"I like to call it 'experiencing ice cream enlightenment,'" Wicked Lick cofounder John Smotryski tells New Times. "And I hope it will soon be an experience Miami can enjoy, as well."
Wicked Lick is looking to break into the South Florida market by offering franchise opportunities. The brand is specifically eyeing Miami, searching for operators who are interested in bringing the concept to the area.
Founded in 2018 by Smotryski and Amanda Velazquez, Wicked Lick has made a name for itself by producing small-batch ice cream in unique flavors using liquid nitrogen.
"We started out like all the other liquid nitrogen ice cream shops, making every serving to order. We used refrigerated dispensers, and made every flavor on its own rather than having a base cream and pumping flavored syrup into it," said Smotryski. "We spent weeks coming up with unique flavors like coconut curry, chipotle chocolate, and "tarragon vanilla using only real dairy or coconut cream, cane sugar, and whatever natural ingredient to flavor the cream," he adds.
Today, Wicked Lick is best known for flavors like its "Keto-Mexican Vanilla" which uses monk fruit as a sweetener; a "PBJ" using a homemade mixed berry sauce and peanut butter ice cream, and the "Honey Mango" when fresh mangos are in season. The shop also makes its own waffle cones fresh daily, many of which are cut into eight-inch "chips" to create ice cream nachos.
According to Smotryski, the brand is among the first nitrogen ice cream shops to create its creamy treat in small batches, a process that uses nearly half the amount of liquid nitrogen and requires less time to serve their customers, translating into a successful business model that has fueled the brand’s growth.
Best of all, the idea was born from the pandemic.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, the couple decided to use the downtime to strengthen and refocus their brand and operations.
"When we reopened it was just me, Amanda, and her son. I often worked day and night alone and it was a lot physically and emotionally. It was difficult breaking down all our equipment every night and setting up every morning — especially when business was slow."
According to Smotryski, Wicked Lick had no choice but to adapt. Rather than hire more hands, he decided to change the procedure to make serving customers more efficient — saving time and money in the process.
"It took a crisis to realize it would be a lot more efficient to make half-gallon batches with the liquid nitrogen, keeping the bowls in an ice cream freezer, and serving it as a regular ice cream shop," said Smotryski. "We cut our liquid nitrogen use in half, and I didn’t need two to three employees to run the shop. We now have one to two on staff to serve our customers quicker than ever before."
I immediately thought: 'If You Don’t Lick It…Someone Else Will.' It was a little cheeky with the double entendre."
It was a move that has not only fueled Wicked Lick's growth but also served to cut operational costs, increasing the business's profit margins while using less liquid nitrogen.
And don't forget the shop's witty slogan.
"There was a restaurant in South Miami that has a sign in neon lights that said, 'If You Don’t Take Your Lady To George’s…Someone Else Will.' I immediately thought: 'If You Don’t Lick It…Someone Else Will.' It was a little cheeky with the double entendre."
Today, Smotryski says, Wicked Lick's T-shirts are top sellers — yet another source of revenue for the budding brand.
South Florida entrepreneurs interested in expanding the brand in their area can do so now. Wicked Lick is actively seeking single- and multi-unit franchise partners across the region with the goal of awarding as many as ten licenses by the end of the year. The ideal candidate should have previous business management experience and $211,500 to $341,200 in startup capital. Those interested can visit WickedLick.com/franchise for more information.
"We decided to start in South Florida because I know the area well," Smotryski sums up. "I was born in Miami, grew up in Sarasota, and have lived in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach. Most importantly, I want to be close to our first franchisees to better support them. It's all about success."