Desserts: Frozen treats

Gelato’s exclusivity makes for a customer favorite frozen treat.

Published in FSD Update


Colorado State’s gelato offerings. 

There’s growing customer awareness for gelato. Yet, despite its popularity, there remains an exclusivity element that bolsters sales since it’s not available everywhere. Bryan Varin, associate director of meal plan operations at the University of Georgia, in Athens, knew he wanted an elite menu when he opened a new small dining commons named Niche. Gelato, because of its upscale reputation, helped him achieve this goal. Though the facility seats only 100, and gelato is served only during lunch, Niche has gone through nearly 4,500 quarts of gelato in just two semesters. “It’s evident that the product is very popular—in fact, though our meal plan is unlimited, when we analyze inventory, usage and customer feedback, we know gelato is a customer favorite,” Varin says.

In addition to being upscale, gelato gives operators a way to offer an authentic ethnic treat. Gail Lozoff, a partner in SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza, which has been contracted by Sodexo to open at the University of Central Missouri, in Warrensburg, serves 30 flavors of gelato. “We are a pizzeria serving authentic Neapolitan-style pizza, [and since] gelato is authentic Italian ice cream, it not only matches our brand, it allows us to offer a rotating selection of flavors that keeps the menu fresh with unexpected new choices,” Lozoff says. Gourmet mix-ins including California blood oranges, Michigan sugar and Ecuadorian cocoa beans are available. 

Damien Franczek, general manager of Aravalli at the Devon Energy Center, a Guckenhiemer-managed account in Oklahoma City, has also found gelato success. Aravalli offers nine flavors (including chocolate, espresso, stracciatella and orange dreamsicle). The impetus for serving gelato was the Illy coffee poured in the shop. “We decided to feature other true tastes of Europe and Italy, and now offer gelato every day,” he says. Franczek spins the sweet treat into other frozen delights, like gelato cookie sandwiches, shakes, pies and affogato. It’s a great way to keep things fresh and minimize waste from overrun, he adds.

For Peter Testory, assistant director of support and culinary operations at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, the reverse occurred. After his milkshake program became extremely popular, Testory decided to make his own product using gelato to achieve a “better quality end result.” Sales skyrocketed from 400 milkshakes per day to 700, nearly 60% of which are made with gelato. Now Testory offers eight flavors of gelato every day, in addition to three rotating specialty flavors. “The sales of gelato far surpass the sales of the other ice cream options,” Testory says. “This past school year we sold 20,854 gelato items compared to 6,192 ice cream products.”


When it comes to gelato, there’s an array of sourcing options. You can buy premade, ready-to-serve gelato or you can purchase a base like Testory does. “We use this product for consistency purposes—it gives us the necessary ingredients to obtain the proper texture, structure, freezing and melting point—and it helps eliminate some of the additional ingredients such as glucose, dextrose and milk powder that need to be measured every time,” Testory says.

Finally, you can make the base from scratch like Franczek does. “We use the very best ingredients, including cage-free eggs, fresh fruit, premium chocolate and pure vanilla bean paste from Madagascar,” he notes. Franczek makes three housemade bases (crema, chocolate and espresso) that can be made into many variations. 

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