Rise of the Sweet Stuff: Lessons From the Dessert Experts

Goodman Fielder Food Service
Rise of the Sweet Stuff: Lessons From the Dessert Experts

Rise of the Sweet Stuff: Lessons From the Dessert Experts

Posted on 8th June 2021
Dessert is on the rise! We discussed the after dinner market with some of Australia’s best and up-and-coming after dinner venues to get some tips on how to make dessert a major success factor for your business.

Summary

With the ever increasing popularity of dessert, ice cream and pastry consumption in Australia, restaurants are expanding their offerings with new creative desserts!

Between its Nutella Balls, kooky gelato and decadent pretzel encrusted milkshakes, Australia is fast becoming a sweet paradise. While customers are still chasing kale and quinoa, the desire for a cheat day that is filled with sugar is still well and truly there.

So, when did customers develop their serious sweet tooth? Is it because it is broadcasted across TV with reality series like Zumbo? Or is it simply because they develop a sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when they see a tasty delight pop up on their social media accounts? We’ve spoken to some of Australia’s best and most popular dessert-focused venues to get some tips on how to make dessert a major success factor for your business.

Knafeh Bakey and My Sweet Boutique

|Image| Jerusalem street food phenomenon, Knafeh Bakery and My Sweet Boutique – Sydney’s freshly baked waffle pop-up food truck.

Firstly, let’s look at the stats…

Over the years, the sweet sector in Australia has become resilient and innovative because of its willingness to adapt and shift with consumer demands. Specialty stores appear to be more successful than their cafe equivalents if they position themselves as a premium quality experience, with well-known brands available for purchase.

According to recent reports, the Australian ice cream industry revenue is forecast to reach US$846 million in 2019, with the market is expected to grow annually by 1.6% between 2019-23. This is good news for the gelato chain Australia loves to love, Gelato Messina.

Gelato Messina has been delighting the public with its quirky frozen creations for 17 years and now have 40 flavours on offer. “We’ve definitely seen a rise in dessert culture, firstly in Sydney and now we’re very much seeing the same in Melbourne,” company spokesperson, Dana Newman told Goodman Fielder Food Service.

Make a dessert that customers can identify you by:

The rise in the quality, experimentation and wow-factor sweet treats has seen dessert become a stand-alone menu item, rather than another dish tacked onto the end of a meal. Restaurants that have focused on doing one dessert well have become some of the liveliest destinations for food and a good time.

“There’s such consumer curiosity in the food market and the press have really stepped up coverage on desserts,” Ms Newman explained. “People want to explore and taste trending desserts. Plus, the influx of top chefs creating new, press-worthy items has helped raise the profile even further.”

Renowned chef Peter Gilmore is known for acing the brief of press-friendly desserts thanks to his popular Snow Egg creation at Quay in Sydney. The Snow Egg features a toffee-crusted poached meringue with an ice cream centre that is placed on a bed of granita and fruit-flavoured cream. Since it appeared on the restaurant’s menu 10 years ago, the dessert has gained a cult-following and is now recognised as an iconic Australian dessert.

It’s okay to offer just one dessert:

Jerusalem street food phenomenon Knafeh Bakery is a case in point. Their team of Bearded Bakers have taken a single dessert – their mother’s own recipe – and a decked out shipping container and turned the combination into the party that everyone wants to join. And best of all, whenever the music is pumping, customers instantly recognise their brand and offering.

Knafeh Tarts

“When we launched Knafeh, we wanted to make sure we had a point of difference, so we chose to stick to just having the one dessert menu item,” owner Joey El-Issa told Goodman Fielder Food Service. “We wanted to do one thing, and do it really well. People just come in and tell us how many they want and they get to have a great time while they wait for their knafeh.”

And it’s evident people want a lot of the Mr El-Issa’s knafeh, a Middle Eastern sweet cheese dessert, topped with pistachios and drizzled with sugar syrup. After just one year, the business expanded with two more shipping containers unleashed on the public in Melbourne and New York.

