Tips for Mobile Ice Cream Vendors
Here are some key topics to consider when starting a mobile vending business. In addition, we are happy to suggest route and marketing strategies to help better your mobile vending business.
You must have an ice cream truck or push cart to get started as a mobile ice cream vendor. Southern Ice Cream does not rent, lease, or hire drivers to operate ice cream trucks, but we do have some tips to help you decide on a vehicle. Ice cream trucks come in many different styles, the most common being the step van or high top van. It is also possible to convert a truck or van into an ice cream truck by getting a serving window cut, installing a freezer/inverter, and getting an overall paint job or vehicle wrap to attract customers.
If you are interested in a new truck, check out the mobile vending truck of the future, developed by Wells Blue Bunny in partnership with Ford. It has all the bells and whistles needed to start your mobile vending business. There are two options:
- Ford Transit 150 Medium Roof/Delivered $45,343
- Ford Transit 250 with High Roof/Delivered $49,879.
Contact Ford for financing/lease options and truck details at 816-413-3015 or 816-413-3031.
Your freezer options are typically a cold plate freezer or a chest freezer with an inverter connection. Inverters work best when hooked up on a dual battery system. This prevents your vehicle battery from draining and can be installed by most mechanics.
A chest freezer is the more affordable and lightweight option, but may not be as reliable as a cold plate freezer in hot and humid weather, when dry ice may be required to keep the temperature low.
When allowed to freeze overnight, cold plate freezers have an approximate temperature of -20 degrees Fahrenheit, with the ability to hold temperatures for about eight hours before you need to plug in the compressor or use dry ice.
A clean truck and a neatly groomed driver go a long way in gaining repeat customers and booking special events. Southern Ice Cream can help you refresh your vehicle every year with new decals.
Your ice cream will be purchased from a distributor, such as Southern Ice Cream. Items come in boxes with a set quantity of items per box. You should be choosy about the products you stock and sell – generic, mediocre frozen treats will not bring back customers like recognizable, high-quality brand-name products will.
Many mobile vendors use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to communicate daily specials and build rapport with their customers. Also, as fewer people carry cash, many drivers have incorporated using credit card devices that attach directly to a smart phone to help increase sales.
When playing your music box, be mindful of volume. The music boxes often include an adjustable internal volume limiter, which ensures your compliance with local noise ordinances. Complying with any existing local noise ordinances helps prevent further restrictions on mobile vending by your local lawmakers.
Power Source & Storage
You will need a source of electricity for your freezer, regardless of the type of freezer you choose. Southern Ice Cream provides overnight monthly rental spaces with 110 V outlets for your truck. Parking your truck at Southern Ice Cream offers the advantages of a gated lot with surveillance as well as the convenience of purchasing your products and accessing other tools for your ice cream truck business on site.
If you do not have a cold plate freezer for your daily route, installing an inverter is the best option for power supply to your freezer, which works by taking the DC current from the battery—and drains your battery. With an inverter, it’s necessary to keep your engine running. A standard battery is not intended for this, and it will wear out quickly from being drained and re-charged. You may want to use a deep cycle battery, which is designed to be drained and recharged repeatedly.
A good alternator keeps your battery charged, so you may want to install an alternator controller or a high-output alternator. A heavy duty alternator, rated at 180-200 amps, could be a worthwhile investment for your vehicle.
The safety of your customers is your responsibility, and should always be your number one priority. Many of your customers are going to be children who could run out in traffic or otherwise may not always take precautions. The International Association of Ice Cream Distributors and Vendors can be a great source for safety information.
It can be helpful to choose a specific landmark or meeting point where you will stop each time, and be sure to avoid putting the truck in a position where you will have to go in reverse. Having a safety swing arm on your truck can be another helpful safety feature. Finally, installing “fish eye” mirrors so you can have better visibility to the front of the truck is a good idea.