In this exclusive Q&A, we learn about Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream from its CEO, David Leonardo.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Tell us about your background. What made you get into the franchising industry?
David Leonardo (DL): I started my career in franchising at Burger King Corporate Worldwide headquarters in Miami. They were in the process of pursuing an M&A strategy with many of their franchise stores, and my background in investment banking came in handy. I was hired by the finance department and had several finance related roles before I transitioned into the franchise development department. By then, I had some experience working with private equity groups selling them blocks of restaurants and the head of the franchising department approached me about joining his team and the rest is history.
FC: What makes Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream different from other ice cream concepts?
DL: Consumers are constantly demanding made-to-order products. When taking a look at the consumer market today, customization is the main buzzword in the retail and restaurant space. Whether it’s coffee beans that are ground inside the store, donuts that are made fresh every morning, or picking your own burrito fillings, customers want things customized and Chill-N is no different when it comes to ice cream.
Historically, you would order ice cream that would be made weeks prior in a factory, shipped to a store, and then put into a freezer. At Chill-N, our dairy isn’t frozen and is sourced from Florida cows less than 10 days prior to arriving at the store.
Because we make every ice cream to order, we can offer a variety of different bases like regular ice cream, yogurt, tart, coconut milk, and soon we will add almond milk – that is 5 different bases you can choose for your ice cream. After picking a base, we then add the flavors and flash freeze it all to make your ice cream in under a minute.
A great deal of this is automated so that the right amount of dairy and liquid nitrogen are dispensed based on each order to help create the consistent creamy finish every time. The technology and automation we use is state-of-the-art and offers endless options to allow us to focus on the best ingredients and overall product. This also allows us to go out of our way to ensure that our customers taste the difference and get the best experience while they’re there.
Whether it’s imported matcha from Japan or vanilla from Madagascar, we will continue to source high-quality ingredients to ensure the highest-quality product.
FC: How many locations do you currently operate?
DL: We currently have 8 locations throughout South Florida.
FC: Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
DL: Our plans over the next five years include selling out of Florida and Georgia with single and multi-unit franchisees, partnering with multi-unit franchisees in other parts of the United States, and begin our international expansion with the goal of becoming the leading nitrogen ice cream franchise in the world.
FC: What advice would you offer someone just coming into the industry, to help them succeed?
DL: I would suggest obtaining your CFE (Certified Franchise Executive) certificate and attend as many IFA (International Franchise Association) events as possible. If you can’t attend all, then I would focus first on the annual IFA event. It’s full of classes, discussions and networking opportunities that are great for those just starting in franchising.
Another event that is a must for early stage franchisors is the Franchise Springboard held in Philadelphia every year. The attendees at this conference range from those thinking of franchising their business to franchisors with over 100 units.
This industry is full of very bright and experienced individuals who are all willing to share their knowledge with you. Whether you’re just starting out or whether your company has been around for many years and is just venturing into franchising, you will learn a great deal from attending educational conferences and networking with people in the industry.
My last piece of advice: crawl, walk and then run. To get into franchising you have to play the long game. If you want to run before you can walk then it’s going to be a very bumpy ride. So, focus on the unit economics of your business and making sure you can provide great support. Only then would I consider franchising your business.
FC: How can someone learn more about the franchise opportunities available with Chill-N?
DL: Visit our website at www.chilln.com/franchising or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org