Banana split, hot fudge, brownie sundae, dusty road, cookie monster, peanut butter, strawberry shortcake, turtle, smore’s, waffle sundae, chunky monkey. The list of funny names could go on and on. Though these names are all unique and different they all have one thing in common...in one form or another, they're all sundae's.
A sundae can be anything at all. Sundae's are limited only by your imagination. But most important, sundaes can be a huge profit center for your operation. How do you do it? You must learn the ‘Art of the Sundae’.
The Art of the Sundae
One of the best things about owning or working in an ice cream shop is the creative power you hold over your ice cream creations. The ingredients, combinations, pairings and names you come up with can almost be endless. But if you're a person who feels they don't have a creative bone in their body then here are some simple guidelines to explore when coming up with your combinations.
How do I come up with sundae combinations? / What do I serve?
In order to appease and take full advantage of peoples taste palette, try to hit their "hot" buttons. A hot button is a specific craving, hankering or longing for a particular ingredient, flavor or product. Each sundae you create could could appeal to each one of these hot buttons. You can develop a specialty sundae list that corners the market of what people crave.
1. Develop a chocolate based sundae for those chocoholics.
2. Fruit based sundae's for those who like color or want slightly less guilt.
3. Organic or vegan based ingredients for those who want to feel no guilt at all.
4. Peanut Butter sundae's for those peanut butter loving crazies.
In fact, we are willing to bet, if there is a particular ingredient or flavor of anyone thing that you or your customer crave or like, then you can build a sundae around it.
The younger generation might be willing and able to try anything but as you get older you know what you like and you usually don't deviate from it. That's why the classics will always hold up to the test of time and to your customers. Using stand alone classic recipes is fine but don't be afraid to put your own spin on them as well. Here are three points to think about when serving the classics or developing ideas using the classics.
- The Classics – these include all the familiar names you (and your parents) have heard through the years including: The Banana Split, The Hot Fudge Sundae, The Dusty Road. You can put your own spin on these classics by changing up an ingredient, adding an ingredient or even changing the name a little bit...E.g. The Bigger Badder Banana Split.
- The cakes – Don't forget about the inclusion of cakes, brownies, shortcakes, cookies, etc. in any sundae combination as well. Using various baked goods and different flavors of ice cream you can create a lot of different combinations. If you're in the Northeast U.S. then you know of a thing called Tastykakes. Taking an already wildly popular treat such as this and combining it with some ice cream and chocolate might just be too much goodness for some people, but it's been done and it's put a lot of smiles on a lot of peoples faces.
- The M’s – mint, marshmallow and maple syrups are just a few ingredients that begin with M. All of which can be used to create flavor combinations of sundae's. When truly stuck for inspiration, go through the alphabet and try to create combinations with a letter - you can Google them for ideas. Obviously some letters will give you more choices than others (C, M) but keep in mind this is a great way to brainstorm new ideas.
- Waffles and sundae sandwiches. While keeping with classics don't forget about the waffle bowl (or cone) and sundae sandwiches. Everyone's taste is different and how they prefer to enjoy their sundae's varies. Some are non-traditional and prefer their sundae in a sandwich form as opposed to eating it out of a bowl.
- Don’t forget the seasons – Depending where you are located geographically, you may experience drastic weather changes through each season change or you may not at all. Either way, you can take advantage of each season by offering products reflective of that season. Fall favorites like pumpkin, apple pie, snickerdoodle all give your customers something to look forward too and summer favorites like peach, mango and blueberry give customers a refreshing change give a refreshing change from the norm.
- Mix and match. Mixing and matching literally means you could combine any two flavors together to create one glorious combination. Try new things, be daring in your development, just because it hasn't been done before doesn't mean it can't work. If you're having trouble - think in opposites. For instance, combine sweet and salty together or using contrasting colored ingredients in your combinations.
- Give value. We put this under seasonal because it doesn't matter what season it is - you should always give value to your customers. Don’t serve a flavor of ice cream and one topping and call it a specialty sundae. A true sundae should have a minimum two toppings. You should give a minimum of two scoops (preferably three) or 8 ounces of soft serve. All whipped cream should be finished off with sprinkles or a sauce drizzle.
Name Your Sundae's
When it comes to sundaes, all of our shops have had success with either naming their sundae's, creating themes or include in a specialty list.
- Forget create your own sundae's – have a recipe driven sundae list in place for your customers already. Why is this important? Because.
- Nobody wants to do the work of picking toppings and ice cream and sauces. If customers have to think that hard they’ll end up ordering a small vanilla cone which means lost profits.
- You want a recipe driven menu of 6-8 sundaes where customers come up and say “I want that”. Once they see it or read the description they'll immediately know they want that particular sundae.
- Theme your sundae's – Certainly your store has a culture and theme (if not, see our blog post on this topic). Any sundae you create could and should be centered around this culture and store theme. Keep in mind this can work really well with our next point.
- Develop sundae names/themes that tie you into the community. Whether it be the local history, local sports teams, road names, town colors, first responders, military, school mascots, etc...If you join any community organization you're likely to find a theme that you can tie back to your sundae's.
Presentation is key. Before your customers even taste the sundae they should be blown away just by the looks. Can you say "selfie moment"? People love to take photos of their food and share it on social media and this is your opportunity to get your sundae some coverage. Here are some presentation tips and guidelines for your sundaes.
- No matter what you put into it or what toppings you use, your sundae should look like a work of art.
- Make customers feel guilty to even put a spoon in it and disturb the beauty you created (they will then feel guilty after eating it too!)
- Make it clean, colorful and not messy – no toppings running down the side!
- Serve it in something special – not just your run of the mill Styrofoam cup or plastic dish. Make it different and have it stand out in a special container.
- Always top it off with a sauce drizzle, sprinkles, nuts or combo based on the sundae,
- Perhaps different colored spoons for your sundae menu or accentuate with small toys/decorations, pretzel rods, candy, etc..
Display and pricing
Take pictures of your sundaes and display them prominently on your menu. As mentioned, social media can be a powerful tool and you should use your social media channels to display them and promote them. More importantly, don't just take pictures of your sundae but take pictures of customers or a group of customers actually enjoying the sundae's and be sure to share those moments on social media as well.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind about pricing:
Charge accordingly – don’t promote sundaes and then just give them away. A lot of time, effort, creativity and ingredients went into that sundae. Make sure you charge accordingly so you can make your money.
Charge a high but fair price but give them value. Make an effort to drive customers into purchasing these high ticket sundae's, this is where you can make some money. Remember, customers won’t eat sundaes as often as cones or other smaller items so make the money when they do.