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Cold Stone Creamery Franchise: Costs & Profits (2023)

Are you considering opening a new Cold Stone Creamery franchise? With 1,300 stores, no wonder it’s one of the most popular ice cream franchises in the US.

But before you go ahead and invest in a new franchise ice cream franchise like Cold Stone, you may want to know how profitable the business really is. Indeed, even though the startup costs are relatively low ($310,956), you will have to make enough profits to recoup your investment.

In this article we’ll look at how much you can realistically make with a Cold Stone Creamery shop, how much it costs, and whether you should invest as a franchisee. Let’s find out!

Key stats

Franchise fee$27,000
Royalty fee6.0%
Marketing fee3.0%
Investment (mid-point)$360,000
Average sales$585,000
Sales to investment ratio1.6x
Payback period*4 years
Minimum net worth$250,000
Minimum liquid capital$100,000
* using 15% net profit margin
Cold Stone Creamery franchise business plan

Cold Stone Creamery Franchise Business Plan

All the stats: startup costs, profits, breakeven, etc.

5-year financial projections built with the FDD

Excellent 4.8/5 based on 70 reviews

Excellent 4.8/5 based on 70 reviews

What is Cold Stone Creamery?

Cold Stone Creamery is a leading American chain of ice cream parlors.

Headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, the chain was founded in 1988 by Donald and Susan Sutherland.

The brand serves premium ice cream made-to-order at the restaurant. In addition, it offers ice cream-related products such as ice cream cakes, pies, cookie sandwiches, smoothies, shakes, and iced or blended coffee drinks.

Cold Stone Creamery began its franchising journey in 1994. It is operated and franchised by Kahala Brands.

Currently, the brand has more than 1,300 locations in the US and 20 other countries.

Cold Stone Creamery franchises pros and cons


  • Franchise training: The franchisor offers the franchisees a comprehensive 120 hours of initial training to get a good overview of the business and industry. The training covers store operations, customer service insights, financial management, and products. The training also helps franchisees master the store opening steps, food handling, sanitation, back-office practices, equipment handling, and inventory management.
  • Solid operational support: The brand offers its franchisees extensive support ranging from site selection to restaurant design and construction. Franchisees are advised on the best grand opening plans by a highly experienced and qualified team of experts, allowing them to incur fewer costs and begin on a profitable note. 
  • Strong marketing support: Cold Stone Creamery has an incredible in-house marketing team to help franchisees with their regional marketing plans, social media, digital advertising, and promotional campaigns. Franchisees can build awareness of their local stores and publicize their products by leveraging the strong brand identity and experienced marketing strategy of the parent company to improve revenues and profit margins.
  • Growth opportunity: The brand has grown for the last 35 years with multiple locations in and outside the US. Their development initiative seeks to grow the brand domestically and internationally, giving interested franchisees great opportunities to enter new markets.
  • Multi-unit stores: The brand offers franchisees locations of every size, from multi-story locations to smaller kiosks. It gives them flexibility in operating within their budget and expanding with time.
  • Menu variety: The brand boasts a diverse and quality menu that appeals to customers of all types. For instance, the brand has 10–12 ice cream varieties and keeps working on new flavors and trends. It also offers seasonal favorites as well as tailored flavors for certain specific regions, such as Irish cream or cinnamon buns.


  • No exclusive territory: Cold Stone Creamery does not offer the franchisee an exclusive territory for their restaurants. Franchisees face competition from franchises granted by the franchisor or from other competitive channels it controls.
  • No absentee ownership: The brand does not offer passive investment business opportunities. Franchisees are required to be actively involved in the operations of the restaurants.
  • No financing: Cold Stone creamery does not offer direct or indirect financing to its franchisees. In addition, it does not guarantee any lease, note, or obligation of any lender.

How much does a Cold Stone Creamery franchise cost?

You would invest around $360,000 to open a new Cold Stone Creamery franchise.

