In this article, you’ll discover everything you need to know about starting an ice cream shop, from the initial ice cream shop startup costs to ongoing expenses.

Ice cream shops are perhaps the most popular among both children and adults. Considering that ice cream is among the most favored desserts worldwide, this makes sense.

It has been a luxury for the European monarchy since the 1500s. But fortunately, anyone can now order a serving of rocky road at any time.

The U.S. ice cream industry was valued at $114 billion in 2021 and that amount is increasing yearly.

Americans eat 23 pounds of ice cream annually, and this trend is not likely to stop any time soon. So starting your own ice cream shop is a wise business decision, especially if it’s something you already love.

Of course, launching a firm requires a lot of effort and expertise and it isn’t as easy as finding a nice ice cream shop name. Additionally, there are various ice cream shop startup costs you need to consider. Fortunately, you’ve found the correct spot since this step-by-step manual will take you from the initial launch and development stages to scooping out your first cone!

In the US, artisanal ice cream is more expensive than conventional ice cream, costing roughly $10 per pint.

You could produce artisanal homemade ice cream for the first year or two. You can sell 150 pints a week on an ice cream stand for about $80,000 annually. Using a 40% margin would result in a profit of more than $30,000.

Sales could reach 500 pints per week as your brand becomes more well-known. At this point, you would rent a business location and recruit personnel, bringing your profit margin down to about 25%. You would earn a nice profit of $65,000 on a $260,000 annual income. You can even start selling your ice creams in local grocery stores or on an ice cream truck.

Conversely, Cold Stone Creamery franchises report average yearly sales of $415,000. Nevertheless, 42% of the ice cream shops are at or above this threshold, with the remaining businesses naturally being below.

Although this is for an ice cream franchise, an ice cream manufacturing company will have significantly higher gross sales and lesser profit margins.

Independent retailers can set their prices and profit margins as high as they desire, but if their goods fall short of expectations, they won’t last very long.

However, if your service is successful, you are free to set your own ice cream prices.

In contrast, if you are not interested in making ice cream on your own, you can operate a franchise. However, your margins have already been predetermined, and you may ask the franchise what to expect.

Ice cream shop owners might still anticipate making a good yearly salary once operational expenses and franchise fees are deducted.

Factors affecting your own ice cream shop earnings

Whether you work in the shop or not

If you own and run the business, you can make more money than if you hired management.

Whether you’re available throughout the year

The ice cream industry is seasonal, which is the most crucial point to keep in mind.

While winter closures may result in lower potential earnings for most ice cream shops, they also result in lower operational expenses.

Your location

When choosing your location to sell ice cream you may need to answer questions like “How many ice cream parlors are around me?” or “Who else can be serving ice cream inside a mall?“.

Shops with high foot traffic that can be reached on foot could earn more money.

I’d advise locating a trustworthy real estate agent with experience in leasing or selling commercial properties. They are aware of numerous upcoming initiatives and can assist you in making the necessary preparations. 

If you’re unsure of what to look for, locate prosperous ice cream shops and consider what makes their location so exceptional. 

It takes a lot of effort to run your own ice cream shop. Make things as simple for yourself as possible by deciding on a location that draws clients.

What sets you apart

You could make more money if your ice cream business is the only one in the neighborhood or if you sell an unusual item like ice cream cakes.

A thorough breakdown of the ice cream shop startup costs

Supplies and Equipment Costs

Equipment for manufacturing the product, packing the items, or office supplies may need to be purchased before opening an ice cream business.

Costs for first-aid materials range from $3 to $500, those for cleaning supplies from $50 to $200, and those for uniforms from $0 to $500.

Getting a place to rent

If you want to open an ice cream store in a physical place, you should consider your rent expenses because they can end up being the most costly. The cost of rent for many ice cream shops is highly location-dependent.

This price will vary by region and by individual localities. For example, a lease in Manhattan’s financial district might have a rent payment of nearly $80,000 per month. In contrast, renting a shop in Florida or Tennessee might run you less than $1,000 per month.

Business plan

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By planning every choice, expense, and expectation beforehand, you’d be saving time and money by enabling yourself to budget appropriately and evaluate options’ prices.

You won’t worry and order too much ice cream, for instance, if you know precisely how much of a certain ice cream flavor and topping you need.

Furthermore, you’ll have planned it out in relation to your sales estimates, so you’ll know just how much to order.

CostRequired?Min CostMax Cost
Email marketing toolRecommended$0$150
Accounting & Invoicing SoftwareRecommended$0$10
Project Management SoftwareRecommended$0$55
Social Media Management ToolsOptional$0$80

If you’re unsure of where to begin, there are companies that can assist you in putting together an excellently structured and professionally presented business plan for your ice cream business. However, that might also be expensive.

Extra expenditures to take into account

  • Permits
  • Certifications
  • Insurance
  • Rent
  • Labor
  • Remodeling
  • Equipment
  • Supplies
  • Serving or take-out ware
  • Plasticware
  • Napkins
  • Money machines
  • Signage
  • Franchise costs
  • Marketing
  • Website design

Software Costs

For optimal operation, your ice cream store needs software! Why would you pay for software? Since technology can save you time and automate some company processes, you can concentrate on the things that are most crucial.

