shop seems like a no-brainer, considering that 147 million kilograms of ice cream were consumed in the UK at the last count.

And who wouldn’t want the pleasure of serving up this hugely popular confection to customers?

If you’ve made your decision, then all you need to learn now is how to start an ice cream shop business.

Steps to consider before opening an ice cream shop

Like many things in life, nothing is ever that simple.

First, while opening an ice cream shop sounds like a great idea you, might want to consider the fact this is an area where there is significant amount of competition.

Also, be aware that you are probably looking at a business that is seasonal; you are just not going to sell as much of your iced confection in the winter than you are in summer.

Therefore, you need to…

Do your research

Gain an understanding of the business and the competition before you start. Where will you base the business?

Decide on the location

Clearly, you’ll probably sell more in areas that get a lot of footfall. Tourist towns will be most lucrative, but then be aware there will be greater competition from other ice cream sellers.

Create a concept

It’s surprising how many different variations of ice cream and types of shop there are.

First, decide what kind of ice cream you want to sell. Will it be artisan ice cream that you have created yourself, or a commercially made product that you have bought in? Maybe you want to open a vintage ice cream parlour and café? Or perhaps you want to serve up tubs and cones of your confection at a sea front kiosk?

Are you selling traditional ice cream or including other types of ice such as vegan and dairy-free?

Your customer research should be able to tell you which route to go down before you start planning the next step.

Is it best to join a franchise?

While some of us are skilled enough to produce our own home-made ice cream to sell, others might be best to go down a more tried and tested route and take on a franchise.

This will usually involve less of a financial outlay and a more secure income.

Do you want a seasonal business or year-round ice cream shop?

Selling ice cream cones to Brits in the middle of winter? Brr. Good luck with that! On the other hand, if you are serving up ice cream desserts, say a Knickerbocker Glory in a retro emporium, the novelty might be enough to tempt customers the whole year round.

You’ve got to weigh up whether your idea will work for tour chosen location. It might be that your shop sells ice cream in the spring and summer and serves up winter warming hot chocolate and cakes in the colder seasons.

Artisanal vs bought in ice cream

While buying in ice cream makes things a lot easier, if you do make your own ice cream in unique flavours, or give people a different kind of experience, the perceived value will be higher, and you will be able to charge more for your goods.

However, you must weigh up the demand in the area where your shop will be based. Let’s face it there’s no point opening a posh ice cream shop in a downmarket resort, as people will just go somewhere cheaper.

Ice cream shop or ice cream van?

If you have done your market research, it’s possible that you might think an ice cream shop is too risky a business proposition, but an ice cream van is a better bet; after all, you can still do all the things you wanted to do but with greater flexibility of location.

Basically, you can target places where the ice cream loving hordes will be, such as food festivals, outdoor concerts and country shows.

How to start up an ice cream shop

So, you’ve weighed up all the pros and cons and decided that you want to open an ice cream shop, what do you need to do next?

Make a business plan

Like any enterprise your ice cream shop will need a business plan with projections of outlay income and other considerations. This is essential, whether you already have the finding for your project or will be bidding for funds to set it up.

Consider startup costs

You need to find out how much things like licences and initial funding will set you back, for example.

Ensure you meet hygiene laws

One of the first things you need to do once you register as a business is to ensure you meet the legal obligations that apply to all food related businesses in the UK. The bottom line is that your ice cream is prepared, stored and served correctly. For example, your ice cream must be placed into containers that are fit for purpose. You must also store the ice cream so that there is no cross contamination and containers should also be labelled so that potential allergens are easily identified.


You need to make sure you have enough fridges, freezers, and display cases to store and showcase your products. Storage is also crucial as ice cream needs containers that are both food safe, have airtight lids to prevent spoilage and are the right size for your needs.

Explore Venturepak’s range to find out more about storing ice cream.

Marketing and advertising

As we have explained, you don’t just have to consider how to start an ice cream shop you also need to tell people about why yours stands out from the competition.

You might create different kinds of flavours to entice customers, feature lactose free and dairy-free options, or offer a children’s party menu but if nobody knows about your enterprise then you are destined to fail.

A marketing campaign will get all these selling points across.

The easiest way to let people know about your business is through printed fliers.

You can also launch an online campaign offering discounts in exchange for email addresses and you could take out ads in your local paper – and once your customers come rolling in you can ask them for their (positive) feedback on social media!