THE decision to bring an Australian ice cream shop to Cebu seven years ago proved to be a fruitful venture for Affogato Food Corp., the exclusive franchisee of Gelatissimo in the Philippines.

It was on Nov. 18, 2008 when the founders, who were formerly based in Australia, opened the first Gelatissimo branch, a kiosk, in SM City Cebu. Not long after that, a second branch opened. This time the branch at the Ayala Center Cebu adopted an in-store type ice cream shop.

The expansion, however, did not stop there. Having seen Cebuanos’ warm response to their gelatos, the company felt confident to conquer Manila and opened one in Greenbelt 5 in Makati City in December 2009.

Over the years, Gelatissimo has grown to a total of nine branches nationwide. Of this number, four are in Cebu and five are in Metro Manila. The latest to open was in StreetScape in Paseo Saturnino in Banilad. This newest branch, said Gelatissimo Philippines operations development manager Michael Roger Mah, embraces a fresher café format, being the first store to have seats inside for 40 people and more selections available for the customers.

“We want to be the ultimate dessert destination this time, not just limited to gelato,” Mah said in an interview last week.

In an effort to rebrand itself, Gelatissimo also took on a new logo. From the previous red and green colors, the brand has adopted a “more modern” take with red and black. Mah said the rebranding is universal, as this is also being undertaken by Gelatissimo stores outside the Philippines like in Dubai, Singapore, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Aside from gelato, the Gelatissimo Café in Streetscape is also the first store to offer pastries and new sundae desserts. In addition, the brand’s original Italian coffee is taken further with new coffee items on the menu. As Gelatissimo Philippines director Maite Moraza puts it, this is “perfecting the café experience.”

In its latest inventory, there are around a dozen pastries in Gelatissimo Café in Streetscape. Every month, the store will be offering a new gelato flavor. “With this café, we look at it as Gelatissimo, not just as a grab-and-go gelato and dessert destination, but we want our customers to enjoy and savor what we offer here,” Mah explained.

In the next three to five years, the official said, the other Gelatissimo branches will undergo renovations in line with the rebranding. In a year or two, the Ayala branch will follow.

Mah said there are no immediate plans to open new Gelatissimo stores since the focus now is on the renovations. However, the company is eyeing to expand in Davao, Bacolod, and Angeles City in Pampanga, seeing the rising number of urban centers in these areas.

Asked how the competition goes in this sector, Mah tagged it as “cut-throat” with many indirect competitors in this line of business. Indirect competitors, he explained, are those whose products are consumed in between meals like coffee, milk tea, and desserts.

In Manila, the competition is tighter.

Sales in Gelatissimo’s Cebu branches have proved to be higher than those in its Manila counterparts. For one, the Ayala store generates revenues of around P400,000 per week, while its Greenbelt branch logs lower sales at around P300,000 per week.

This year, the company expects an increase in revenue, driven by the rebranding. Mah considers 2012 as the best year for the company. For them, 2015 is expected to register the same vibrancy as that in 2012.

Gelato and other offerings in Gelatissimo are priced between P120 and P800.

Gelatissimo Philippines employs close to 100 workers for both its office and store operations.