At 1,200 Units, No Time to Celebrate for Kona Ice Boss
A more adult-themed flavor line called Kona Krafted is one factor driving sales growth for Kona Ice, said CEO Tony Lamb.
“Besides the weight gain and the hair loss, Beth, I am living the dream. Everyone’s talking about how good I’m doing,” said Tony Lamb, the irrepressible CEO of Kona Ice and always a delightful interview.
The shaved-ice food truck franchise just passed the 1,200-unit mark, only 18 months after another big milestone. “A year-and-a-half ago we hit a thousand, and I made myself some promises. If I ever got this to a thousand franchises I would buy a car, buy a watch, take a trip and heck, I looked up and we were still running so I never had time to celebrate anything,” he said. “And listen, it’s not even slowing down.”
A key factor to the unit gains is more existing franchisees adding trucks; the mix used to be 50-50 but this year is skewing 70 percent existing franchisees to 30 percent new. Those existing franchisees have been enticed to add units, in turn, by same-unit sales increases of 14 percent each year for the last three years, Lamb said.
A new product line called Krafted is a hit, especially for corporate clients. “That is a more adult-themed flavor line,” Lamb explained. “Back in 2016, corporations were calling and having us do employee appreciations. It started getting bigger and bigger,” so he brought in food scientists and trend-spotters to create flavors like lavender, white wine spritzer and more—but nothing with alcohol, he was quick to note.
“I’m sure some corporations would love that we show up and intoxicate their entire staff,” he joked. Kona Ice also produced a line of Krafted trucks that take the typically neon-bright, tropical-themed trucks and instead show the scene after sundown. “It’s Kona after Dark,” he said, and there are about 50 of those types of trucks on the road.
The Krafted flavors are so good, he said, that even he is hooked. “I’m not a shaved ice guy, I’m a cookie guy,” he said, then realized the founder of a shaved ice franchise maybe shouldn’t say that. “But I love the Krafted flavors.”
Lamb said the growth is still going. “I just ordered another 150 chassis, so with the orders and deposits, we’ll be at that 1,500 mark at the end of 2020. That might be a little aggressive, maybe not.”
Then he brings up one thing that could make his life easier. “If they would just make a little more territory,” he said. “I just need a little bit more land.”