By Keith Shaw
Secretary of Snacks
One of the hottest new franchises in the food business is Cold Stone Creamery, an ice cream store/restaurant featuring hard ice cream mixed on a "cold stone" with an assortment of mix-ins such as chocolate chips, Kit Kat pieces, brownies and cookies.
You can create your own "flavor" by choosing a base ice cream (including cake batter, mint, cheesecake, etc.) and then adding a bunch of mix-ins. Or you can choose from a list of flavors "created" by the store, all with cutesy names like "Cookie Doughn't You Want Some" and "Mint Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip."
The ice cream itself is very good — what's hard to tolerate is the experience of getting the ice cream. There are three major problems:
- There's always a line. The store in Millbury, Massachusetts (just outside of Worcester) had a 6-7 person line in the middle of a 15-degree night in January. Oddly, one time I walked into a store in Las Vegas in 100-degree heat, and the place was empty. Speaking of lines, some stores have an odd line system — trying to figure out where to stand can be confusing.
- The cutesy size ordering system. Instead of ordering a small, medium or large dish of ice cream, Cold Stone has sizes called "Like It" (small), "Love It" (medium) and "Gotta Have It!" (large). You can say "give me a medium," but sometimes the employee try to trick you into saying the cutesy size.
- The singing. This is the biggest problem. If you throw a tip into the tip jar (usually $1 or more), one staff member will shout out, "Hey, we got a tip!" and the rest of the staff will shout, "Oh Yay!" and then everyone bursts into song for a few seconds while they continue to work. Usually it's a song about how great the ice cream is at Cold Stone, set to a familiar tune. For example, one song is set to the tune of the Flintstones cartoon theme, with lines like "Cold Stone! Here at Cold Stone! Making ice cream is our speci-al-teeeee." Ugh. The singing wouldn't be so bad if you only heard it once, but when there's a line 10 or more people deep and everyone in front of you puts a buck in the jar, you have to put up with happy singing before you even get your ice cream. In fact, during one visit I gave the staff a tip, but then told them not to sing until after I left.
I could let all of that bother me and refuse to go there for my ice cream fix, but the ice cream and the mix-ins are very good. The question becomes — is a singing staff and cutesy size ordering worth a good bowl of ice cream?