So when baseball had its Opening Day, what’s the first thing you thought of? Hot dogs? Cracker Jacks? Your team’s lineup? Starting pitchers? The bullpen? Well, you should be thinking about summer at the shore and your frozen dessert business! Why? Because April is when you have to start getting ready for the summer swell – longer days, higher temperatures, more people, etc…. Whether it’s for a day-trip, a weekend, two weeks or (for the few lucky ones) the whole summer – they will be coming. And when the masses get there and they’re hot, they’re all going to want one thing – ice cream. Before you know it there will be traffic backed up for miles just to get off at the exit for your little town, and you better be ready.
The best way to beat the rush is to beat the rush. Start early. In actuality, you should have already begun. In our Pre-Season Planning, Pt. 1 & Pre-Season Planning, Pt. 2 blogs we covered 4 main areas in depth that should be addressed before opening:
- Marketing Calendar
- Store Appearance/Aesthetics
If you do more, that’s great, just think of these as a reminder of the basics. At this point you should have already cleaned your establishment top to bottom, inside and out. Any major changes to your store - renovations, painting, or change in layout - should already be complete, or close to done. Any new equipment should have been installed, and all equipment must be cleaned and tested. It was a long off season, and you need to shake the rust off – literally and figuratively. These are annual action items, but the sooner you start, the more time you have to address any issues.
Your marketing calendar should also be in place. In a shore town, you should always base your calendar with the Chamber of Commerce’s. See what events your community has planned for the upcoming season and coincide your calendar to promote within and around those events. Find the ‘connectors’ in your town and work with them to promote your business:
- Real estate agents / rental agents – flyers, word of mouth
- Other complimentary businesses – combined promotions
- Chamber of commerce for your shore town – word of mouth, reputation
Community groups and businesses know the town and the summer season better than anyone, use that to your advantage. A little courteousness goes a long way. And remember the Big Three summer holidays: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Create new promotions and products for these insane holiday weekends, and promote these ahead of time. Remember…. Big shore events draw big crowds!
So, the building should be ready, and the promotions for the year and their respective products in place. Now you have to set your menu and price everything out. First, look at the products from last year that didn’t sell and trim the menu if possible. Next, and this may sound awful, be sure to raise your prices EVERY YEAR no matter what – more for new and premium products, less slower sellers. This is just a matter of fact when you live at the shore. You need to get a premium for your frozen dessert products. Your season is short (and getting shorter by the year), and the majority of your customers are on vacation and willing to pay extra. Remember 2 ½ months go by like THAT!!
And speaking of 2 ½ months of summer, try finding help that can work for its entirety! It’s easier said than done. College kids go back in the middle of August now. High schoolers don’t get out until mid-to-late June. If you open early, just for weekends, in April/early May you can ease your help into the season. This will give you time to properly train new staff, and re-train anyone returning (new layout, menu, products, etc….). Your employees’ jobs need to be second nature to them, because there’s no time for in-season training. Speed of Service is VERY important down the shore in the summertime. Think of it as Darwinian – only the strong survive. Also use the early weekends to test out new products. Maybe have a sample tasting for employees before you unleash it on the public.
Basically, you need to get a jump on everything you need for the season – people, product, promotions, and equipment - because once the season starts it is hard to keep up. Memorial Day is right around the corner, and you need to be ready for it!!
The peak frozen dessert season is short, and you have to make the most of it. The early proper preparation of all aspects will establish the foundation for a successful season. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss any menu options, don’t hesitate to contact Sentry Equipment.
We’re here to help.