Gelatissimo brings flavour back to an old brand ‘caught in a time warp’

Gelatissimo started out as a small shop in Sydney West under the name Bravo, selling ice cream primarily to restaurants and food service operators before becoming a retail business in 2002. What has sustained it for the last 20 years has been the fresh quality of the ice cream itself. Franchisees buy and receive a delivery of kits with the raw ingredients that are mixed with fresh milk and churned at the store and are 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,” Lord says. “We always build on the fact that we have a great devotion to being able to produce great quality that will last.”

Gelatissimo introduces three new flavors each month on its rotating menu.Credit:edwin pickles

But the pandemic has, of course, knocked many retail and food outlets down by a six. The ice cream, sold entirely through brick-and-mortar stores in high-traffic retail locations or tourist hotspots like beaches, was no longer reaching customers on lockdown or tourists barred from entering the country.

It’s part of what inspired Gelatissimo’s entry into supermarkets, with the gelato now stocked at Coles. Being on shelves and in people’s homes will help diversify revenue streams as well as reinforce the brand and encourage people to visit your stores.

Boosting the strength of the brand will be necessary if Lord is to achieve the goal of increasing the number of stores from 42 to 100 and making Australian ice cream popular around the world. It is already global, with 25 stores in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, USA, India and the Philippines. Between now and Christmas, Gelatissimo will open five more stores: Waikiki in Hawaii, Phuket in Thailand, another in Singapore and two more in Australia.

Charging

As the former head, general manager or managing director of 7-Eleven, Grill’d and Baker’s Delight, Lord is well aware of the pitfalls of the franchise business model. Previous investigations by this headline revealed a brutal business model involving 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.

In early 2019, a bipartisan report from a parliamentary inquiry into the $170bn franchise sector called for a total overhaul of Australia’s franchise system and criticized existing regulation as “manifestly flawed”.[ing]” to deter misconduct and exploitative behavior.

“Where franchises can go wrong is that they lose the essence of what made the business successful in the first place,” says Lord. This may seem like too-fast growth without ensuring adequate support for franchisees, he says, or charging too much for ingredients, for example.

“If they’re focusing too much on being able to ensure it’s profitable for the holding company instead of being incredibly profitable for the store, I think that’s where the relationship imbalance ends.”

Lord believes this is part of Gelatissimo’s success: the business model itself is built on a reasonably strong foundation. “It was a question of ‘how do we make that even better’, rather than ‘how do we fix this little broken business model’.”

Charging

As it seeks to win over new customers, Gelatissimo will face the same financial hurdles as almost every other business. Prices for electricity, milk and sugar are rising, as are staff salaries. The tight labor market will make it more difficult to find workers.

“I think [price increases are] unavoidable, unfortunately. But I do see that any future price increase would be much less than what we have needed to get through our business in the last 12 months,” says Lord.

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. He is also the first in three years without COVID restrictions, which means a higher number of tourists.

“For many families, this is a nice and affordable gift.”

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