Some of the gelaterie in Italy are gorgeous. Elegantly adorned with marble floors, showcases with elaborate wood finishings and displays that marvel the eye. The show how very seriously Italians regard their gelato. Others range from cozy to downright gaudy featuring bright, almost circus like colors, plastic chairs and brassy signs hardly showing the same finesse as their classy counterparts. All of these models, however, share a common denominator: they are accessible to everyone.
Italians didn’t need to study Consumer Propensity Reports to understand that a great product like gelato could sell itself. They realized early on that the only thing they needed to do was create the proper backdrop: a comfortable atmosphere for everyone. “Everyone” being the key word and the reason why there are 37,000 gelaterie in Italy effectively establishing gelato as an integral part of Italian gastronomic culture.
America is no stranger to positioning a product to the forefront. In fact, she is the real expert. Americans don’t need to read the Propensity Reports either, because they write them. So why in the world would anyone open a gelato shop for a ‘selective’ clientèle?! Even though most operators don’t actually set out to do this, it’s happening, and all too often.
While an essence of superiority is fine for the image of a product, it should never serve as creating an atmosphere of transcendency. This uptight ambiance makes some prospective clients feel uncomfortable and, in a worst case scenario, it’s intimidating. Besides being bad business, it’s unsociable and utterly un-American.
Successful American enterprise in any field is driven by customer care. Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz once said “Our stores have become a gathering and meeting place in addition to the coffee.” Love ’em or hate ’em, Starbucks owes its global expansion in great part to its aura. Less than thirty years ago in the USA, the only place where you could buy an espresso based beverage was in an Italian neighborhood or after a five course meal in a fine restaurant. Now, thanks to Starbucks’ philosophy, you can carry away a cappuccino from virtually any bottega or diner in North America. It’s up to you Gelaticians to do the same with another Italian delicacy and make it social, portable…and delicious!
Social starts from within. It means setting up a shop that is inviting to people; ALL people and at all hours of the day. Clients should be encouraged to spend time there. Odds are that the more time they spend in your shop, the more they will buy especially if you also offer standard items such as coffee or soda.
Having a social shop goes far beyond just having people stay longer. It will diversify your clientèle. Anyone who already spends time at a coffee shop is a potential customer…that’s a LOT of customers. And remember, social means that people meet in groups. Once your place is cozy or cool, depending on your geographic location, you’ve made an invitation to groups of friends to gather and chat, for parents to bring their kids for a healthy scrumptious snack or to teenagers who go after school to see and be seen.
If you have the space, invest in some partitions. They don’t have to be sound proof, of course, they’re just to offer a little privacy to mini groups. They are a symbol that your shop welcomes people who regularly meet in other similar environments. Many people regularly gather for business meetings in public places, college students have group meetings to discuss projects and everyone has to celebrate a birthday somewhere!
Finally, ‘social’ encompasses the most fundamental rule in the hospitality business: be hospitable!! Why invest so much time and money and then leave a miserable or, worse, indifferent person to be the first to greet your precious clientèle?!!? Being welcomed with a smile will make your great gelato seem even greater. So after you transform your shop into a social hotspot, spend some time training your staff to follow your company’s philosophy and turn them into to socialites!
Italy may be the birthplace of gelato but America has got the rights on takeout! Depending on where you are, the pace goes from frantic to frenzied. But even during the craziest of times, the busiest of people are grabbing a burger, coffee or pizza. These are the clients that choose their favorite product according to how fast they can get it and how easy it is to consume on the run.
Put your shop into the race and let people know that whether they want a cup, cone or container, they can get served fast. Make sure your staff is ready for the challenge. Even if there is a long line, if it’s moving, people will wait.
Plenty of napkins should always be easily accessible as should plastic spoons. If your clients have to shout over the line to get an extra spoon, it’s annoying. Leaving these items out during school children times could mean waste but business people usually come in at determined times of the day. When your take out business goes through the roof you’ll know those times like clockwork. So let everyone that passes your gelateria know you respect their time and that there is ALWAYS time for gelato!
As crazy as it sounds, some gelateria put more effort on creating architectural marvels in their tubs instead of assuring that their product is amazingly sublime. Aesthetics are important but it is unequivocally less important than FLAVOR. You can make your gelato look as fancy as can be but if it doesn’t taste great it’s not going to sell.
If you want to test the quality of your gelato, don’t call a marketing firm to organize a control group. Instead, invite ten preschoolers to your shop. Serve them their favorite flavors and observe their reactions. If anyone doesn’t finish, there may be a problem.
Even if your gelato is good, maybe it can be better. Don’t be complacent, ever. Just as chefs are constantly experimenting and taking advanced culinary courses to create great flavors so should gelaticians. When you taste test your gelato, do so while doing a paired tasting with the ingredient of its origin tasting the “raw” ingredient first. For example, eat high quality chocolate and then taste your chocolate gelato. Does the flavor of your gelato stand out? Or is it pale in comparison to the chocolate? If it’s the latter, you may need to intensify your flavors. Delicious
A Gelatician’s trademark is the ability to distinguish oneself from the others. The world of gelato allows every gelatician to be extraordinary as everyone has his or her own style. The principle component of having a great gelateria is the availability of deep, exquisite flavors. So whether your gelato is social in your 100 seat gelateria or portable in your kiosk in the mall, make totally sure it is always DELICIOUS!!!