Ben & Jerry’s looks to lick US franchise failure trend

Ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s has aimed to reverse the trend of failed US franchises in Australia, with plans to open up to 30 “scoop shops”, saying the network will be based on quality, not quantity.


Ben & Jerry’s opened its first scoop shop in Chatswood Shopping Centre in NSW in January.


The iconic American ice cream brand arrived in Australia in November 2009 and has so far fared better than fellow US franchises such as Krispy Kreme and Starbucks.


“The shores of Australia are littered with the shipwrecks of failed US franchises,” Franchise Advisory Centre director Jason Gehrke told StartupSmart.


“American companies [make] the assumption that we look the same, we talk the same, so the same principles must apply.”


In addition to its US heritage, Ben & Jerry’s joins a long list of ice cream franchises operating in Australia, including Baskin Robbins, Cold Rock Ice Creamery, Tasti D-Lite and Trampoline.


Ben & Jerry’s brand manager Johnny Hammond said consistent consumer demand had motivated the company’s expansion plans in Australia.


“[However,] the many challenges of producing and distributing super premium ice cream meant we had to ensure the process was tried and tested before debuting a focused franchise business plan,” Hammond says.


“With the success of the inaugural Chatswood scoop shop… we’re confident that the Australian franchise model is fully formed and robust.”


Hammond says Ben & Jerry’s has also learnt from its predecessors’ mistakes in failing to understand the Australian marketplace by not adapting menu and franchise offerings.


“We are determined to avoid any potential issues by setting realistic growth ambitions, particularly in the first five years.”


“We are looking to open a small number of scoop shops in high-exposure areas. By keeping the number of stores low, we eliminate the risk of cannibalisation.”


Ben & Jerry’s is aiming to open up to 30 franchises in key sites along the east coast including the Sydney CBD, the Melbourne CBD and Chapel Street in Melbourne, and the Brisbane CBD.


Earlier this year, Ben & Jerry’s said it was looking for “cool” franchisees, preferably aged 18-35.


Rod Young, managing director of franchising specialist DC Strategy, believes Ben & Jerry’s will have no problem attracting franchisees to its network.


“I doubt if you will see…a cheap franchise fee for a good franchisor like Ben & Jerry’s, with a premium location in Chatswood Shopping Centre,” Young told StartupSmart.


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