Make dessert its own experience:

Mr El-Issa said part of the appeal of the Knafeh Bakery is that it taps into the public’s passion for street food and the festival-like excitement that’s associated with that movement. “The street food market is still a fairly niche market in Australia,” he said. “We really wanted to tap into a new market, which was the after dinner market. We found the options in Sydney were limited for entertainment and dessert as a destination in itself, so we set about creating a destination to fill that gap.”

Like many food trucks, the Knafeh Bakery pops up in different locations around Sydney, but unlike most food trucks, it doesn’t gravitate towards touristy spots, festivals or even high-traffic areas. The Bearded Bakers set up camp off the beaten track and the party comes to them; proof that customers value a great product and a dining experience that’s marked with a sense of humour.

It’s a sentiment shared by Elisabeth Amalfi, owner of Sydney’s My Sweet Boutique. The food truck made waffles hip again with its personalised Smashed Waffle Jars (TM) and sweet and savoury waffle “slabs and sliders”. Topped with salty caramel sauce, banana and popcorn or smashed with Nutella, strawberries and vanilla bean ice cream, these are waffles customers are lining up for.

Waffle Jar

For the caterers and mobile operators… location matters:

Like the Bearded Bakers, Mrs Amalfi knows a thing or two about location. My Sweet Boutique is a popup, setting up shop in areas for at least three months at a time. “Sometimes the lure of the popup dessert bar is about the excitement of chasing the truck, but for us, it’s about choosing the right location and every location has a unique vibe,” Mrs Amalfi explained to Goodman Fielder Food Service.

Even Gelato Messina, a business with 19 stores across Australia, has acknowledged the pulling power of meals on wheels with the introduction of their Messinamobile cart, as well as delivery services via Deliveroo. “We really wanted to own a gelato van so we bought a vintage Citroen and have converted it to house a soft serve machine and freezer,” said Ms Newman. “It gives us [Gelato Messina] an extra way to reach our customers in areas where we don’t have stores. The wheels are pretty handy.”

Make your desserts social media ready:

Of course, with any roving kitchen, communication with your followers is key and Gelato Messina, My Sweet Boutique and Knafeh Bakery have all mastered the art of social media. They’re a great example of modern restaurateurs who understand that they need to be food experts, as well as PR managers at their tables and online.

Mrs Amalfi said her clients are looking for a unique experience as much as a sugar high.

“My customers love that their names are on their waffle jars, they love to take photos of their treats and share them with their friends on social media,” she said. “Being on social platforms allows My Sweet Boutique to engage with the public’s experience and at the same time people feel like they’re part of the creation.”

If you own or work in a restaurant, you may not be able to be as mobile as these examples, but there’s a lot to be said for looking into plating desserts differently so people have that burning desire to share it on social media.

The right staff can make your desserts even better:

Over at My Sweet Boutique the happiness and energy levels of staff is important and to ensure it’s always at a high, an investment needs to be made. Mrs Amalfi said her staff are the key to creating the buzz that defines a successful night spot. “I’m very focused on the energy that’s created inside the truck,” Mrs Amalfi said.

“When you have staff who are energetic and passionate about every sweet creation made, it’s passed onto customers. Of course, part of the buzz is the location, the ambience, the customer service, but you should never underestimate the importance of the essence and energy that comes from your team.”

With a dining scene that’s saturated with restaurants and cafes, it’s time for restaurateurs to look for new opportunities that provide unique experiences the public haven’t seen before. The after-dinner market is probably the most inclusive market in hospitality, given that almost everyone can afford to go out for dessert and that’s what makes it so profitable right now.

Want to check out more dessert ideas? Here’s some of our most popular recipes:

Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding, with Creme Fraiche and Salted Caramel

Chocolate Tart

Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake

First published 2016, updated 2021.

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