Serving all-natural gelato and sorbetto on a stick, the Popbar franchise puts a new spin on frozen, creamy treats.
Five years ago, Reuben BehJehuda and his business partner Daniel Yagoubi were brainstorming ideas to fit the quick-serve food environment. The entrepreneurs landed on the notion of making frozen homemade pops and since BehJehuda grew up in Italy, he suggested they make gelato pops. That was the genesis for Popbar and their introductory product: handcrafted gelato on a stick.
“Rule number one was everything had to be all natural. Everything had to be made right in the store too, which is actually pretty unique for a frozen dessert,” BehJehuda says. The idea of putting gelato on a stick would boost the fun quotient and make the product easy to customize with dippings and toppings.
Traditionally, gelato has a softer, more elastic consistency compared to ice cream so it took some experimenting before they developed a successful recipe that would hold-up on a stick. It’s also worth noting gelato has less fat than ice cream and less air pumped throughout which gives it a denser texture and some would argue, a more intense
flavor. Freezing temperature was key.
Perseverance paid off and before long classic vanilla and chocolate popGelato on a stick began earning rave reviews. Flavors like hazelnut, pistachio, coffee, banana and coconut popGelato soon followed as did a line of refreshing popSorbettos made with 100% real fruit. Flavors like strawberry, apricot, grapefruit, lemon, and mango popped up. There are recipes for 40 flavors and Popbar’s door is always open to new ideas. A dulce de leche popGelato is currently doing well and the pumpkin pie flavor is a perennial favorite at Thanksgiving. Summer’s abundance often spills over into fresh fruit offerings like kiwi and watermelon popSorbetto.
Creativity really kicks into high gear with the dippings and toppings. Top-selling combinations include hazelnut gelato half-dipped in dark chocolate and then chopped hazelnuts, pistachio gelato similarly dipped and followed by chopped pistachios, or half-dipped strawberry sorbet. The possibilities are endless. Popbar’s whole line-up is made fresh daily in each store’s “popLab” with 100% natural ingredients and no artificial colorings or preservatives. This applies to dippings and toppings as well. With the exception of a crushed waffle cone topping, everything is gluten-free and the sorbettos are lactose-free and vegan-friendly. Popbar treats for a family of four run between fourteen and eighteen dollars.
Adding to the fun and as a way to maintain customer traffic on colder days, the partners invented their popular Hot Chocolate on a Stick. A cup of steamed milk is served with a cube of premium chocolate on a stick for customers to dip and swirl until it melts. The result is a delicious hot beverage. Available in dark, milk and vanilla white chocolate flavors, Hot Chocolate on a Stick also comes packaged in units of three, six and twelve to go. Meanwhile their crowd-pleasing Frozen Hot Chocolate beverage delivers the same taste sensation, albeit in an icier fashion.
The flagship Popbar opened in New York’s West Village four years ago. Seven franchises now populate the landscape—all of them in shopping centers—in such diverse locales as Jakarta, Indonesia, Edmonton, Canada, and Mexico. Popbar is poised to open in Seoul, South Korea and Moscow within months and Miami, Florida is on the horizon.
“We look for a passionate candidate,” BehJehuda says. “Obviously they need to have good business sense and be effective managers but they also need to recognize a Popbar for what it is … a treat. No one has to have a gelato. Franchisees must understand this and make sure the way they serve Popbars is a whole experience for the customer, a fun experience.”
The average cost of opening a full size store is $200,000 to $300,000 depending on square footage and location. A kiosk model costs slightly less—$180,000 to $250,000—including the requisite offsite prep area. Franchisees pay a 6% royalty fee on sales and a 2% marketing fund. Applicants are expected to have at least $80,000 in liquidity. Once approved, BehJehuda and Yagoubi are there for them every step of the way—from real estate negotiation to construction, equipment installation to store layout and, of course, training and marketing.
The partners’ goal is to become the standard for gelato on a stick. “Slowly, even our name, Popbar … we hope people will adopt it,” says BehJehuda. “If answering the question ‘Want to go get an ice cream?’ becomes ‘No, I feel like having a Popbar,’ that’s the ultimate compliment for us. We pretty much want to set the standard for anyone who comes after us.”
For more information, please visit pop-bar.com.