How to Start an Ice Cream Shop ?

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So you have dreams of opening your very own ice cream or yogurt shop and even offering gourmet coffee or amazing desserts. You’ve found the perfect location, can visualize what you will offer, but you’re not sure how to start or the steps to take to make your dream a reality. Even if you have the cash, concept and business experience, there are probably some other details that you are not familiar with that could catch you off guard.

Let’s review a few areas such as lease agreement, equipment requirement, location and size of your shop, realistic start up cost, whether your ice cream shop will be sit down or carry-out and the number of menu items you intend of offering.


  • Ice cream is a fun business and makes people happy.
  • I want to make my own high-quality ice cream or non-dairy dessert.
  • I’m retired and want to make extra money.
  • I want to be my own boss and don’t want to invest in a franchise.
  • I live in an area that does not have a great ice cream shop or a comfortable setting.

From lease assistance and negotiation, to site location feedback. Learning what it takes to make a great-tasting treat or the necessary insight on health department requirements takes time.

  • Are you wondering how to start an ice cream business?
  • What is the best location for my ice cream shop?
  • What are the space requirements for an ice cream shop?
  • Where can I find assistance with negotiation points in a lease?
  • Is a flow plan necessary to start an ice cream shop?
  • Who can assist me with a budget to start my ice cream business?
  • Should I know the ROI in starting my ice cream shop?
  • Where can I find on-site training assistance?
  • Are there equipment requirements for my ice cream shop?
  • Where can I get great recipe ideas for my line of ice cream products?
  • Do I need to know the cost of goods for my ice cream business?
  • Where can I find ice cream ingredients and suppliers?


Understand the full picture before you sign on the dotted line. Here are some essential points to ponder to help you get the wheels turning as you start down the road to opening your own dairy or non-dairy shop.


There are basically two types, the Independent Stand-Alone and Mall Space. Each location has it’s advantages and disadvantages, let’s look at a few:



The stand-alone offers the ability to be more independent with less contract restrictions. Other than city code requirements, signage, music, outdoor seating, operating hours, color theme and products served are your decisions. You are in total control with the look and feel of your business.


The stand-alone requires you to monitor the amount of foot and drive traffic to understand the average per day. How is the visibility? Will the majority of your customers simply passing by? You will need to allocate a budget for marketing and advertising to drive more traffic to your location.



The mall guarantees foot traffic without spending on marketing and advertising. The common area where customers can sit does not require you to maintain that area. Lighting and security outside of the space is managed by the mall and there is plenty of parking spaces. You have captured audience all year round no matter what the weather is outside.


The stand-alone requires you to monitor the amount of foot and drive traffic to understand the average per day. How is the visibility? Will the majority of your customers simply passing by? You will need to allocate a budget for marketing and advertising to drive more traffic to your location.

A mall location will need to approve signage type and size, products served, operating hours, color scheme and delivery hours. Periodically may require you to participate in a mall promotion and you may get tired of listening to the same music loop.

With either option, ask yourself what location type will allow me to expand my operation over the next two to three years?


Most people consider cost per sf the most important factor when looking at a space, but what comes with it and what is the smart money to spend on a space that you do not own?

Consider these questions when negotiating a lease for your ice cream shop.

  1. Does it offer adequate, convenient and safe parking, will the landlord pay for signage or handicap accessibility?
  2. Does the location already offer adequate water outlets that you will need for sinks, drains and a fountain?
  3. Will the electric service meet your power demand?
  4. Was the space previously a non-food tenant and if so what investment will the landlord contribute to make the space acceptable by the Health Department?
  5. Who is responsible to add or upgrade restroom(s)?
  6. Are there additional costs affiliated with the monthly rent after the net rent per month?


The size of the store typically measured in square foot (sf) and you will need to know a few factors to understand the total amount of sf your business requires. Calculate sf by multiplying the length and width of “each room” within the total space. Example 12’L x 10’ W = 120sf then add the total sf of each room.

  1. Will the space meet your growth goals over the next 2-3 years?
  2. Do you want the customers to dine in or carryout only or both?
  3. Will you be making your own products or just offering a menu?
  4. Is off street parking or outside seating important?
  5. Will you encourage the customer to lounge or eat and leave?
  6. Is a party or meeting space necessary?
  7. Do you know what triple net suggests?


Know what to budget to cover construction, equipment, working capital, and additional cash for “unforeseen situations”.

The cost to build and open a store can range from as little as taking over the lease payments of a sold piece of real estate to hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase land and build a free-standing location. Starting an ice cream business can often be a function of your capacity and willingness to pay for the best address in town or changing a design to make a project fit within your budget. You can purchase an existing locations for $50,000 or less and pay up to $500,000 to build and design a space the way you need it to look and function.

If a franchise, you can spend upwards of $1 million on a free standing location the franchise approves. Construction costs tend to fall in the $80 – $150 per square foot range plus equipment costs. Costs can vary depending on the part of the country you are in. Equipment costs can vary depending on new or used. Equipment investment can also vary depending on the items you plan on serving such as soft serve, hard serve, gelato, sorbet, ice cream cakes, vegan, homemade novelties and support equipment required such as walk in cooler or freezer, hardening freezer, ovens to name a few.


The options are vast as well as the results depending on who is designing the space. Typically, the choices can be other shop owners, equipment suppliers, architects specializing in hospitality or a consulting service like Darryl’s Ice Cream Solutions. Be careful who you use, because some may not have the level of detail you require. Many plans look good on paper, but are difficult to actually work in. The trick is understanding a design with efficient workflow for employees and adequate flow patterns for customers.


Fun, tasty frozen desserts appeal to men, women and children of all ages. But you still need to consider a few important factors before creating your menu. When planning your menu, think about your demographic carefully. Do you want to attract children, adults or both? This is a key factor determining menu development, product type, price point and the overall look and feel of the shop.




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