Ice-Cream Parlours: Breaking the Ice

The concept of sit-down ice-cream parlour is again catching on

Who doesn’t look forward to having an ice cream leisurely while experiencing the comfort provided by a sit-down ice cream parlour? As a kid we used to go to these sit-down parlours and enjoy the limited flavours of ice cream. As we grew up, though we had a variety on our platter but our liking for sit-down parlours faded and we started relishing the experience of take-aways. However, with the entry of potential players like Hagen Dazs and Swensen’s among many others, the concept of sit-down ice-cream parlours is again catching on.

The changing scenario

So far the sit-down ice cream parlour concept has not been introduced in full swing in India. While both the formats, sit-down and take away, have their own relevance, sit-down ice cream parlours are undoubtedly back with a bang. Subroto Mukherjee – COO-South Asia, Baskin Robbins (BR) opines, “Recently, we have had newer international brands foraying into the Indian market in addition to some Indian brands also approaching the segment. This has certainly opened up the market for the consumer with larger choices.”

The ice cream market is growing at around 15 per cent year-on-year and is expected to expand further with the increase in number of malls and the ever-growing retail sector. Virag Joshi, President & CEO, Devyani International Ltd (Franchisee for Swensen’s) affirms, “Currently, 15 per cent of the ice cream market is in-parlour sale — a new segment that has showed up in the last few years and is growing fast.”

Joshi further says, “With a rapidly growing young earning population, rising disposable incomes, change in taste and the spending capacity on leisure is leading to a surge in the Indian Ice Cream market. Compared to the other developed markets, ice cream consumption is quite low and therefore offers great potential especially with plethora of new retail formats available today and openness among consumers with regards to these global formats and consumption pattern.”

Investments

The usual area covered by an ideal ice cream parlour can range anywhere between 1000-1500 sq. ft carpet area. There is a significant amount of investment involved when it comes to setting up an ice cream parlour. Joshi shares, “Yes it does require investments to the tune of 70-100 lakhs per store. Also, significant investment in training is required– both in terms of time and money.”

Rentals are an issue at very popular destinations and it involves the making of the business plan to work around those rental challenges.

Seasonal product?

Traditionally, it has been experienced that ice cream sales come down during extreme winters, but data has explicitly shown that this differential in sales has narrowed over the years.

Mukherjee says, “Season does play an important role but the product is not seasonal per se. Surprisingly, many Scandinavian countries as well as Canada and New England in the US have similar sales of ice cream in winter as much as they have in summer. Sales in the north of India do see a slight slump in winter months but there is no drastic change in consumption even then.”

Value-added Menu

Providing a value added menu enhances a parlour’s sales and gives an added advantage too, generating more footfalls than what usually are experienced otherwise. Looking at the wide variety of target audience, it becomes all the more sensible to offer the same.

Joshi opines, “Primary target audience is that of teenagers and young adult who enjoy ice cream with friends / colleagues and secondary is of the older people, who always enjoy having ice cream with their family.” “We do offer beverages, both hot and cold along with ice-cream shakes and floats. They form about 15-20 per cent of the menu mix especially the shakes,” he further adds.

Mukherjee, however, interestingly affirms, “These products are no longer value-adds and very much occupy a large part of the retail mix. In any good BR parlor the retail mix would constitute shakes, ice cream soda’s and floats to occupy 15- 20 per cent of the retail sales. This is a segment very much loved by youngsters and young adults.”

Customers’ preference

We touched base with a couple of customers to analyse when are the taste-buds most satisfied and happy, while having a float at a sit down parlour or walking away with a cone or a cup? We came across a few, interesting and mixed responses! Shambhavi Anand, a young media professional, says, “It depends. If I am going out only to have an ice cream I would prefer to sit in an AC outlet and have it comfortably. But, if I am in a hurry, I would take one from an ice cream cart and simply walk away.” However, Swati Pant, a research associate, doesn’t give a second thought and comments, “I will have it at the parlour, preferring parlour over take away option.”

Pankaj Sikka, Manager at a licensing company, opines, “I would rather prefer a take-away ice cream and go on a long drive than sit at an ice cream parlour.” On the same lines, K Priyanka, an instructional designer says, “I would opt for the take away.”

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