Gelatissimo started as a small store in Sydney’s west as Bravo, selling gelato primarily to restaurants and food service operators before becoming a retail business in 2002. What sustained it over the past 20 years is the fresh quality of the ice cream itself. Franchisees purchase and receive delivery of kits with the raw ingredients which are mixed with fresh milk and churned in store and ready to eat in less than half an hour.
“I think it’s unusual for a food retail brand to last 20 years in Australia,” says Lord. “We have always hung our shingles on the fact that we have a very high dedication to being able to produce great quality to last.”
But the pandemic, of course, has hit many retail and food outlets for a six. The ice cream, sold entirely in brick-and-mortar stores in high-traffic retail locations or tourist hotspots such as beaches, was no longer reaching stranded customers or tourists banned from entering the country. .
It’s part of what inspired Gelatissimo’s entry into supermarkets, with the ice cream now stocked at Coles. Putting it on shelves and in customers’ homes will help diversify revenue streams, build brand strength and encourage people to visit its stores.
It will take building brand strength if Lord is to achieve the goal of growing the number of stores from 42 to 100 and making Australian ice cream popular around the world. It’s already global, with 25 stores in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, the United States, India and the Philippines. By Christmas, Gelatissimo will open five more stores: Waikiki in Hawaii, Phuket in Thailand, another in Singapore and two others in Australia.
As the former chef, general manager, or general manager of 7-Eleven, Grill’d, and Baker’s Delight, Lord is aware of the pitfalls of the franchise’s business model. Previous investigations of this masthead revealed a brutal business pattern that involved systemic wage fraud at the nation’s largest food franchise operator, Retail Food Group, owner of Gloria Jeans, Donut King, Michel’s Patisserie, Crust Pizza and more Again.
In early 2019, a bipartisan report from a parliamentary inquiry into the $170 billion franchise industry called for a complete overhaul of Australia’s franchise system and called existing regulations “grossly flawed”.[ing]to deter misconduct and exploitative behavior.
“Where franchising can go wrong is that it loses the essence of what made the business successful from the start,” says Lord. It may seem like it’s growing too quickly without providing adequate support to franchisees, he says, or charging too much for ingredients, for example.
“If they focus too much on being able to make sure it’s profitable for the holding company instead of being incredibly profitable for the store, I think that’s where you get into the imbalance of the relationship.”
Lord thinks that’s part of Gelatissimo’s success: the business model itself rests on a reasonably solid foundation. “It was a question of ‘how can we improve this even more’, instead of ‘how can we fix this broken little business model’.”
As it seeks to win new customers, Gelatissimo will face the same economic headwinds as nearly any other business. Electricity, milk and sugar prices are rising, as are staff salaries. The tight labor market will make workers harder to find.
“I think [price increases are] unavoidable, unfortunately. But I see any future price increases would be far less than what we’ve needed to push our business over the last 12 months,” Lord says.
But despite rising inflation, interest rates and a likely slowdown in consumer spending, Lord is looking forward to the summer vacation period to get people out. It’s also the first in three years without any COVID restrictions, which means higher tourist numbers.
“For many families, it’s a good, affordable treat.”
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