Ice cream is largely a seasonal business, popular in the warmer months. But for Carvel, an ice cream chain that has weathered 80 winters, the offseason is a perfect time to revamp operations and market unique offerings.
Scott Colwell, Carvel’s president, has a three-pronged approach to efficiently using the winter months. For starters, he says, the season is an optimal time to ensure facilities are in prime condition.
“We go in and do business reviews with the franchisees and we review their menu offerings, their menu pricing, and we work with them to spruce up their shops to get them ready for spring,” Colwell says.
Carvel unveiled its “anniversary image shoppes” in February and has re-imaged more than 25 stores since. Winter store improvements also include testing new equipment, like the Flavorlator, which serves nine ice cream flavors out of one machine.
The second winter goal for Carvel is hiring and training the right employees.
“We focus on training our employees, so when our customers come out for an ice cream—especially when it’s cold—it’s a reward for them, and we focus on making sure we put a smile on everyone’s face,” Colwell says.
The last goal of Carvel’s winter plan, offering exceptional value, is the most important, he adds. All franchisees are required to offer daily specials during the winter months to draw in any reluctant customers. Franchisees are also encouraged to shift their sales focus to take-out items customers can enjoy in the warmth and comfort of their own homes. This includes what Colwell says is the brand’s most popular winter offering: ice cream cakes. He says strong marketing of holiday offerings is crucial to sales success, citing the popularity of Carvel’s Valentine’s- and Super Bowl–themed cakes.
While items such as hot fudge and hot caramel Sundae Dashers do provide a sales bump, Colwell says, many customers see ice cream as a satisfying comfort food that is “craveable” even in cold weather.
With the in-store and staff improvements, Carvel is ready to greet the spring season and bring more of its comfort food to customers, including Nutella ice cream, which will become available on March 14.
By Emily Byrd