How to Start an Ice Cream Truck Business

ice cream truck business

We all “scream for ice cream” and you’ll shriek at the profit potential in a mobile ice cream business.

Operating an ice cream truck business is one of the most popular food truck ideas. How to run the business is your choice – as a route or by attending events. You can also choose the days you operate, and whether or not you want to operate as a seasonal business.

For more information about ice cream trucks, and to keep track of industry trends, check out the International Association of Ice Cream Distributors and Vendors. And keep track of this development – Nissan unveiled a prototype all-electric ice cream truck with rooftop solar panels in 2016, and since 2019 they’ve been on the road in the UK.

Why You Should Start an Ice Cream Truck Business

  • You love ice cream
  • You have childhood memories of a neighborhood truck and want to continue the tradition
  • You love children
  • You want to be independent and own your own business

How to Start an Ice Cream Truck Business with These Simple Steps

Entrepreneurs and food trucks are a great match.

Before you launch your ice cream truck business, work your way through these steps:

Research Nearby Ice Cream Truck Businesses

You should research these businesses as competitors. And you should research how they do business. Find out what products they sell and what’s been most popular. You can get those answers by reading through their websites and social media pages.

Find Suppliers

The proximity of suppliers may impact what type of frozen treat you sell. Ice cream trucks are typically large, heavy diesel-fuel trucks. In other words, you want to make trips to resupply as infrequently as possible or find a supplier who will deliver. You’ll want to set up storage freezers in your home or headquarters and resupply them as needed.

Need to know: An ice cream truck is plugged into a power source overnight. On a full charge, the truck will keep the ice cream frozen for 10-12 hours at 90 degrees. In other words, you don’t want your suppliers to be too far away.

Write an Ice Cream Truck Business Plan

What’s your target market? Are you going to run various set routes, or are you going to focus on attending events? Or a mix of both? As part of your business plan, you’ll need a name. You’ll also need to estimate a budget, which will include a calculation of other expenses, including the cost of restocking, any labor costs, and the cost to purchase and maintain the truck. Without a well-written business plan, it’s unlikely for owners to get business loans.

Establish Menus, Choose Flavors, and Set Prices

There are all sorts of tasty ice cream products. Products include hard ice cream and soft-serve ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, sundaes, pre-packaged ice cream, low-calorie ice creams, many different ice cream flavors, and other ice cream novelties – even ice cream for pets. Before you buy ice cream for your truck business, check what other ice cream vendors are selling.

Form a Business Entity and Register Your Business

Your business name is very important. When you check with your Department of State, you may find that your name is already taken. You may also find that someone else has already claimed the web domain. Take your time with this step, and use friends and family to brainstorm a business name. The majority of ice cream truck business owners choose the Limited Liability Company LLC as the business entity.

Open a Business Bank Account

Open a business bank account and obtain a business credit card.

POS System

The majority of food truck vendors have switched to a contactless point of sale system, although you may still need a cash box.

Find an Ice Cream Truck

Don’t scrimp on the truck. If ice cream melts or reaches room temperature, you must discard it. Most ice cream trucks are outfitted with a deep cell battery, which is designed to be frequently drained and recharged. And the trucks will have cold plate freezers, an ice cream dipping cabinet, and soft serve machines. It’s a lot to keep cold.

If you’re buying a used ice cream truck, have it thoroughly vetted. Whether you have a used or a new ice cream truck, make regular preventative truck maintenance a part of each day.

Purchase Your Ice Cream Truck Equipment

If the truck isn’t already outfitted, you’ll need the cold plate freezers, the ice cream dipping cabinet, and a soft-serve machine. You’ll also need related supplies such as ice cream cones, napkins, and serving containers.

Apply for Permits and Licenses Needed for Ice Cream Trucks

Start at the state level and work your way down through the county clerk’s office and local officials. Ice cream truck drivers may need special licensing and registration for their motor vehicles, depending on the vehicle’s weight.

Although it’s a mobile business, you’ll need a business license.

Get Insured

Small business owners with a truck business need general business insurance which would include general liability insurance and commercial auto insurance. Although the manufacturers of ice cream would have product liability insurance, you’ll need that as well – because you may be mixing the ice cream with toppings and dips to create a different product.

Prepare for a Health Inspection

Each person who handles food needs Food Handling Certification. Make sure you have those records handy for the inspection by the local health department.

The inspector from your local Department of Health will also want to see a schedule for cleaning and maintenance, as well as that proper steps are taken to prevent food contamination.

Get Your Taxes in Order

Since you’re selling a product, you’ll need to collect and report sales tax. For that, you’ll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Plan an Ice Cream Truck Route

If you develop the right routes, your potential customers will become repeat customers. One of the best ways to do this is by using an App. Customers can use the App to see where you are, and when you will arrive in their neighborhood.

Consider Employing Staff

Whether to employ staff or not is a major factor in how you run the business. You should choose workers who have strong customer service skills.

You may only need staff for the summer season, or year-round, depending on the climate where you operate. If you have staff, you’ll need to obtain Workers Compensation Insurance.

Market Your Business

Are you going to offer new ice cream flavors? Make an announcement on social media accounts. Reward repeat customers by offering free ice cream after a set number of purchases. If you don’t have marketing knowledge, encourage customers to offer input.

Expand Your Ice Cream Truck Business

If a route isn’t successful, don’t be afraid to revamp it. Attend events such as festivals. Ask customers for input.

Some ice cream truck vendors study school bus routes – which are good indicators of where children live.

How Much Does it Cost to Start an Ice Cream Truck Business?

The biggest number for the start-up costs of selling ice cream is the truck. You can expect to spend at least $10,000 for the truck.

Related ice cream truck costs include fuel, oil, tires, insurance ($800 to $1500 annually), and stocking the ice cream (a minimum of $500). Business insurance will cost from $500 to $1200 annually. With a well-written business plan, you may be able to get a business loan.

Is it Profitable to Start an Ice Cream Truck Business?

Yes. During peak times, the average monthly income is $5,000, and that’s calculated based on working 20 days. Average yearly profits are $60,000.

Image: Depositphotos

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Lisa Price Lisa Price is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 4 years. She has a B.A. in English with a minor in journalism from Shippensburg State College (Pennsylvania). She is also a freelance writer and previously worked as a newspaper circulation district manager and radio station commercial writer. In 2019, Lisa received the (Pennsylvania) Keystone Award.