Baskin Robbins: Dreaming of your own chain of stores under a world class brand?

Baskin-Robbins could provide the franchise opportunity to turn your ice cream dream into reality as the company is focusing its efforts on achieving market leadership in the UK. The UK team reveals how it is seeking management franchisees with serious capital to develop chains of up to 50 stores

An iconic brand that has become an American institution and globally-recognised over the last six decades, Baskin-Robbins has established over 6,000 store locations worldwide. The brand is owned by Dunkin' Brands, which employs over 1,000 employees and generates US$6.5 billion in worldwide sales annually through Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin' Donuts. The secret of this successful growth? A commitment to franchising 100 per cent of its stores.

The group is seeking to grow its networks in Europe, and in particular is placing a renewed focus on the UK. Its national development is being headed up by Country Manager Chris Gray and Marketing Manager Giorgio Benza, who in December oversaw the launch of the UK's first new high-street Baskin-Robbins store in 12 years in London. 'The brand is present in over 120 locations in the UK, mostly as concessions franchised to cinema multiplexes and a cookie store chain,' reveals Chris. 'We do have eight high street stores and our flagship opening showcases our new store design concept called 'Viva la Valencia', which we are looking to roll out under a National Franchise Development programme to help position Baskin-Robbins as the leading ice cream retailer in the UK.'


The Baskin-Robbins team's development strategy for the UK's high street is not to recruit a network of single-unit franchisees. Rather the company is seeking Area Licensees with the capability and capital investment to support the opening of up to 50 stores across a five year period.

'The Dunkin' Brands group is under new ownership and is being driven forward by three private equity companies, which have a lot of experience in the quick service restaurant (QSR) sector,' explains Giorgio. 'There's a lot of interest and brand buzz around Baskin-Robbins worldwide at the moment, and we are looking to capitalise upon that in the UK by replicating the popularity of our stand-alone store concept in the USA, where we have 3,000 locations operating.'

The UK development team is already receiving interest in its opportunity. Brand success in Dubai, India and Japan is making the UK attractive to foreign investors seeking the right investment opportunity and several are expressing interest, with talks progressing with one group to develop 50-60 stores in the UK. 'We're seeking experienced operators to open and operate multiple stores,' continues Giorgio. 'Either food corporations or established multi-unit franchisees looking to add a strongly branded ice cream concept to their portfolio would be ideal, as they will have the 'back of house' operation to support a large number of stores. QSR experience and access to property will be valuable as we are looking to concentrate on high street locations, although the Area Licensee can also expand through concessions where appropriate.'

Baskin-Robbins estimates the typical store opening investment at £100,000, and therefore an Area Licensee candidate planning on opening 30 stores will need access to £3 million in funding. 'Baskin-Robbins enjoys good recognition in the UK, but we are looking to become the market leaders in scooped ice cream,' adds Chris. 'We have a proven model that works both in the UK and internationally, and our Area Licensees will be able to tap that potential.'


The Baskin-Robbins menu offers ice cream waffle cones, premium sundaes, 'grab-n-go' tubs, shakes and cakes, with every store offering a minimum of 31 flavours (one for every day of the month) selected from the company's library of over 1,000 recipes. Additional product lines include a range of bakery products, plus beverages including coffee and cappuccinos.

'Our aim is to position each Baskin-Robbins store as the local community ice cream store,' reflect Chris. 'We're open until 10pm so it's a place where kids can come to hang out, and performs best in secondary locations in the vicinity of traffic generators such as Blockbuster. We can also pick up a lot of traffic from other restaurants such as McDonald's, Burger King and KFC whose customers will come to us for their dessert.'


The Baskin-Robbins brand has it roots in two ice cream stores opened in California in 1945 and 1946 by brothers-in-law Burton Baskin and Irvine Robbins. The name was first adopted in 1953, by which time the company had developed a franchise model and already had over 40 stores operating, plus its first dairy. Major national expansion in the '60s was followed by international growth starting in the '70s, leading to the company becoming the world's largest chain of ice cream specialty stores.

'Franchisees will benefit from being part of a global organisation with new concepts, store designs and product ranges developed all the time,' says Chris. 'Dunkin' Brands has a research and development team of 80 people devoted to keeping its concepts fresh and at the forefront of market trends. We continue to consistently introduce new, exciting flavour combinations, as well as ice cream industry-leading innovations such as hand-packed ice cream quarts, a unique flavour ribbon technique, the use of traditional dessert ingredients and the introduction of mousse-textured ice creams. From our introduction of signature ice cream cakes and the growing line of beverages, including our signature Cappuccino Blast®, our commitment to creating new and exciting products is unsurpassed in the industry.'

Franchisees and their general managers will receive a comprehensive five week training programme at the company's 'Scoop School' in California, and the UK team will provide support including marketing, logistics and supplier negotiations. 'We can assist in scouting for locations but we expect the Area Licensee to have access to locations and their own connections with real estate,' reflects Giorgio. 'As they grow they will need to put their own internal structure in place to follow their own development plan, including bringing in a retail experienced general manager.'


Baskin-Robbins' new London store is showcasing its contemporary store design (see Franchisee Diary, above right) and the company is looking to create a buzz in the UK through its franchisees. 'As the network grows we will be able to do more in terms of national marketing, but at the moment we have a strong local store marketing programme to help new openings make a high impact,' says Chris. 'The stores will benefit from the uniqueness of the brand, the range of products, the proven business model and a lot of innovation. We want to bring prospective Area Licensees on board as soon as possible and focus on opening stores, as we've done successfully all over the world.'

Adds Giorgio: 'The price/quality ratio is really attractive and we have a fun brand that generates a lot of customer loyalty. Our London store is packed with American tourists and we want to generate that same level of excitement in UK consumers.'

Text: Stuart Anderson