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Rethinking Ice Cream Franchising

Ice cream is a funny thing. We tend to eat it out of habit.


I could walk into a Baskin Robbins or any other ice cream franchise in America and I would order vanilla ice cream every time. I’m a vanilla guy. It's safe, reliable, vanilla. It’s the same thing with my mother. She likes pistachio ice cream. She always gets it. My dad is bit more exotic. He likes chocolate chip mint. I suppose we're not the flashiest people in the world.


I was considering my family's safe ice cream buying habits and its tie-in with franchising when reading a story about the popular San Francisco gourmet ice cream store Humphry Slocombe in the New York Times. This is a store that blows the traditional ice cream business out of the water. Their ice cream flavors include Pink Grapefruit Tarragon, Strawberry Black Olive, Pumpkin 5 Flavors and even Prosciutto. The business was created by Jake Godby, who has worked in many of the best restaurants of San Francisco. The man has brought culinary daring to something as simple as ice cream.


As journalist Elizabeth Weil reports. “His ice cream addresses two major grievances in the contemporary culinary scene: boredom with menus that all look the same, and irritation with the orthodoxy governing how we’re all supposed to eat (local, sustainable, organic, etc.)”


Now there’s certainly been a rise in artisan ice cream franchises in the last number of years, as our ice cream franchise report explains, but nothing this daring. But what can franchisors learn from the success of Humphry Slocombe? Part of their success is based wholly on their location in the heart of San Francisco. It’s hard to know how if people in America’s heartland, or even my parents in New Jersey, would learn to crave meat-flavored ice cream. It might be too extreme. Marketing would be essential.


Also, the primary attraction of ice cream to consumers is probably its cheapness: $3.75 is a lot to pay for a two-scoop serving of ice cream. But one thing you can’t argue with is the success of Humphry Slocombe. The business, is as yet, unfranchised. No doubt it has a few loyal customers trying to figure out exactly how to bring this unique culinary experience to a much-wider audience. It goes against much of the prevailing wisdom of ice cream franchising, and for those reasons, it might just work.

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