I think it all depends on who your target market is, and what the demand for ice cream in your area is. Unless you've got some really special ice cream, I doubt it would bring in people who wouldn't already come by for the coffee. However, it may prove to boost the sales with people already drinking your coffee.
I'd say to check out the market - if there is an ice cream shop near you (Braums counts) then evaluate whether there is room for competition or not.
Ice Cream works well in coffee shops in Greece. It's a slightly different market there. People expect to be able to go into a coffee shop and order ouzo to chase their cappuccino.
I personally like to pair a good sweet with black coffee so ice cream would probably be a nice offering. I think you’d want to find some upper end ice cream or some more homey style to give it a unique twist.
I think you are wise for offering it. I know of a few coffee shop owners who offer it in all their shops. Every time they open a new shop there is ice cream there as well. So it obviously sells well enough to keep it around.
The addition of any new product line to a retail business should be considered carefully... without a clear strategy, dozens of new items can start popping up on your menu to the detriment of all.
Think not only of the impact that this new stream of potential ice cream revenue will have on your bottom line, but also how it will positively or negatively impact your customers' perception of your business. What message does this project?
Ask yourself, how will my morning coffee commuters react to a business that now also serves ice cream? Will more families with children potentially put off businessmen and women? Will I attract ice cream-only customers that do not buy coffee? Are ice cream profit margins sufficient to potentially replace that coffee business? Is the quality of the ice cream comparable or better than that of coffee so that the poor perception of one does not impact the other?
If your primary product is "coffee," be certain that any additions are made in moderation; the "shotgun menu" approach to selling products (ala "maybe if we offer something else, we'll sell more" becomes "we'll offer a little of everything in the hopes that someone will buy something") does not work. Be sure that your customers have a clear and concise definition of what your business does, and does well.
I agree with Andrew. In your business plan, when you decide on your drink menu, you may have say 10 to 12 items (ie. mocha, latte, cap, americano, etc.). In addition to that menu, you could have a seasonal menu of 3 or 4 items that come and go with each season. Springtime menu items could contain strawberry ice cream, (strawberry mocha frap, strawberry latte frap, strawberry espresso milkshake). Summertime could have one or two summer drinks and a vanilla espresso milkshake. Fall could have three or four fall flavors and so on.
This way you do not have a crowded menu, your operations will be smoother, and you can offer one or two flavors at a time to keep fresh ice cream. During cold months, when ice cream sales are down, you can keep ice cream off the menu. If you only offer one flavor of ice cream in a specific drink, you will not need a very big freezer either. Speaking of freezers, can you fit an ice cream freezer close enough to the barista station, to make it easy and quick to access?
From my work in kitchens I always think logisitcs first. As Jackson said do you have space for a serving freezer? Will it be big enough to hold your backup stock (even if it is this migth not be a good idea since the temp in these reach in frzrs varies because of use and could impact the quality of your stored ice cream. That being the case, do you have room/$ for a deep freeze. Room to store ice sream realted small wares? What about turnover and spoilage? I definitely don't know enough to say do it or don't do it but I would think through the whole "chain of events" you'd start by adding a menu item like this.
I have also been considering opening the coffee house with gelato to offset the soft coffee sales months in the summer. There is really nothing in the area like this. The nearest coffee place (Starbucks) is 15 miles away, and the nearest ice cream place is 10. This is an untapped market here.
I'm looking to start with a drive-thru-only operation in the Atlanta metro area. The more research I've done, I've eventually concluded that (hard) ice cream will be a nice addition to the specialty coffee drinks (hot and cold) I'll be offering.
Additionally, I see that Starbucks has added ice cream in some of their operations. They've sold ice cream through grocery stores, but now beginning to sell in their coffee stores.
I'm happy to say that Atlanta is ready-for-prime-time in the specialty coffee business!
My place is called Affogato and I sell espresso and ice cream, as well as a small selection of gelato and sorbet. Over the summer period I am selling 51% ice cream vs 32% coffee. On an annual basis the split is 44% to 37% in ice cream's favour. Quite honestly I wouldn't survive without ice cream in summer and wouldn't survive in winter without coffee.
I think it is a nice touch to sell, even a small ice cream range. I sell affogato with vanilla ice cream and a 'chocolate affogato" with chocolate ice cream and hot chocolate and get people coming in just to order and drink an affogato.