This number is the average for both traditional and non-traditional locations. Indeed, the investment cost varies based on the format of restaurant you choose:

  • Traditional locations: Cold Stone Creamery bakeries located in malls, shopping centers, outlet malls and streetside locations
  • Non-traditional locations: bakeries located in airports, colleges, casinos, convenience stores, military bases, train stations, etc.

In addition to the initial franchise fee ($8,000 – $27,000), the investment cost you would pay covers leasehold improvement, equipment, opening inventory, architectural fees, exterior signage, grand opening advertising, permits and licenses, working capital for the first 3 months, etc.

Type of ExpenditureTraditionalNon-traditional
Initial franchise fee$12,000 – $27,000$8,000 – $20,000
Formation costs$259,875 – $514,775$18,700 – $419,275
Marketing fees$10,000$5,000
Operating costs$28,500 – $30,500$21,500 – $30,500
Total$310,375 – $602,775$53,200 – $474,775
Source: 2023 FDD
Cold Stone Creamery franchise business plan

Cold Stone Creamery Franchise Business Plan

All the stats: startup costs, profits, breakeven, etc.

5-year financial projections built with the FDD

Excellent 4.8/5 based on 70 reviews

Excellent 4.8/5 based on 70 reviews

What is a the turnover of a Cold Stone Creamery franchise?

On average, a Cold Stone Creamery franchise makes $585,000 in sales annually. This number is the median annual sales of the 875 franchised restaurants operating in 2022. 

Here’s the year to year median sales evolution of Cold Stone Creamery franchises. The sales number is growing over the year:

How profitable is a Cold Stone Creamery franchise?

On average, a Cold Stone Creamery franchise makes $96,008 in profits per year. This represents a 23% adjusted EBITDA margin

Yet, you can’t keep 23% of the total revenue in your pocket as this adjusted EBITDA is not equivalent to net profit. Rather, you may need to deduct taxes, debt interest expenses, and other costs before you can pay yourself dividends as the franchisee (or to calculate the payback period for example, see below).

The 23% adjusted EBITDA margin is on the lower end compared to similar franchises as per our intelligence (~25-27% industry average). This is due to the high rent costs (14% sales vs. ~8% industry average).

Yet, note that the franchisor doesn’t provide any financial information regarding costs. Indeed, we had to use benchmarks for COGS (25% sales) and labor costs (29%) instead.

Profit-and-lossAmount ($)As % of sales
Royalty + marketing fees$(37,583)9.0%
Adjusted EBITDA$96,008~23%
* industry average

Is a Cold Stone Creamery franchise a good investment?

Assuming a 15% net profit margin, we calculated the payback period for a Cold Stone Creamery franchise is 5.0 years. This means you would have to wait 5 years so you could reimburse your initial investment of $310,956.

This is a good payback period, and therefore a good investment: only after 5 years you would finally make profits on your initial investment.

Keep in mind this doesn’t take into account time value of money which may add another year to payback period.

Applying to a Cold Stone Creamery franchise? Download our pre-built business plan and visualise your 5-year financial projections and reports like breakeven point, return on investment and more.

Cold Stone Creamery franchise business plan

Cold Stone Creamery Franchise Business Plan

All the stats: startup costs, profits, breakeven, etc.

5-year financial projections built with the FDD

Excellent 4.8/5 based on 70 reviews

Excellent 4.8/5 based on 70 reviews

How does it compare vs. other franchises?

