Starting an Ice Cream Van Business: A Practical Guide

Are you considering starting an ice cream van business in the UK? This business model combines the joy of creating sweet treats with the potential to earn significant profits.

There are a lot of different factors you need to consider before you serve your first ice cream. Don’t worry, our practical guide to opening an ice cream van business will help you navigate the process smoothly.

We’ll outline the main costs and decisions involved and the legal regulations you’ll need to meet. We’ll also show how staff training can be made straightforward with Caredemy online food training courses.

Understanding the ice cream market

Ice cream isn’t just popular with kids, and ice cream vendors can target a wide range of customers and events. Some of the potential opportunities for ice cream vans include:

  • Food festivals
  • Organised events like music festivals and funfairs
  • Weddings, christenings and other celebrations
  • Birthday parties

You could go 80s retro with a Mr Whippy ice cream van, or follow the trend for all things vintage with a vintage ice cream van.

You could also choose to focus on selling vegan ice cream, organic products or high-end artisanal ices.

Setting up an ice cream van business: The pros and cons

Let’s examine some of the pros and cons of owning an ice cream van.

Advantages

Potentially high-profit business

High profit margins and low start-up costs mean you could see a profit sooner than many traditional catering businesses.

Little experience needed

You don’t need any formal qualifications to run an ice cream van business, and most of your products will be bought ready-made.

A summer favourite

Ice cream is a firm favourite in the summer months, and you could make enough profit to cover your costs for the rest of the year.

Disadvantages

Relies on good weather

Ice cream sales fall in poor weather, so you’re unlikely to operate during the autumn/winter. A wet and cold UK summer could mean very low sales.

High competition

Supermarkets now sell a wide range of high-quality ice creams at low prices, increasing the competition that you’ll face as an ice cream vendor.

Maintenance costs

As well as fuel costs, you’ll need to consider the cost of your annual MOT, van servicing and replacing ice cream dispensers and freezers.

The costs of an ice cream van business

The cost of starting up an ice cream business can vary, but these are some of the essential costs you need to consider:

Equipment

Buying an ice cream van, freezers and ice cream dispensers will be your most significant costs, which could be as high as £100,000. Buying a secondhand van or renting an ice cream van will help lower your costs.

Advertising

Advertising costs should be 10% of your revenue at most, but bear in mind that this will need to take seasonal demand into account.

Insurance

It’s essential to ensure that you have sufficient insurance cover which will include vehicle insurance, liability insurance and legal indemnity insurance.

Utensils and accessories

Ice cream vans need a variety of utensils, including ice cream scoops and topping spoons, plus topping dispensers, a cash register, and ice cream cups and spoons.

Ice cream van legalities

Food businesses have to comply with various legal requirements to protect the public.

You’ll need to comply with these legalities before you sell your first ice cream:

  • Food business registration with your local council
  • Street trading licence if you plan to sell from public spaces
  • Allergen information (mandatory for packaged foods)
  • Registering as self employed or a limited company

You’ll also need to implement specific safety protocols:

  • Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) to manage food safety risks.
  • Routine risk assessments to identify and mitigate risks.
  • Safe food storage to ensure your products are stored at the correct temperature.
  • Regular cleaning routines to prevent bacterial growth and cross-contamination of allergens.

Essential training for ice cream van businesses

Food hygiene training ensures you’re running your ice cream van business safely.

Before serving your first scoop of ice cream, you and your staff must undertake various training courses. These may include:

You’ll also need to undertake GDPR training if your business will be storing client information.

If you find it challenging to fit training into your hectic life, Caredemy online food hygiene training courses could be the answer.

These courses all include our high-quality online course materials, which can also be downloaded for offline learning. You’ll take an online assessment at the end of your course and receive a nationally recognised certificate upon successful completion.

Each Caredemy student is given access to their own Personal Learner Dashboard, which makes it easy for them to keep track of their progress through the course. If you’ll be training additional staff members, we also offer a Caredemy Learner Management System that simplifies accurate staff training record keeping.

You can contact our Student Support Team with any questions about planning your study or for support during your course.

Running an ice cream business takes a certain amount of planning and financial investment. However, the potential financial rewards and satisfaction of running your own business will make this business plan as tempting as the ice creams you’ll be serving!

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