Restaurant Bytes: David Leonardo

small business innovation Chill-N

Welcome back to Restaurant Bytes! This is a short, virtual program that asks restaurant executives questions about the issues they are facing today. Restaurant Bytes is hosted by Tom Spry (Principal of Tom Spry Executive Search) and Harri’s own Jacqueline Farmer (Enterprise Sales Executive). This segment caught up with David Leonardo, Chief Executive Officer of Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream, to discuss small business innovation and how small companies are uniquely positioned to overcome COVID-related challenges.

As a small ice cream business during COVID-19, David discusses the “pivots” Chill-N had to make to thrive during an uncertain time. By taking a closer look at their marketing, operations, and new product development, the Chill-N team identified areas they needed to adjust based on new service needs. They also considered consumer habits and how they have changed since the pandemic. 

For example, delivery made up only about 10% of Chill-N’s before COVID-19. At the peak of the pandemic, that number reached about 90%. 

Chill-N started offering higher size and volume of their products and even created a ‘Survival Kit’ marketing campaign — buy two quarts of ice cream, get a roll of toilet paper! 

Their perseverance and creativity further prove that difficult times open unique opportunities for success. David explains that they have had a lot of “positive outcomes” as a result of these rapid and innovative changes.

David enjoys being a small business owner and says it makes structural changes easier. “It’s the difference between reaching out to one person and having a new website in a day.” When asked how other small businesses can thrive during these times, David offered, “It’s all about how far your brand equity can carry.”

His tips to success are:

  • Try to be realistic about where your brand can carry.
  • Focus your efforts locally.
  • Expanding is not always the best option.
  • Reach out to your existing customers.

However, the most important question David answers is: What exactly is nitrogen ice cream?

Typically, ice cream is made with adaptations and can sit for weeks at a time before it gets to a consumer. Chill-N listened to consumer requests and began serving ice cream that’s created right in front of your eyes. 

Essentially, they pour cream into a bowl, add ingredients, put it in a mixer, and add just enough nitrogen so that it freezes it. This fresher ice cream alternative not only requires less storage space, but it allows for a much higher level of customization. 

As David says “Customization is everything. You’re building the entire equation and we make it for you in under two minutes.”

For access to the full interview, click here.

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