FranchiseInvestment ($)Sales ($)Payback (years)Min. net worth ($)Min. liquid capital ($)
Dunkin' Donuts,0001,056,5211.44.9500,000250,000
Krispy Kreme,0003,400,0004.11.62,000,000300,000
Little Caesars,022,850798,1130.88.5350,000150,000
Steak 'n Shake, Milshakes815,6261,346,3321.74.01,500,000500,000
Crumbl Cookies,2241,582,0903.12.1300,000150,000
Taco Bell,4131,650,0003.61.91,500,000750,000
Smoothie King,108573,2690.88.0300,000100,000
Jersey Mike's,3231,220,5862.14.7300,000100,000
Nothing Bundt Cakes,6501,307,2802.42.7600,000150,000
Jimmy John's,650874,8451.73.9300,00080,000
Texas Roadhouse,209,5002,955,5340.79.5n.a.200,000
Kung Fu Tea tea250,125353,2371.44.7n.a.25,000
Burger King,242,9501,215,9701.06.81,500,000500,000
Sonic Drive-In,467,0831,617,0001.16.01,000,000500,000
Panera Bread,290,5002,599,4321.15.97,500,0003,000,000
Pizza Hut,575906,9111.06.9700,000350,000
Dairy Queen Cream1,404,2201,143,1800.88.2750,000400,000
Jack in the Box,195,8001,755,5030.812.51,000,000250,000
Papa John’s,6951,101,1273.12.1750,000250,000
Five Guys,2251,203,3662.42.8500,000250,000
Carl’s Jr.,860,3351,419,5160.88.71,000,000500,000
Baskin-Robbins Cream465,100316,8150.79.8250,000125,000
Applebee’s American5,137,9662,356,9650.514.51,000,000500,000
Denny's American3,785,4591,639,5490.415.41,000,000500,000
Papa Murphy's,174580,4411.35.0275,000125,000
Auntie Anne's,692343,1351.55.6300,000100,000
Firehouse Subs,186888,3561.44.6350,000100,000
Tropical Smoothie Cafe,500961,9692.23.0350,000125,000
Marco’s Pizza,625895,5232.03.3400,000100,000
Cold Stone Creamery Cream310,956417,5881.35.0250,000100,000
Church’s Chicken,195,1471,395,0881.25.71,000,000300,000
Moe’s Southwest Grill,3701,013,3611.35.21,000,000100,000
Tim Hortons,242,7501,188,2401.07.0500,000100,000
Checkers & Rally's,8471,039,7731.25.4750,000250,000
Charleys Philly Steaks,806786,2331.54.3500,000100,000
Buffalo Wild Wings,546,9002,534,1480.79.31,500,000750,000
Rita's Ice Cream215,839248,3401.25.8300,000100,000
A&W Restaurants,750851,2121.16.2350,000150,000
Hungry Howie’s Pizza,682806,8991.93.5750,000200,000
McAlister’s Deli,424,9631,865,8611.35.11,000,000500,000
Round Table Pizza,2501,037,8161.35.0500,000200,000
Qdoba Mexican Eats,250972,9621.54.5
Taco John’s,119,0001,124,9801.06.61,000,000400,000
Scooter’s Coffee,143,250797,1010.79.6500,000200,000
Einstein Bros. Bagels,075885,0111.25.71,000,000536,500
Great American Cookies,275452,7711.25.7250,000100,000
Wienerschnitzel dogs873,300880,9801.06.6600,000250,000
Blaze Pizza,4501,096,4321.37.9500,000300,000
Wetzel's Pretzels,571748,8572.03.4300,00050,000
Pizza Ranch,268,3001,174,0880.418.61,000,000297,000
Del Taco,406,8501,345,3411.07.02,000,000500,000
Schlotzsky’s, Salads1,102,9331,053,3330.322.21,000,000300,000
Captain D’s,7781,067,8160.419.01,000,000350,000
Biggby Coffee,575648,3520.320.0300,000100,000
Which Wich,375281,8860.322.2500,000150,000
Marble Slab Creamery Cream407,360251,0520.416.7250,000100,000
Mountain Mike's Pizza,900865,7130.320.0300,000100,000
Huddle House,743712,4280.513.3600,000300,000
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue,350612,9210.333.3500,000150,000
Chicken Salad Chick, Salads651,0001,202,0200.320.0750,000250,000
Golden Chick,975917,6092.52.62,000,000425,000
Waba Grill,000466,5361.06.51,000,000250,000
Bruster’s Ice Cream Cream663,925466,6960.79.5375,000150,000

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