Ice cream has long been a staple of American indulgence. But who wants to reach for that boring old scoop when you could have, say, ice-cream-stuffed ravioli or maybe small "dots" of their favorite flavor? The following inventive and original chains are mixing it up and tempting taste buds across America with their unique ideas for this frozen treat.
This space-age spin on the traditional scoop is still drawing customers nationwide. Dippin' Dots was started in 1987 by microbiologist Curt Jones, who created the unusually shaped ice cream treats during his experiments with cryogenic freezing, leading to its claim of being the coldest ice cream in the world. Referred to as "the ice cream of the future," the company is looking to widely expand their current empire of carts and stands at fairs and festivals; desired locations are listed on their site.
Cold Stone Creamery
To get ice cream lovers more involved in the parlor shop experience, this company offers a personalized take on the frozen treat. The store's employees mix familiar flavors with a customer's choice of a wide array of fruits, nuts and candy to hand-blend a creation all their own. And "crew members" add to the fun from the very start: They're required to audition for a job--not just fill out an application and be interviewed--and they may be asked to sing.
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- Franchise 500 rank: #14 in 2007
Ben & Jerry's
After launching in 1978, Ben & Jerry's inventive combinations and quirky product names quickly made the company a popular choice among ice cream aficionados. But there's more to this company than just its ice cream: Ben & Jerry's supports many nonprofit organizations and started some of their own, including "Lick Global Warming," started in conjunction with the Dave Matthews Band and SaveTheEnvironment.org.
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- Franchise 500 rank: #82 in 2007
Frattelli Ravioli in the Bronx is known for its traditional meat-, cheese- and veggie-stuffed ravioli. But when the weather calls for something cooler, Frat's Ices offer a more refreshing alternative: a frozen ravioli, made of bakery crust, with ice cream inside. The ices come with three different sweet dipping sauces.
Rita's Franchise Co.
Rita's Ices is a classic ice cream shop that sells almost every frozen dessert you can think of. From slushies to custard, if it's sub-zero, it's probably available at Rita's. Franchisees are encouraged to hire outside help only after employing their family members in order to preserve the "family atmosphere" of the original Rita's.
Paletas, this company's namesake product, have long been a popular treat in Mexico and are now being introduced to U.S. consumers. The frozen, crushed-fruit bars are made from 100-percent natural ingredients and come in a variety of unique flavors, including cappuccino, mango, kiwi, lime and leche quemada. The company also offers market-fresh fruit cups, smoothies, snow cones and premium ice creams, all made from natural ingredients.
Paciugo Italian Gelato
An Italian tradition and dessert staple for decades, gelato-style ice cream is a thick, creamy frozen dessert made from all natural ingredients. The founders of this gelato chain came to the U.S. from Turin, Italy in 2000 and opened the first Paciugo Italian Gelato store that year. Offering more than 40 flavors all made in small batches daily using traditional techniques, Paciugo's treats also offer weight-conscious consumers a lower-fat dessert alternative: All Paciugo gelatos contain at least 70 percent less fat than regular ice cream.
Ready, Set, Research
If you didn't find anything that suits your taste on this list, don't worry: There are dozens of other ideas in the ice cream section of our Franchise Zone for you to browse.
When one catches your eye, begin your research. Due diligence includes thoroughly reading a company's literature and its Uniform Franchise Offering Circular, calling and visiting the existing franchisees, and consulting with an attorney and an accountant. Use our thorough how-to to guide you on your journey.