IT’S fair to say operators are forever in search of up-selling opportunities that can bolster profits, especially when it comes to food.
Arguably, offering a comprehensive desserts range can be a clever way to do just that.
Niall Deveney of wholesaler Dunns Food & Drinks told SLTN that ice cream and desserts “are a great sales opportunity for the licensed trade, particularly as we head towards the summer months”.
“More broadly though, [desserts] are a great way to keep customers hanging around a venue for longer, and increasing their overall spend, whilst having a strong [dessert] offering could also help to draw in the lucrative family market,” said Deveney.
Echoing this view, Lorna Allison of Brakes Scotland said ice cream and desserts are “a massive area for sales – in fact I’d recommend chefs [and operators] focus on selling desserts if they want to increase their [profits]”.
Similarly, Paolo Veneroni, director of sales, Scotland, at specialist importer and distributor Continental Quattro Stagioni (CQS), said consumers “are keen to treat themselves when dining out and look for new and exciting dishes”.
For example, Veneroni reckons that including desserts from other countries can “add interest to a menu”, including the likes of Italian gelato and Sicilian pastries, which he said are “in high demand”.
He added that there are various trends operators should be aware of when it comes to desserts.
“Providing gluten-free options should be a priority and consumers also expect to see some low-calorie desserts on the menu for those days when they want more of a guilt-free treat,” said Veneroni.
Reinforcing this stance, Gordon Lauder, managing director of frozen food distributor, Central Foods, said free-from is currently one of the biggest trends in foodservice, meaning there is a wealth of options for operators looking to cater to a wide range of customers.
He said: “Demand for free-from desserts has been rising for some time, and as a result there are lots of sweet treats available for foodservice, which are perfect for those with dietary requirements.”
Allison of Brakes Scotland agreed, stating that the vegan-friendly and gluten-free desserts that Brakes offers “are delicious and on a blind taste test you would not be able to tell the difference”.
And operators should consider offering reduced portions of desserts in order to cater to consumers looking for lower-calorie options, according to Anna Sentance of Belgian chocolate brand, Callebaut.
She said: “Rather than offering customers large individual dishes, consider desserts that the whole family or a group of friends can share.”
Beyond tapping into trends, operators must ensure that quality remains at the fore of any dessert offer – especially when it comes to the basics, such as ice cream, according to Sally Newall, managing director at Simply Ice Cream.
She said: “It’s really important if you have a quality dessert you don’t spoil it with a substandard ice cream, which will melt into a watery mess on the plate.
“It’s always better to serve a quality, handmade ice cream with a handmade dessert.”
Newall added that the variety of flavours of ice cream “has become so diverse and extravagant that it is no longer viewed as an accompaniment to the dessert – but actually stands alone as a dessert in its own right”.
Allison of Brakes Scotland agreed, adding: “A good dessert menu has to offer a branded ice cream or ice cream [made] in-house by the chefs.
“A well-known Scottish ice cream can in itself double your dessert sales.”
Taking a similar stance, Scott Duncan of Carpigiani UK said ice cream can be a healthy profit generator.
He said: “Quick and simple to produce, available in a choice of flavours, freshly-produced, soft-serve ice cream commands excellent profit margins and can really help to grow a business’s revenue – and maximise profits through dessert sales.”
And quality ice cream needn’t be time consuming, according to Paul Siouville, Buffalo brand manager for catering equipment firm Nisbets. He said: “Despite the perception that this is time-consuming, with the right piece of equipment, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“With the commercial grade Buffalo Ice Cream Maker from Nisbets, operators can easily produce two litres of freshly-made ice cream to tempt customers in less than 30 minutes.”
Social media is also crucial to a successful desserts offer, reckons Marie-Emmanuelle Chessé of patisserie specialist, Tipiak. She said: “Showcase the desserts in an eye-catching fashion. Not only will this prove tempting to diners, photos of the display are likely to be shared on social media, which could help to attract new customers.”