New Chill-N CEO bets on ice cream innovation, technology

David Leonardo

In 1987, microbiologist Curt Jones decided to pour liquid nitrogen on top of ice cream for the first time, creating a flash-frozen treat. Three decades later, David Leonardo, the recently hired CEO of Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream, is looking to take Jones’ discovery to new heights—and new locations across the U.S.

After working as a franchise executive for big-name brands such as Burger King, Arby’s and Wendy’s, Leonardo decided to move to a smaller company. Chill-N has eight units, all in Florida, but Leonardo believes a focus on fresh ingredients and advanced technology can make the company a nationwide success and transform the nitrogen ice cream scene. Milk is sourced fresh from farms in Florida. Leonardo is also exploring local sources for Chill-N’s toppings, including partnerships with dragon fruit farms in southern Florida.

While ingredients are fresh, Chill-N’s mixing process is highly automated. Machines automatically dispense specific amounts of cream and nitrogen into each bowl, customized for flavor and size. Leonardo wants to intensify this high-tech trajectory by printing barcodes onto the cups that signal a customer’s order to each machine with a simple scan.

"Whenever you’re looking at a franchise concept, you need to ask yourself, ‘can we scale this?’" Leonardo said. "With employees touching a button and serving multiple people at once, that’s something I wanted to get into."

By reducing labor costs and minimizing human error, this computerized approach has the potential to expand profitability and guarantee consistently creamy treats.

"One of the things that separates Chill-N from the rest is innovation and technology," Leonardo said. "What I think we’re doing is revolutionizing how ice cream is being made." 

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