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Gelato

Going Big on Traditional Fare

Mr. Philippo Hardegger’s firm, Casa Italia, has expanded it’s offerings beyond gelato to include Italian coffee and pizza made with traditional methods, which will help franchisees generate steady sales throughout the day.

Some firms try to reinvent the wheel, but Mr. Philippo Hardegger intends to develop a stand-out brand by doing things the old-fashioned way.
The founder of home-grown gelato franchise Gelateria Italia has renamed the company Casa Italia, and expanded its offerings to include Italian coffee and pizza, all made with traditional methods at the company’s Jurong factory.

The company’s new name translates into “Italian borne”. “We want to make everything—coffee, pizza, gelato—the way people did in the old days… We are very particular about being traditional,” said Mr. Hardegger, 44, who is Swiss-born but of Italian descent.

His great-grandfather was a gelato-maker in Florence, but the art of making the Italian treat was not carried on in the family after the store closed and his family moved to Switzerland—until this revival in the tropics.

So strong is the firm’s belief in authenticity that it has developed its own in-house coffee brand, Coffee Otto.

“Otto” means eight in Italian, reflecting the company’s commitment to serve the coffee within eight weeks of roasting it.

“Other brands serve coffee roated overseas, ofthen more than six months ago… Coffee loses flavour over time, and so much of a good coffee is about the freshness,” said Mr. Hardegger. “We roast our coffee in Jurong, in the traditional Venetian way.”

Casa Italia’s broader range of offerings will help franchisees generate steady sales throughout the day, compared with an outlet selling only gelato, he said.

The franchising model has driven the company’s growth in Singapore—22 of its 24 stores are franchises.

Two of these – at City Square Mall and 112 Katong – are newly set-up outlets under the Casa Italia brand.

Two more Casa Italia outlets will be opening next year at Chinatown Point and Clarke Quay.

The company will progressively rebrand its existing Gelateria Italia outlets into Casa Italia ones in the coming months.

Existing franchisees are being given the option to widen their offerings to include coffee and pizza, though some are opting not to owning to the renovation costs and larger store space required.

The firm is undergoing a “transition period” and does not yet have estimates of how much the rebrancling effirt will boost sales, Mr. Hardegger said.

However, there have been encouraging signs – he said sales at Casa Italia’s outlet at 122 Katong are 300 percent higher than that of the previous tenant, a well-known coffee chain.

Mr. Hardegger has ambitious plans for the brand’s growth both in Singapore and the region, and aims to open the 100th Casa Italia store by the end of next year.

“Our company structure is made for many more stores than we currently operate… We want to become a global brand,” he said, adding that the firm also hopes to launch an initial public offering in six to eight years.

There are plans to set up franchises in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. The company also wants to be in the Korean, Japanese and American markets.

The firm’s management has a strong background in franchising and the company intends to continue growing via that route, said Mr. Hardegger, who has lived here with his family for four years.

“Running store operations requires different expertise from supplying franchisees and helping them get their business off the ground,” he said.