The last month of unseasonably warm weather hasn’t just pleased outdoor enthusiasts. Some frozen-treat quick-serve operators found that the warmer weather translated into higher sales.
Shaved ice concept Kona Ice, in particular, saw revenues go up more than 50 percent in March compared with the same month last year.
Tony Lamb, founder and president of Kona Ice, says the concept has enjoyed a significant bump in interest from potential customers this spring. The mobile concept succeeds largely by leasing trucks out to events like fundraisers, parties, and sports.
Lamb says that with an outdoor-focused concept like his, weather is constantly affecting business.
“I’m guessing anywhere from 10–12 percent of your business total can be affected by the weather,” he says. “We’ve seen years when it’s higher. I think it was 2010, we were in Northern Kentucky wearing hoodies on Labor Day, which is usually very warm. That was probably one of our worst years, and it was maybe a 12 or 15 percent decline for us.”
Because Kona Ice is now in 40 states with about 250 franchisees, the geographical differences and fact that weather is nicer longer in markets like California, Texas, and Florida “evens things out” business-wise, Lamb says.
Still, the company is developing indoor carts that can do business regardless of weather, Lamb says. He adds that franchisees are always strategizing how to work around seasonal patterns. For example, operators are prepared for big business in the fall around festivals and sports.
“Early on, I would have thought fall would have been the worst,” Lamb says. “Spring is such a great time because it’s your neighborhood routes … it’s the business you’re accumulating by just driving. It’s huge. That [neighborhood] business, in the fall, is almost non-existent, but the event load in the fall is probably three or four times what it is in the spring.”
Regardless of weather, Lamb says, there is always one thing Kona Ice can rely on to drive growth.
“Kids eat sugar, whether it’s 12 degrees outside or it’s 80 degrees outside,” he says. “It’s just more applicable when it’s 80 degrees outside.”
By Sam Oches