Covid-19 : il Gelato Naturale nel 2020 a Shangai

INTERVIEWED: Gerard Low, chef owner of Gelato Dal Cuore in Shanghai, China

WHAT WAS 2020 LIKE?

Like a rollercoaster ride, full of uncertainties and surprises.

We were attending SIGEP 2020, where we got to meet lovely people of Gelato Naturale Academy, Manuele and Brigitte. I was lucky I could enrol in their gelato courses while in Italy at that time. It was a turning point for me as a gelato chef, and for Dal Cuore.

Then news of Covid broke around the world for the worst. Bars, restaurants, cafes in Shanghai, including our shop, were locked up by the authorities and not allowed to open. Many flights from Italy back to China were cancelled. I could only return to Singapore from Italy and hope for the better.

Thankfully in March, the Chinese authorities allowed shops to reopen, but with restrictions.

WHAT RESTRICTIONS WERE/ARE THERE?

No dining in, takeaway and deliveries only;
Temperature checks for all staff and guests;
Staff have to wear mask.

These restrictions were relaxed in early May. However, everyone is still have to wear mask when out.

WHAT HELP DID YOU GET FROM THE GOVERNMENT?

Tax breaks;
2 months free rental assistance as we were on government property;
Delayed payment of social insurance for staff.

Business was slow at the beginning. With most people stuck at home, engaging customers on social media played a crucial part.

Invested in a membership database. We have now 25,000 customers in our database.
WeChat official account to provide news updates, discount vouchers to encourage purchase.

Thankfully by summer, life had returned to normal. We had the busiest summer ever, making over a tonne of gelato by hand every month. Many customers loved our gelato and thought it had improved over the previous year.

INNOVATION/WHAT DID WE CREATE?

In autumn, we partnered with swedish oat milk brand, oatly, and developed “oatly earth” – a vegan coconut matcha gelato. It was our most successful product to date. Customers loved that it was photogenic and they loved the message behind it – “sustainable living”.

Since dal cuore is based in shanghai, we also created shanghai scallion oil noodle gelato as a tribute to the local iconic noodle dish. It’s a gelato consisting scallion infused brown butter, soy sauce, cream, and crispy scallion, noodles for topping. The gelato was a hit, and it got many talking about it on social media. More people came to know about us.

We had just finished our Christmas market which ran from 4th to 27th December. This month had officially been our busiest month to date. I will remember the times we had to make gelato till 7am, 4am and 1am for consecutive days. It was tiring but rewarding.

We almost doubled our sales this year, as we observed people travelling less and spending more within the country, especially on high quality goods and services to feel good.

NEWS FOR 2021

2021 will be about building on the brand, scaling up the business with a second outlet, and growth into the online retail space. We plan to visit potential factories, learn what is needed in terms of logistics, sales and distribution. Ultimately, we hope we can serve everyone in the country with premium gelato made only from natural ingredients.

END HAPPY NEW YEAR

Happy new year everyone and all the best for 2021!

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