Bringing old school ice cream vans to Dubai

Meet the brothers behind UAE-born brand Desert Chill


When English entrepreneur Dan Furlong noticed there were no ice-cream vans during a trip to the Rugby Sevens tournament in the UAE, he had a brainwave. Inspired by this cooling gap in the market and with the help of his brother Nathen, the duo launched Desert Chill in 2008. The company now runs a fleet of seven ice-cream vans which operate in the UAE (in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain) as well as delivering
ice-cream on request through a slew of social media channels.

In Dubai, you’ll spot Desert Chill’s vans touring the suburbs, with areas such as Arabian Ranches, The Meadows and Palm Jumeirah on the schedule. Due to launch at the beginning of October, the Furlong brothers have now introduced an extra string to Desert Chill’s bow, with the introduction of a new ice-cream delivery app, available free on Android, Blackberry and iPhone.

Ahead of this news, we speak to one of the Desert Chill brothers, co-founder Nathen Furlong, to find out more about their mobile ice-cream concept.

How did you come up with the name Desert Chill?
We liked the idea and notion of ‘chilling’ or ‘cooling’ in the intensity of the desert heat and wanted to have a culturally sensitive brand to build on, so we felt good about Desert Chill.

Did you encounter challenges when setting up the concept in the UAE?
There are always difficulties in trying to create a new concept, especially when the trade bracket doesn’t exist. With that said, the government is very proactive and forward-thinking, and so it worked with us as diligently as possible in order to implement a change that fitted with its overall vision for the [UAE].

How can people spot your vans?
Our fleet is mainly Mercedes vehicles and we build them using specific partners. The van is pink and blue for a reason. We wanted to be bold and decided to put a modern feel to the old classic. The vehicles stand out on the road and the colours appeal to children who make up a large portion of our customer base. In addition, pink and blue screams fun.

How did you decide where to visit on your regular weekly routes?
We did this the same way we built the whole business. Dan and I got in the vans and drove them ourselves to network and learn.

How can people track you down?
We are not the conventional ice-cream van and operate largely on the demand we have created. We are very accessible though, and can be reached and ordered from Facebook, Twitter, BBM and soon, the new smartphone app.

What ice-cream do you sell, do you have Mr Whippy and 99s?
We sell a lot of the retro classics, ranging from Cornettos and Magnums to Callippos and Twisters. We have a variation of the 99 with a Flake, and there will be some more exciting developments coming soon.

Has anybody tried copying you?
We are aware of a presence. But to be honest with you, it kind of goes with the territory of getting in first with our concept. But we think it’s about staying true to what we do, and the level of customer service and accessibility that we provide, that makes us that little bit different.
Desert Chill, (050 612 2108).

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