Gelatissimo CEO talks US expansion strategy, executive appointments and brand new recruitment website

By Sarah Stowe | 16 Apr 2021 View comments

News that the Aussie gelato sensation Gelatissimo is expanding its overseas operations into the US comes as the home-grown brand plans another 10 stores for the domestic market.

Here Gelatissimo CEO Filipe Barbosa reveals more about the expansion plans, the addition of two key executives to help drive global growth, and the launch of a brand new recruitment website.

Inside Franchise Business Executive: These are exciting times. You’re planning 10 more stores globally and another 10 new outlets for Australia – where are the key Australian locations?

Filipe Barbosa: There is plenty of space to grow which is exciting. We envision that 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, but equally destinations like Hervey Bay have appeal.

There is plenty of opportunity across the board however, and what makes a deal right for us is the combination of a great site and a fantastic franchisee.

It is exciting times; we are proud to say that whilst the past year wasn’t easy, we are seeing results in the past couple of months that are showing growth on pre-Covid numbers and have spent time building the platform for growth. We feel like now is the right time to expand into the US and into key locations around Australia.

IFBE: What lessons have been learned from your expansion into Asia?

FB: Plenty but if there is one that is more important than any other, it’s to be working with franchise partners that share our values.

Another is to work proactively and openly with our partners to make them successful. Growth is ultimately a function of successful retail outlets and we are getting pretty hands on and adding value as much as we can to ensure that all our markets are ultimately a success.

Each market is different, so we need to understand these differences and support our partners to respond.

IFBE: Gelatissimo US expansion – why choose Houston and Hawaii as your first locations?

FB: Texas was earmarked from the outset as one of the priority markets due to its size and our ability to attract an incredible master franchise partner. Ultimately, the alignment that our partners Simon Stankevicius and Phanary Hok have to our brand and our values made it a no brainer.

We have been searching for our initial flagship store in Houston for the past six months and we think that Baybrook Mall, located in a middle-class suburb with a great entertainment and strolling precinct is a great choice.

Hawaii was an easy choice as it ticks all our boxes: tourism, sunshine, leisure, and proximity to Australia. We have been working on securing a site along the main strip of Kalakaua Ave, in Waikiki for the past two years and we are nearly there.

All going well, we will be opening in the third quarter of 2021. We will operate Hawaii as a company owned store which will be a great little sibling to the Houston flagship.

IFBE: How will the US stores be different from the Gelatissimo we all know?  

FB: To win in the US, we don’t think you can look at it is one homogeneous market. What customers love in Texas may be very different to Hawaii, so we need to be hyper-localised to succeed.

We are looking forward to having some fun with this. While core brand elements will remain the same, we have developed some amazing, localised flavours and local collaborations.

Our tastes of Houston range for example, showcases a collaboration with Yellow Rose Distilling, a local Texas distillery. We want to nail it and provide an authentic experience.

Some things just don’t change though; we want to bring people together from communities around the US to experience our amazing gelato made fresh every day in store.

IFBE: Kerri Wane recently joined Gelatissimo as general manager for international business. What does she bring to the business?  

FB: Kerri has worked and lived abroad extensively. She has great experience in larger systems with brands who have mastered the international stage like Domino’s but has equally learned to roll up her sleeves in Australia working with brands who have ambitions to grow internationally.

Both sides will be needed as we look to launch in the US, grow our existing markets and continue to build the platform for future growth.

We believe we need to be a great retail business and Kerri brings capability and leadership to our business in areas where we are looking to improve quickly, like in retailing, franchising, retail technology, strategy, and network engagement. She also is passionate about our brand and ultimately, we both thought that the fit was right.

IFBE: What exactly will Bruce Rosengarten’s role be in the international development?

FB: Bruce sits on several boards and has executive experience from his time at Shell, Caltex, and Weightwatchers so we expect that Bruce will be a strong contributor to our future growth domestically and internationally from a governance, strategic, retail and brand perspective.

As an independent member of our board, Bruce challenges us constantly and brings a fresh perspective which is different to the way we have traditionally seen things. This is a plus for us and can only make us better.

We want to learn from the best and avoid the mistakes that other brands have made as we grow, so it’s great to have Bruce’s guidance.

IFBE: Can you tell us a little about the new recruitment website? 

FB: We launched our new franchise recruitment website in April and began planning for this in January.

We have a strong franchising offering; reasonable entry points, a fun brand, and the ability to entertain partial financing for great candidates. We wanted to do justice to this by giving franchising its own space and put Gelatissimo in the best position to attract incredible franchisees.

The decision to join the Gelatissimo family as a franchisee is a big life and investment choice and we want to support people with the right information upfront in a way which reflects our values and brand.

One thing that is more important than ever, is to be working with franchise partners who share our values. Success come down to every store performing well and our franchisees as leaders of their store play a huge role in that success.