Starting a Business in a Kiosk

Selling ice cream from a kiosk at a mall. Great idea. Here's why. You've seen all those nifty kiosks in your local malls. They sell everything from hair products to cooking utensils to candy and cookies. Customers crowd around these carts and pony up big money for their wares. But can ice cream retailers really make serious money in these smaller venues? And what makes an ice cream retailer having a kiosk ultra-successful?

Like any other retail business looking for a location, finding one at a mall is no different. Most kiosk success stories start with a good location, and first that means finding the right mall. Not only do you have to pick the right mall, with the right demographics that fit your product, but your specific location within that mall is also crucial. If you have the choice between two spots in the mall, and one of them has a premium rent tacked on to it, there's usually a reason for that. In my opinion, choose the best and negotiate for a better rental fee. If possible, check out the "50-yard line" section of a mall: It's usually a wide, straight line in the very center of the mall, with the best tenants located on each side. But you'll want to stay away from a crowd of carts- if you're one in a long line of kiosks, you could get lost in the crowd.

The location decision can even come down to which stores are around you. Ice cream kiosks tend to do well when they're located where there is high traffic, preferably near a food court or at a center point in the mall where traffic is going in four different directions.

When you find the right kiosk location and you're ready to sign the lease, you should enlist the help of a kiosk leasing expert. When you get to the leasing point, try to find out what revenues the best cart operators in your particular mall are earning, and at other high-end malls in your area.

An ice cream retail operator needs to research each location to find out state and county regulations as well as the mall's own guidelines. Research everything, from food-safety requirements for food-related kiosks to the limits on how high kiosk walls can be if you're located in a mall.

Once you establish your locations and meet all the requirements, you'll have to focus on one of the keys to kiosk success:

  • Customer Service- Since your business is mostly a one-on-one contact with your customers, you have to be stellar in serving their needs.
  • In a kiosk environment, "It's all about being customer friendly."
  • And while you may be gung-ho for customer service, you'll have to train the employees who man your stores in your absence to be equally as enthusiastic about the ice cream you are selling.
  • Take the time to interview and train employees before you open your kiosk. If you want to grow and expand your kiosk, you'll need a manager. Many people think they can open their carts themselves and hire employees later. But if you're working the cart, when are you going to interview employees? When are you going to train and develop them? Invest in hiring people and setting systems in place ahead of time.
  • To really make your kiosk go from good to amazing business, you need to take the time to plan your next steps. Dedicate time to plan and set goals. How am I going to ensure that happens? "Ask yourself what sales volume do I want to do next month?
  • Don't get caught up in a month-to-month survival mentality.
  • Look for ways to excel and expand. Though they may be small in size, kiosks can be big business.