There are plenty of franchise brands that speak for themselves when it comes to being a family business, but Abbott’s Frozen Custard steps up the ante. Founded by Arthur Abbott in 1902 and based in Rochester, New York, the frozen dessert brand is family owned and has been serving delicious treats ever since.
Brenden Drew knows the story better than anyone. Now vice president of business development, her mother, Gail Drew, is president of the company, while company chief operating officer Robert Amico has worked at Abbott’s Frozen Custard for more than 45 years. About six years ago, Drew was a CPA in a separate industry, working his way up to become a CFO at a company somewhere. It was then that he began to want to join the family business and help grow Abbott’s franchise partnerships – he believed the brand was a sleeping giant that could grow from massive way.
This belief proved prescient: After signing franchise deals with eight new owners in his first two years on the job, Drew recently signed seven more multi-unit franchise owners. One is a former executive of brands such as Dickey’s BBQ and Papa John’s, who signed a deal to open 100 Abbott’s Frozen Custard stands. Even that relationship grew out of family ties – the head of the franchise group had known someone at Abbott for more than two decades.
“You find so many people within this brand who have been here for over 15 years,” says Drew. “Most of them don’t share our last name, but they are all very much part of our family. There’s nothing we won’t do for them, and in return there’s nothing they won’t do for the mark. We all bleed Abbott’s blue.
But Drew knows that deep family ties aren’t enough to make a successful franchise. He was optimistic about the opportunity to grow the brand from its current status of 36 units to something much bigger for a variety of reasons. First, the product: the brand was built around a secret recipe that only three people in the world know. How well kept is this recipe? Drew himself doesn’t even know it, but he can tell it’s based on “some of the healthiest natural dairy products – we love our cows so much,” says Drew. “They are also something that we treat like family.”
Drew and his team all believe that Abbott’s has the best frozen ice cream in the category. With tried-and-true favorites like Black Raspberry, Salted Caramel or the famous Almond Chocolate, the menu also features everything from the traditional Hot Fudge Sundae to Root Beer Milkshakes. The brand’s signature novelty, however, is its turtle. Invented by Drew’s grandmother in the 1960s, the Turtle features a chocolate-covered treat full of Spanish peanuts, fudge, and chocolate or vanilla custard.
A second reason Drew thinks the franchise model will take off is due to the brand’s ready-to-go products. In a world where third-party delivery and off-site sales have started making headlines, Abbott’s Frozen Custard offers a variety of frozen treats, all made in-house and sold at retail, including custard pints, crisps and cakes. help fill in the bottom line. Finally, Drew says Abbott’s Frozen Custard is poised to become something big because of the segment’s potential.
“Frozen custard has been around for over 100 years, but it’s still a growing niche in the market,” says Drew. “We are as old as apple pie and baseball. Obviously, frozen custard isn’t a fad, it’s got some staying power, but there’s so much white space in the industry right now. You can have four or five real brands of frozen pastry cream and we are all a little different. But there is only one that has been around since 1902 and has a secret family recipe.
Now the brand is looking to grow with franchisees across the country who want to be part of Abbott’s Frozen Custard family. Each franchisee can expect five full days of hands-on, immersive training at brand headquarters in Rochester. Once construction is complete on a franchisee’s store, on-site training takes place with owners and their new crew members being personally trained by some of the most seasoned experts in the industry for two weeks before and during the large opening.
But specifically, Drew points out that franchisees can expect a visit from C-suite members once every 60 days, in addition to scheduled calls and various other communications from the company team. There is an annual owners meeting to which every franchisee is invited, while the CEO, through the entire franchise support team, makes himself available by phone at all times.
“From our perspective, we really believe this brand can grow to over 500 booths a day,” says Drew. “However, we want to develop it in the right way. We find the right people to open booths in the right place, at the right time, in a way that makes sense to everyone.
To learn more about the franchise with Abbott’s Frozen Custard, visit the company’s franchise website.