At a recent, highly enjoyable, motivational business event, business guru Geoff Ramm gave us a two minute challenge to create a way of selling ice cream in an alternative way to either tub or cone. We had to create a strong and effective strategy to engage our target audience. As an English teacher it does me good to be put on the spot in the way that I have put countless students on the spot over the years. And like every good student, I was happy to share our group’s idea with the rest of the people in the room. The purpose of the task was to inspire us to think differently when engaging our audiences and making our products stand out. This experience, in turn, also reminded me of my very worst experience of buying an ice cream.
My favourite ice cream story is a a warning to everyone everywhere about eating an ice cream cornet – there is a health warning with this story. If you love cornets, look away now.
We were on a camping trip to Filey with two other families. Our children were all very young at the time. If you have never been camping in Filey, it is a campsite where you pitch your ten on the edge of a cliff. My daughter affectionately calls it ‘the windy place’. We nearly blew away. It was so windy, that on the way out of the campsite, at the end of the trip, we had to throw our tent in the skip; the zips had been destroyed. The respite from the wind was a visit to the beach at the bottom of the cliffs. The beach is beautiful, sandy and vast, with lovely coves. We all sheltered from the wind in the beach cove and proceeded to have a surprisingly wonderful day.
To end a lovely day on the beach, where we had paddled, played cricket, played football and had a sandy picnic, we decided a trip to the ice cream van was absolutely perfect. This particular van had a captive clientele, and should have been making a killing. It was the only place to buy anything without climbing back up the cliff!
I took everyone orders and I approached the surprisingly queue free ice cream van. Behind the counter there was a middle aged woman with a blue gingham overall. I placed my order, 13 99s. As she got up, she put down her greasy cheese pasty on the counter. She then proceeded to lick her nicotine stained fingers, one by one, from top to bottom to ensure none of the grease from the pasty transferred on to the cone. Most considerate of her! I consider myself highly tolerant when it comes to hygiene, but this had gone too far. I had to think quickly. She had already pulled one ice cream – I promptly gave this to my friend’s husband who was first in the queue to receive the treat. I then swiftly changed the order to 12 strawberry mivis – fully wrapped.
It was a truly unforgettable experience. Every time I see people serving food wearing plastic gloves I am thankful that an element of thought has gone into hygiene. I have had numerous difficult conversations in school where I have to speak to students about their personal hygiene. When some students come from very difficult home lives, it can often be something they are totally oblivious to. But, in not telling them, we are doing them a disservice in relation to their future prospects. In an age where image and presentation is everything, ensuring you have a strong code of conduct in relation to personal hygiene is an easy win for businesses. Terrible service and products are bad enough, but the unwelcome addition of terrible personal hygiene could be the death knell for any business.
In a recent hand book for apprentices, I noted that there was a section about personal hygiene in the workplace. Such conversations can be difficult, but they have to be done. Especially if you own an ice cream van!