By Elizabeth Broomhall
Mobile ice-cream business Desert Chill eyes franchise growth, Gulf-wide expansion
With summer temperatures peaking at 50 degrees, the UAE offers the perfect climate for ice-cream entrepreneurs. But until recently, no vendor had ventured beyond supermarkets or stores to peddle ice-cream on the roads.
Two British businessmen, Dan and Nathen Furlong, recognised a gap in the market and in 2008, the mobile ice-cream business Desert Chill was born. Today, the company’s five ice-cream vans serve up twisters and 99s anywhere from school functions to the UAE’s top sporting events.
“We started with three ice-cream trucks, now we’ve got five,” said Nathen. “We’re hoping for two more in the next few months, which will take us to seven by the close of business this year.
“Next year, we plan to add three more, which will bring us to our target number of trucks, hopefully a year ahead of schedule.”
Despite its traditional features - each of the vans plays the tinkling music expected of mobile ice-cream sellers – the business has been brought up to date with tweaks including a BlackBerry ordering service.
“We do have music coming from the van, [much like the more traditional UK ice-cream delivery firms] but we are also semi-sophisticated with the ordering service,” said Dan. “We cover a whole spectrum of events, from school functions and sports days, up to the Horse Racing World Cup, the Dubai Rugby Sevens and anything in between.”
The pair plan to grow the brand across the UAE through a franchise scheme and hope to expand Desert Chill across the Gulf further down the line. From its start as a two-man band, the company expects to have a total of 20 staff by the end of 2012.
“We still have some growth to do in the UAE, but beyond that we would look at Kuwait and Qatar,” said Nathen. “We are looking at fully franchising the business to a local partner for the northern emirates, where they would run and operate the business and just give us a franchise fee and a trademark fee.”For all the latest retail news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.