While the summer season is slowly passing into Fall, the appeal of surfside towns, Cape Cod and other vacation destinations is still running strong. The respective highways and local routes are still packed with travelers that seek a final stop in their summer vacation campaign, and needless to say, we could all use an extra day in the sun. For an ice cream shop owner (that means you), these final days can be a turning point for profits and may set the tone for sales in the next year. Are you prepared?
Even if your gut response was something in the form of "of course we're prepared, it's how we've made it this far", ice cream is a tricky business. While your taste, sugar content and menu combinations may be top notch, the maintenance and upkeep of ice cream equipment and storage is an issue you need to confront. Melted ice cream is a legitimate disaster concern, and while we can't provide sprinkles of sorrow if this disaster occurs, we can provide a few words of advice about prevention before-the-fact.
Imagine this scenario: You've purchased an industrial freezer for the storage of your ice cream, business has concluded for the day, and you've headed to the beach for a tiki torch throwdown with your vacationing neighbors. Your employees have closed the shop without your oversight, and after a brief check, you've been reassured that all duties and responsibilities (as they pertain to closing) have been followed and executed. With this in mind, you grab a cocktail, begin partaking in an enjoyable evening, and later head off to bed in hopes of resuming your success once again. The alarm clock rings on the next day, and you're off to the shop in a matter of minutes. You've been disconnected from your precious establishment for up to 10 hours, and despite your confidence in your staff, you're still a bit concerned...
-Was everything stored and discarded correctly last night?
-Were all doors locked?
-Have all scoops and utensils been cleaned, or were they left in unsanitary places?
-Did the power go out?
With the first three concerns, your anxieties are alleviated as you see the closed freezer doors, the old toppings properly discarded in the trashcan, and a spotless scooping station. For the final concern about a power outage, you won't know until you check the inside of the freezer yourself. Truth is, many business owners reach this point without considering a power outage and the devastating effects that can result from even a temporary outage. Sure enough, you flip open the latch, and on the floor is a colorful (and sticky) sea of chocolate, vanilla, and your business capital. Don't freak out just yet; first consider the scale of the losses:
- The loss of the product: The melted ice cream must be discarded immediately, and salvaging the liquid is virtually pointless.
- The potential loss of business during the day: Without sufficient ice cream stock, customers may see "flavor unavailable" signs strewn throughout your menu. As you hope to push other flavors, customers may be turned away from your lack of core variety.
- The loss of business for the entire day: If you've lost over 75% of your ice cream stock and fear that your remaining stock cannot last for 8 hours of sales, it may be in your best interest to close the store.
- The cleanup: Depending on the scale of a melting disaster, you may be forced to hire a specialized cleaning crew to expedite the process and eliminate possible workplace hazards (sticky and slippery floors can injure your employees!). These cleaning crews are efficient, highly trained, but can also be expensive.
These are four simple examples of losses that can succumb from a melting disaster. In any case, and in any level of severity, these are not
problems that you can afford to have. All will lead to losses in some form.
You've lost stock, you've lost business, and you're about to lose your mind, but let's wind back to the original cause for a second. Power outages are a threat to any business that relies on temperature control, and this is especially true for ice cream shops and trucks. When we hear phrases like "fault tolerance", power outages are an example of a fault that needs to be prevented. With that in mind, what could you have done to prevent the power outage, and how can you take preventative action to eliminate this issue in the future?
For the first question, the answers are limited. The only way to definitively prevent a power outage is with a backup generator or external power source that responds to the loss of the main grid. Otherwise, if a generator is above your budget limit, treat a power outage as a very-possible evil.
For the sake of preventative action, there are a number of possible solutions and tools that you can use to stop this from happening. The key indicators are temperature and connection to AC power, and without tools or devices to monitor these indicators, you can wind up in the situation that we've outlined above. Both power and temperature can be monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you can actually receive notifications about these indicators. If power goes out, get a text message; if temperatures are quickly rising to the melting point, get a simple phone call. Once you've gotten the imminent notification of a problem, corrective action and losses can be prevented in a number of ways.
Generally speaking, systems that provides alerting for these indicators are readily available, inexpensive and simple to use. The flexibility and 'always on' capability of these automated systems is a true 'peace of mind' lifeline for you, (the owner) and for your entire business. When juxtaposed with the relative costs from melted ice cream, recovery and cleaning, preventative monitoring and alerting systems are worth their weight in (frozen) gold. Consider a preventative and fault tolerant monitoring system, and don't let our disaster scenario be your next reality.