You may expand your firm and save high personnel expenditures with the aid of software and technology.

Inventories Costs

You will probably need some inventory if you plan to sell actual goods.

CostRequired?Min CostMax Cost
Upfront Costs For InventoryOptional$300$6,000
Inventory StorageOptional$0$6,000
Package DesignOptional$50$4,000
Distribution costsOptional$0$950

Costs of Marketing and Advertising

You must use marketing to attract customers before your business can open.

Marketing fees that assist you in spreading the word about your franchise are a part of your beginning costs.

CostRequired?Min CostMax Cost
Business CardsOptional$0$50
Tradeshow costsOptional$0$5,000
Networking Membership FeesOptional$0$250
Business SignageOptional$75$2,486
Direct Campaigns, Printing, and MailingOptional$0$300
Influencer MarketingOptional$0$750
Google AdsOptional$0$300

Hiring personnel

You’ll need to hire workers to assist you in scooping ice cream and serving customers unless you intend to staff your ice cream business alone. 

The average hourly compensation at most ice cream shops is $12, though it may be greater or lower based on your region’s minimum wage. 

How many employees you will need depends on the size of your ice cream shop. Take into account how much you can afford to pay your employees and how much assistance you’ll require to run your business. Then, before you publish any job advertising, compare it to the money you’d save by conducting part of the research on your own.

FAQ about ice cream shop startup costs

How much does it cost to open an ice cream shop?

The price to operate an ice cream business can differ significantly depending on a variety of variables, including location, size, desired level of equipment, and decor. Starting an ice cream parlor can cost anywhere between $50,000 and $250,000, according to industry estimates.

What are the typical expenses involved in opening an ice cream shop?

Rent, equipment expenditures, inventory, marketing and promotion, staff wages and benefits, and permits and licenses are a few typical costs associated with operating an ice cream store. Utility charges, insurance, and legal and accounting fees are additional possible expenses.

What equipment is needed to start an ice cream shop?

An ice cream machine, dipping cabinets, freezers, refrigerators, mixers, blenders, scoops, utensils, and display cases can all be included in the equipment needed to open an ice cream store. Depending on the type of ice cream being served and the anticipated number of customers, different equipment may be required.

How much does it cost to lease or purchase a space for an ice cream shop?

Depending on the location, size, and health of the local real estate market, the cost of renting or buying a place for an ice cream store might differ significantly. The cost of renting a space can vary greatly, from a few thousand dollars for a tiny room to tens of thousands of dollars for a large facility in a desirable area.

How much inventory should I purchase for my ice cream shop?

The quantity of inventory required for an ice cream shop will vary depending on the business’s size, the flavours it offers, and the anticipated number of customers. It’s critical to buy just enough stock to satisfy demand while avoiding waste and spoilage.

How much should I budget for marketing and advertising for my ice cream shop?

An ice cream shop’s marketing and advertising budget will be determined by a variety of variables, including the level of local competition and the targeted target market. Industry experts advise allocating between three and five percent of overall sales to marketing and advertising.

What are the costs associated with hiring and training employees for an ice cream shop?

Salaries, benefits, such as health insurance and retirement plans, as well as the price of hiring, interviewing, and training employees can all be included in the costs of running an ice cream parlour. Costs may also be impacted by employee churn rates, desired levels of experience, and certifications.

What licenses and permits are required to open an ice cream shop, and how much do they cost?

Depending on the region and local laws, several licences and permits may be needed to start an ice cream business. A company licence, health department permits, and permissions for food services are a few examples of common licences and permits. These licences and permits might cost anywhere between a few hundred and several thousand dollars.

How much should I set aside for unexpected expenses during the startup phase of my ice cream shop?

When opening an ice cream shop, it’s crucial to set aside money in case there are any unforeseen costs. The amount that has to be set aside may vary depending on the size and complexity of the company as well as the owner’s willingness to assume a certain level of financial risk.

How much working capital will I need to keep my ice cream shop running until it becomes profitable?

The level of expenses and the length of time it takes to generate income are just a couple of the variables that will affect how much working capital is required to keep an ice cream parlour operating until it turns a profit. Having enough operating capital to cover expenses for at least six months to a year is advised by industry experts.

Conclusion on ice cream shop startup costs

Since ice cream shops require a lot of work, they might not be the greatest choice for a side business that requires little effort. Even less expensive projects like a straightforward ice cream stand necessitate a significant amount of preparation and start-up fees.

Having said that, if you have the resources and time to dedicate to this unusual job, it can be a lucrative commercial endeavor.

Additionally, eating as much free ice cream as you want is a pleasant bonus.

If you liked this article about ice cream shop startup costs, you should also check out this article about the cheapest states to form an LLC.

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I'm the manager behind the Upcut Studio team. I've been involved in content marketing for quite a few years helping startups grow.