Gelatissimo bets on a hyperlocal approach to reignite int'l growth

CEO Filipe Barbosa also teased a delivery-related project and explained why they're taking their time with selecting master franchisees.

A hyperlocalized approach — offering assortments and collaborations based on a more local or personal level — will play a large role in Gelatissimo’s reignited international growth plans, which will resume in the United States.

The gelato chain is opening a store in Houston in June, seeing the state as one of fastest growing franchise markets in the country. This will be accompanied by a Tastes of Houston range.

“There is no doubt we want to provide our customers with [a] unique and personalised experience,” chief executive Filipe Barbosa told QSR Media. “Apart from our local partnership for flavour collaborations, tailoring our offering and marketing to the Houston market is something we have been very conscious of — right down to our tone of voice.”

Gelatissimo is also opening a corporate store in Hawaii’s Waikiki area this September, which Barbosa said was “obvious” for the brand to enter into. The two locations are part of ten international sites aimed to open before the end of 2022.

“Hawaii is an iconic global destination where people go to have fun in the sun and hang out and we think that our brand is a good match [for] this vibe. Who doesn’t want gelato on a lazy summer holiday?” he said.

Both sites will serve as a means for the brand to be seen as a credible franchisor in the country, Barbosa noted.

“We have [been] working hard on franchise recruitment for priority markets in the USA for a while now. Having a couple of stores trading in the market will hopefully give us momentum to open more stores and give high calibre potential master franchisees the confidence to commit to jumping on board and being part of our growth story,” he explained.

Suburban locations eyed
‘Keeping it local’ is also the plan for Singapore, which they are looking to grow upon seeing “some signs of a retail rebound.” Sites eyed in the Lion City and in other markets will be those that “have more of a local, suburban feel,” Barbosa said.

In contrast, the executive also expects some of their international markets to not grow at all this year, as they are focused on “riding out some very tough conditions.”

Selecting the right franchise partners was not altered by the pandemic, Barbosa said, arguing that it even highlighted the importance of it.

“When times are tough, we want the right partners by our side who are committed to fighting the good fight because we are in it together for the long haul,” he said. “Opening a new country or market within the USA is a huge venture which requires patience, persistence, the capability, and the required financial resources to commit to a long-term plan. This is not for the faint hearted, so all these elements need to be there.”

QLD to play big role in domestic growth
Domestically, Gelatissimo also intends to open ten sites, expecting QLD to play a big role.

“There is plenty of space to grow our footprint across Australia which is exciting...Queensland will be a big part of our expansion as it ticks the boxes of sunshine and leisure. We are targeting areas like Brisbane and the Gold Coast for these reasons, but equally destinations like Harvey Bay and Far North Queensland have appeal as we love to be the local player in these towns.”

Opportunities are also seen in Sydney and regional areas in NSW.

“Ultimately though, what makes a deal right for us is the combination of a great site and a fantastic franchisee. Where this combination exists and it feels right, I think we would move forward,” he added.

Whilst confident of the brand’s presence in Australia, Barbosa cited COVID having “shaken up the marketplace”, making them think again about expansion. The business itself is seeing a return to pre-COVID figures on average, further encouraging them to take this step, Barbosa said.

“There are positive signs from a leasing perspective with landlords and tenants working together to achieve more favourable outcomes that otherwise might have been on the table before COVID, so we are looking at the leasing side of the business more favourably,” he explained.

“COVID has had many people question what they want out of their professional and personal life. People are looking for more control and franchising offers a way to own your own business, be your own boss and build something meaningful over time.The intersection of these two trends makes it a good time for us to start thinking about proactive growth.”

Barbosa also teased upcoming updates on the chain’s store designs and revealed that the business is also working on a delivery-related project.

“We are doing some work around what the store of the future looks like which is exciting,”he said...We are working on delivery as a project within our business, from a profitability, revenue and operational excellence perspective.”

“The tech in this space is moving quickly, with aggregators, various ordering and payment solutions and the ability to leverage loyalty and personalise the customer experience. We are definitely asking questions around the way in which technology can better help us to engage with our customers and provide us with real time data and insights,” he said.

“If we can really nail our entry into the USA and set up for subsequent expansion, grow our footprint in Australia and support our existing international network to rebound from COVID with the view to getting conditions right for growth, that would be a very successful year for us. We want to be realistic about growth rather than growing just for the sake of it,” Barbosa concluded.

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