It’s hard to find a person who doesn’t like ice cream, and the ice cream industry is actually a bigger business than you might think. It pulls in a whopping annual revenue of $8 billion, with the average American enjoying 48 pints of the cold, creamy treat. You can grab a slice of that massive (ice cream) cake by opening your very own Cold Stone Creamery franchise.
Cold Stone has become famous for the way it mixes in the toppings with a granite block so they’re evenly dispersed through every creamy flavor. Currently, more than 1,000 locations operate in the U.S., and 30 operate internationally. This is a big business, and you can jump right in with a moderate investment.
Why Open a Cold Stone Creamery Franchise?
If you want to open your own ice cream shop, you might have an easier start opening a Cold Stone Creamery franchise than building a new brand from the ground up. The company has a built-in consumer base with a recognizable name. Plus, they’ll help you with every aspect of launching your business. This is great for someone who wants to own an ice cream shop but doesn’t have much experience.
Gather the Initial Investment
Launching your own Cold Stone Creamery franchise isn’t exactly cheap. The total investment is anywhere between $53,200 to $468,775, with franchise fees clicking in between $10,000 and $27,000. A lot of the cost has to do with whether you lease or buy a location. You also need liquid capital of $100,000 and a minimum of a $250,000 net worth.
Thankfully, Cold Stone will refer franchisees to third parties who can help you finance the franchise fee, startup costs and equipment. Remember that even if you have the cash to start, you’ll still need to pay out 9% of gross sales (not net sales) for royalties and advertising fees. The good news is that you don’t need to advertise yourself.
If you don’t have the startup cash for a Cold Stone franchise, consider getting a loan from either a bank or the Small Business Administration. Be wary, though. According to the Wall Street Journal, Cold Stone is one of the 10 worst franchise brands when it comes to defaulting on Small Business Administration loans. Some people attribute this to the company’s massive growth and market saturation.
Complete Your Application
Cold Stone Creamery doesn’t have its U.S. franchise applications online. In order to get the application, you’ll have to go on their franchise website and fill out a bid for more information.
If you want to open a franchise outside of the U.S., the company does have an application online. Once you get the application, you’ll have to fill out information about your experience in the restaurant industry, your current job and your finances.
If you meet all of Cold Stone’s requirements, it will allow you to sign a franchise agreement and open a brand-new shop. Once you sign the agreement and pay the initial franchise fee, you’ll be able to hit the ground running with your search for a prime location.
Secure a Location
Cold Stone is one of the most flexible franchises when it comes to finding a location. It has dedicated area developers and real estate teams that will help you secure the best spot for your business. These teams analyze everything from demographics to traffic patterns to figure out where you’ll succeed.
Typically, the best locations are in shopping centers, near movie theaters and near supermarkets. Mall food courts are also a good option. It's generally a good idea to set up shop in a location that’s lacking other ice cream stores and has high foot traffic. You can opt to rent or purchase your location depending on your finances.
Complete the Training
If you have little to no business experience, don’t worry. Cold Stone requires its franchisees to go through training at the Kahala Training and Education Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. Kahala Brands is Cold Stone’s parent company, so you’ll be training alongside franchisees who are opening other restaurants under the umbrella, like Taco Time, Samurai Sam’s and Blimpie.
In addition to the training program, franchisees train in-house at a Cold Stone location to learn how to make the ice cream, prepare the products, serve them to customers and manage inventory. You’ll spend 80 hours in a store during this particular training phase. You also have access to ongoing support from a regional director of operations and your area developer.
Get Your Creamery in Order
Once you’ve completed your training, it’s time to open up shop (preferably during the summer when ice cream sales peak). Since you probably can’t run the business side all by yourself and still tend to your customers, you’ll have to hire staff.
You’ll also need to fill your location with the necessary supplies, including tables, chairs, industrial freezers, display freezers and Cold Stone’s famed granite mixing blocks. Your regional director should be able to help you get the supplies needed.
- Entrepreneur magazine ranked Cold Stone Creamery as the #1 franchise to own in 2007. In the same magazine it was ranked #12 for the Fastest-Growing Franchise and #20 in the category of America's Top Global Franchise.
- About half of all Stone Cold Creamery franchisees own more than one store.
- Franchising started 1994.
- With Stone Cold Creamery franchises, you must commit to being the operator of the store. Absentee ownership is not allowed.
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.