Ahead of the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rolling out this week, crafty Chris Watson was seeking an innovative solution to fill the extra costs. Six weeks ago, the owner of Corseford KeyStore in Scotland decided to invest £10,000 in a new ice cream machine. Taking a twist on his vanilla ice cream offering, Chris’s sweet tooth inspired him to add a variety of toppings to the frozen treat. And its already proving to be a “game changer”.


Chris explains that the ice cream venture was nothing new to the store: “We sold ice cream for a number of years until Covid when, unfortunately, our machine broke and to replace it was quite expensive,” he tells Convenience Store. “Ice cream is a good seller. Your margins can be around 70%. But the investment was really down to the rising minimum wage. It’s probably going to be [cost] somewhere between the £7,500 to £8,000 a year mark and trying to pull that money out of thin air is impossible. So, the ice cream definitely gives you an avenue to try and recoup some of that money.”

Ultimately, the sweet toppings were introduced to create a unique offering, which has so far sparked a buzz among shoppers. Some of the ice cream combinations include Biscoff, Oreo, sherbet and Kinder Bueno. Chris likes to stick to six toppings for customers to choose from, and he will switch them up every month by adding and removing new flavours. 

“We are lucky where we are as we don’t really have much competition. It was just trying to be that point of difference, but obviously getting a decent bit of margin that can make up for the shortfall that we’re going to have with the minimum wage increase,” says Chris.


The store charges £2 for a cup (one scoop) of ice cream and has introduced a sharing tray for £6 (6 scoops), however Chris jokes at the fact that he is “yet to see somebody share it”. He reveals that the cups of ice cream have attracted shoppers of all ages, while the sharing trays have mostly been bought among early 20-year-olds to mid-30-year-olds. 

“We are keeping it price keen at £2 a cup. We are in the middle of a housing scheme, so you have to be very price-conscious to keep it sweet with customers and to keep them coming back,” he says. “But the actual product is what it is about, if your own ingredients are good then the product is good. Everybody that has had it is just blown away with how good the quality is.”


The Taylor C152 Soft Serve Freezer machine from Taylor UK cost Chris around £10,000 and he says it is “very simple” and “very easy” to function. Most importantly, he stressed the importance of maintaining cleanliness in the machine. “It’s cleaning it that you need to be on top of and it’s very easy to do. It needs cleaning every four days, but we do it twice a week because it’s easier [for us],” explains Chris. 

Chris underwent training on the machine and then proceeded to train his team. He explains that he had prepared his business plan to cater to the demand for ice cream during the summer season: “If you get a bit of good weather you’re laughing, but it’s not really been that way here at the moment. But we’ve all had ample practice for the summer coming so we’re all ready to go. We’re all organised and trained up, just waiting for a bit of sunshine.”

Shoppers are already requesting new toppings, but Chris has a different approach. He believes it’s not always necessary to give customers exactly what they ask for. Although this may seem like a “crazy thing to say”, he enjoys keeping his menu niche, so that his customers are always looking forward to trying out his latest creations.


One new frozen treat that’s about to roll out in store is called the ‘Corseford Sandwich’. It is a unique version of a cookie ice cream sandwich, and Chris is eager to promote it on social media platforms, particularly on TikTok. So far, the store’s Facebook page has received several positive responses over the new food-to-go products, with one Facebook user commenting “I don’t share… looks amazing need to get one” on an image of a ice-cream sharing tray.

He adds: “It looks to be a game changer for us and were quite happy to be where we are business wise at the moment with it”.