The 7 Best Ice-Cream Franchises for Summer Make the most of summer trends with an ice-cream franchise.

By Matthew McCreary

entrepreneur daily
Dairy Queen | Facebook

Much of the U.S. skipped spring this year. For many states, the weather went from snow to 90 degrees and sunny in about a week. A week ago, a warm fire sounded nice; now you have customers lined up around the corner for ice cream.

If you're looking to cash in on the summer heat, maybe you should consider an ice-cream franchise.

Here are the top seven entries from the Entrepreneur Franchise 500.

McDonald's

McDonald's is the No. 1 entry on the Franchise 500, so of course it tops the ice-cream franchise list, too. While the Wendy's Twitter account might roast the Golden Arches for seemingly always having a broken ice-cream machine, McDonald's does indeed sell cones, sundaes and shakes.

  • CEO: Steve Easterbrook
  • Business headquarters: Oak Brook, Ill.
  • Franchising since: 1955
  • Initial investment: $1,008,000 to $2,214,080
  • Initial franchise fee: $45,000
  • New units in 2017: 507 units (1.4 percent)
  • Training: 6 to 24 months on the job, 75 hours in the classroom
  • Marketing support: Co-op advertising, ad templates, national media, regional advertising, social media, loyalty program/app

Related: Quiz: How Much Do You Really Know About McDonald's?

Sonic

Sonic is well-known for its ice cream -- and slush options (which aren't ice cream, but we're going to count them anyway). The No. 6 business on the Franchise 500 is also a great franchise for the summer due to its drive-in model, where you can sit and eat in the comfort of your car instead of inside a restaurant. It's just a better experience when the weather is nice.

  • CEO: Cliff Hudson
  • Business headquarters: Oklahoma City
  • Franchising since: 1959
  • Initial investment: $1,073,000 to $2,361,500
  • Initial franchise fee: $45,000
  • New units in 2017: 31 units (0.9 percent)
  • Training: 400 hours on the job, 24 hours in the classroom
  • Marketing support: Co-op advertising, ad templates, national media, regional advertising, social media, SEO, website development, email marketing, loyalty program/app

Related: Just How Much Does It Cost to Own a Fast-Food Franchise?

Culver's

Culver's is ranked 13th on the Franchise 500, and the fast-food joint prides itself on making fresh frozen custard throughout the day, "so it's always rich and creamy." The company offers a flavor of the day, as well as cones, shakes, malts and dishes.

  • CEO: Joseph Kross
  • Business headquarters: Prairie du Sac, Wis.
  • Franchising since: 1988
  • Initial investment: $1,815,000 to $4,273,000
  • Initial franchise fee: $55,000
  • New units in 2017: 57 units (9.9 percent)
  • Training: 550 hours on the job, 172 hours in the classroom
  • Marketing support: Co-op advertising, ad templates, national media, regional advertising, social media, SEO, website development, email marketing

Smoothie King

Does a smoothie count as ice cream? Sure, why not. Smoothie King is ranked No. 35 on the Franchise 500, and even though its offerings actually don't have ice cream in them, some of them do include frozen yogurt or sorbet, so we're going to count it. Besides, is there a better time to down a smoothie than when you're walking around on a nice summer day?

  • CEO: Wan Kim
  • Business headquarters: Metairie, La.
  • Franchising since: 1988
  • Initial investment: $225,650 to $778,150
  • Initial franchise fee: $30,000
  • 1-year growth in new units: 95 units (11.8 percent)
  • Training: 20 hours on the job, 56 hours in the classroom
  • Marketing support: Co-op advertising, ad templates, national media, regional advertising, social media, SEO, website development, email marketing, loyalty program/app

Related: The 7 Cheapest Franchises on the Entrepreneur Franchise 500 List

Baskin-Robbins

All right, now here is a proper ice-cream franchise. Baskin-Robbins is ranked No. 41 on the Franchise 500, and its entire identity has been shaped by its 31 original flavors of ice cream, including banana nut fudge, cherry macaroon and Rocky Road.

  • CEO: Nigel Travis
  • Business headquarters: Canton, Mass.
  • Franchising since: 1948
  • Initial investment: $93,550 to $401,800
  • Initial franchise fee: $25,000
  • 1-year growth in new units: 164 units (2.1 percent)
  • Training: 2.5 weeks on the job, 2.5 weeks in the classroom
  • Marketing support: Co-op advertising, ad templates, national media, regional advertising, social media, SEO, website development, email marketing, loyalty program/app

Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers

Freddy's is ranked 44th on the Franchise 500 and offers sundaes, concretes (super-thick milkshakes you eat with a spoon) and cones with all sorts of fun toppings like gummy worms and Oreos. According to the company website, Freddy's is also offering shakes and malts for a limited time only.

  • CEO: Randy Simon
  • Business headquarters: Wichita, Kans.
  • Franchising since: 2004
  • Initial investment: $592,810 to $1,999,117
  • Initial franchise fee: $25,000
  • 1-year growth in new units: 33 units (14.1 percent)
  • Training: 140 to 150 hours on-site, 10 to 20 hours in the classroom
  • Marketing support: Ad templates, social media, SEO, website development, email marketing

Dairy Queen

If you have the word "dairy" in your name, you've got to offer good ice cream. Dairy Queen, which is ranked No. 67 on the Franchise 500, does that with its famous blizzards, but it also has sundaes, cones and more.

  • CEO: Troy Bader
  • Business headquarters: Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Franchising since: 1944
  • Initial investment: $1,083,525 to $1,850,425
  • Initial franchise fee: $35,000
  • 1-year growth in new units: 44 units (0.7 percent)
  • Training: 376 hours on the job, 32 hours in the classroom
  • Marketing support: Ad templates, national media, regional advertising, social media, email marketing, loyalty program/app
Matthew McCreary

Entrepreneur Staff

Associate Editor, Contributed Content

Matthew McCreary is the associate editor for contributed content at Entrepreneur.com.

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