We’re no strangers to Messina’s story. We’ve written about growing with the gelato giant before, but this time we had the exciting opportunity of sitting down with their Brand and Content Manager.
“The Messina journey has actually been quite a long one. The Messina that’s around today isn’t exactly the same as it was when it first started,” says Siân Bishop, Brand and Content Manager of Gelato Messina.
Beginning with a very much wholesale focus, the business was forced to adjust their model to find their true niche and burgeoning success in retail.
“It’s all ultimately in the taste and the quality of our product that will keep people coming back.” And they keep coming back. We’ve all seen the queues outside their stores.
“Some customers will never know that we’ve sourced our pistachios from Italy. But to us, we say we’re using the best ingredients we can, and we want to make sure we’re delivering on that”. Messina’s commitment to real ingredients and flavour set the tone for their gastronomic approach that truly defines them.
How many gelato stores have a head chef? We can’t answer that one, but we can tell you that one of Messina’s key differentiators is Denato, head chef and mastermind behind all the Messina specials.
“He’s built up a bank of 4000, actually maybe now 5000 specials,” each “weird and wonderful” in their own right.
“Having a really easy to use integrated system has been really important in helping us grow,” says Siân. Messina currently uses Kounta, Deputy and Xero to run their business.
“Before we used all these systems, we used to just have a spreadsheet in each store for rostering and wages - and there was nothing tying them together,” she shared with a shudder.
With a connected system, Messina runs more efficiently on a store level, and allows head office the visibility they need to drive efficiencies within the business. “We can now actually see if there is anything that needs tweaking - if it’s hours, if it’s wages, if it’s quantities of things, without collating lots of different bits of paper and spreadsheets.”
When asked what she thought owners need to focus on to build a great hospitality brand, Siân singles out product and customer experience, “because that’s what keeps people coming back to your business, the product, and a connection to your brand”.
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“We are so passionate about using really high-quality products that we now want to be able to supply ourselves,” says Siân honing in on Messina’s commitment to excellence.
A commitment that is abundantly clear in their flavours, and goes beyond the skill they imbue in gelato making.
Investing in a dairy farm just outside of Melbourne gives Messina complete quality control over their gelato. And it doesn’t stop there. The Messina team have also acquired a hazelnut farm and are “cross breeding some different types of hazelnut plants to get the ones that [they] exactly want, that make the right Gelato hazelnut paste that [they] want to use”.
“I always remember when I first started at Messina, they said that they never set out for people to say ‘I want to go get Gelato’ - they said they wanted people to say ‘We want to go get Messina’.”
Siân elaborates how this mentality has set the tone for what the team has now achieved. The brand transcends product, service and experience, instead combining the three for a flavour that is uniquely Messina. “Doing special things for our customers” and being “very human on and offline” are key aspects of the way Messina interacts with its customers.
“We make sure to talk to our customers like they’re actual real people,” says Siân. This could mean anything from creating a special flavour to letting someone propose in one of their stores. Now how many gelato stores can say that’s happened!