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Tony Lamb, CEO of Kona Ice, talks about how the coronavirus pandemic led the company to turn to ice cream trucks.

Kona Ice CEO, Founder Tony Lamb pivoted amid coronavirus to keep franchisees afloat during their busiest season

The events-based business has more than 1,600 franchisee-owned ice-cream trucks

When I launched Kona Ice in 2007, I wanted to give families a better ice-cream truck experience after my 3-year-old daughter had an awful encounter with the ice cream man. The truck had smoke coming out of it, the driver wasn’t even wearing a shirt and to top it all off, my daughter’s ice cream was freezer-burned.

We became a fast-growing event-based business, with more than 1,600 franchisee-owned trucks in 49 states and Canada serving events of all kinds, from youth sports events to local festivals to farmers markets and more.

Ten successful years later, the COVID-19 pandemic brought all events and our business to a screeching halt. With government stay-in-place restrictions enacted by most states nationwide, nearly all events of every size were canceled or postponed.

Our franchise trucks, whose owners rely on the spring and summer months to earn their living, could no longer cater events. What were we going to do?

I was determined to find a way to keep our trucks operating while maintaining the safety of our customers and employees as our number one priority.

Then, Kurbside Kona was born.

We took our events business door-to-door, going from targeting large crowds to individual consumers.

In order to offer Kurbside Kona, we needed a technology upgrade. First, I found a low-cost app, and purchased it from its creators at a small restaurant business. We then tailored the app to fit the needs of Kona Ice, my franchisees and the consumer. Using the app, customers can order ahead and Kona Ice will deliver it right to their “kurb” at the scheduled delivery time, while following all local, state and federal guidelines.

Our franchisees also exceed the recommended cleaning protocol standards, with all our Kona trucks certified clean with Microshield360, an EPA-registered and FDA-approved two-step sanitation process that provides a continued level of protection from viruses, bacteria and mold.

Kurbside Kona has been a success thanks to the strength of the relationships we’ve built throughout the communities we serve. The franchisees participating in Kurbside are operating five to six days a week, averaging about 70 deliveries a day. It has helped sustain our business through the peak of the shutdowns, keeping Kona trucks running as more communities and states reopen and relax restrictions.

I launched Kona Ice to bring a better shaved ice experience to families, and throughout the pandemic we’ve stayed true to that mission. We will continue doing everything we can to deliver smiles, one Kona at a time, to all the communities we serve.

This article is part of our Stories from the Front Lines series.

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