In general, people looking to open a gelateria are passionate about the sector and moved by the desire to do something creative. That said, like any other business scheme, opening up a gelato shop means taking on an entrepreneurial risk, given that the initial investment can be quite substantial.
Before you can become a gelato entrepreneur, though, you’ll need to learn all about how to prepare gelato, the machinery to use, the ingredients and regulations, and to have a pretty clear idea of the best marketing strategies to adopt. Italy has number of different schools offering training and refresher courses for future gelato makers and professionals.
Once you’re sure you have a proper grounding in terms of knowhow and skills, then go ahead and draw up a business plan – a document where you plan each step you need to take to open your point of sale. The business plan will make it clearer what investments are needed: include the rental or purchase of your premises and machinery, display cases, ingredients and equipment in general, the cost of manpower and processing carried out by third parties, and even utility costs such as electricity. Drawing up a comprehensive business plan that includes the main expense categories is also helpful when it comes to asking your bank for a loan to fund your new start-up.
What kind of gelato shop are you thinking of opening? The hand-crafted gelato market is very competitive, and if you’re going to make a name for yourself, you’re going to need not only a good high-quality product, but you’ll have to innovate, surprise the customer, and offer products with variety. Have you considered selling other pastry products alongside your gelato, or opening a café in your shop? Even though gelato is increasingly becoming a year-round product, variety is a way of making sure that you carry on selling without worrying about seasonal peaks and troughs. If you’re unable to expand your business, you can join forces with another entrepreneur and form a partnership.
One of your most important decisions is where to open your point of sale. First of all, you’ll need to take your surroundings into account: pedestrian precincts or shopping streets mean plenty of customers passing your front door, and of course gelato is very much regarded as an impulse buy. If you’re looking to open a gelato shop where your customers can sit down to eat, and not just take away, easy parking in the vicinity is a big plus. A city-centre gelato shop can command higher prices, while a point of sale on the outskirts has to adjust its prices to the income of the neighbourhood's residents, who may well be less well-off, though rents will be cheaper.
Once you’ve decided on the area and the type of gelato parlour, the next step is to find out all about the machinery you’ll need to purchase. Italy is the world leader in the manufacture of gelato machinery, which it exports all over the world. Of course you’ll be needing a showcase in which to keep and display your gelato, pasteurizers and batch freezers for production, worktops, spatulas and trays.
Spending time over selecting the right ingredients is also essential if you want to get a good product: both fresh and compound ingredients must be purchased with the utmost care. Specialist companies make excellent quality products for all sorts of customers, which explains why compound ingredients are becoming increasingly successful. Designed to help with such practical issues as keeping raw materials in optimum condition, reducing preparation times, guaranteeing cleanliness, as well as their excellent binding qualities, they are used by many gelato artisans.
The last tip is to develop and maintain relations with industry professionals. Time spent around associations, schools and future colleagues will enable you to acquire unique knowledge and treasure the experience of other people who have taken on the challenge that is the hand-crafted gelato market.
Download our Guide WORKING WITH PASSION. A guide to opening a Gelato Shop or making Gelato in you Coffee Shop, Pastry Shop or Restaurant, to discover how to open your own ice cream parlour.