How to Start a Gelato Business

Gelato started getting more attention in the late 1990s and really started to pick up steam in the early 2000s. It falls under the $14.3 billion a year ice cream industry, and recently experienced an uptick in sales. There is a distinct market trend showing customers want to pay more for premium ice cream treats like gelato.

Learn how to start your own Gelato Business and whether it is the right fit for you.

Ready to form your LLC? Check out the Top LLC Formation Services.

Start a gelato business by following these 10 steps:

  1. Plan your Gelato Business
  2. Form your Gelato Business into a Legal Entity
  3. Register your Gelato Business for Taxes
  4. Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
  5. Set up Accounting for your Gelato Business
  6. Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Gelato Business
  7. Get Gelato Business Insurance
  8. Define your Gelato Business Brand
  9. Create your Gelato Business Website
  10. Set up your Business Phone System

We have put together this simple guide to starting your gelato business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.

STEP 1: Plan your business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.

What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Gelato Business Name Generator

If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.

When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:

  • Your state's business records
  • Federal and state trademark records
  • Social media platforms
  • Web domain availability.

It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.

Want some help naming your gelato business?

Business Name Generator

What are the costs involved in opening a gelato business?

Besides rent and employee salaries, owners will need to register their business and obtain all permits from both the state and local government. A health inspector will need to visit before approving the business, too. The total for these fees vary widely based on where you are and how much profit you expect to make, so the range can be anywhere from a several hundred dollars to up to $8,000 or more. Typically, you can expect to pay less if you're in a less desirable area.

Owners will need commercial insurance for things like workers' compensation and liability protection. Average annual commercial insurance costs for food-service small businesses are around $3,000, but each business is judged individually. Initial supplies are the gelato-making equipment (freezers, mixers, etc.), disposable plasticware, cash register and a display case. An attractive display case will cost between $5,000 to $7,000, and a 6-quart mixer will run you about $5,000. A basic cash register will only cost a few hundred, but you may want to invest in better technology which will put you closer to $1,000. Owners will need a computer to keep track of finances and schedules as well as tables and chairs. A nice table/chair set may be around $250.

Total you can expect to spend between $15,000 to $25,000 in start up costs.

What are the ongoing expenses for a gelato business?

Typically, an owner will have the following ongoing expenses:

  • Equipment maintenance
  • Employee salaries
  • Ordering expenses
  • Permit renewals

Who is the target market?

Owners need to attract a crowd who is willing to pay for a premium experience when they want a fast but delicious dessert. The ideal customer would be someone who lives near the store who will consistently look to your business as their go-to for quality treats. You may also want to attract those who primarily want a coffee shop, but with a bit of a twist.

How does a gelato business make money?

A gelato bar serves Italian-style ice cream to paying clients in a variety of forms (e.g., in shakes, cones, cups, etc.) Gelato bars may also offer other products, such as specialty coffee.

As owner, you will need to account for location costs (rent, inflation, etc.), employee salaries, and the cost of ingredients. They will then have to determine a price for each individual menu item that will cover these costs and allow for a profit. It is not recommended that a gelato bar try for a budget angle due to the cost and effort to make the products.

How much can you charge customers?

One general rule of thumb (which differs for each owner depending on where they operate) is to charge 3 to 4 times the cost of the raw ingredients. So if one scoop of gelato costs $.75, then the appropriate cost for a customer to pay might be around $3. The same can be said for specialty coffee drinks as well. A well-maintained shop with fancy amenities can allow you to charge even more.

How much profit can a gelato business make?

It's difficult to estimate as it really does depend on location and price points. In general, you can expect about a third of the budget to go towards raw ingredients and a third to go to employees. The rest will typically go toward equipment and rent costs.

How can you make your business more profitable?

One easy way is to upsell your customers to larger portion sizes, specialty flavors, extra espresso shots, etc. However, you can also expand into offering better coffee or more coffee options, as well as cakes, pastries, and other treats. Get more people hooked by opening up local stands at major events.

Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!

STEP 2: Form a legal entity

The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your gelato business is sued.

Form Your LLC

Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC

Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You

Two such reliable services:

You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.

Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!

You can acquire your EIN through the IRS website. If you would like to learn more about EINs, read our article, What is an EIN?

There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Open a business bank account

Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:

  • Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • Makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.

Get a business credit card

Getting a business credit card helps you:

  • Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.

Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

A gelato bar will need licensing from a local health department, which will vary from town to town. This is because ice cream parlors sell food; all establishments serving food are required to pass a health inspection.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

FDA Requirements

Furthermore, any business which sells food prepared on site may be randomly inspected by the local health department on a regular basis. These inspections will check for compliance with local health laws, typically related to prevention of food contamination.

  • Tips for faring well on a health inspections can be found here.

Music Licensing

In order to play music in a business setting, permission must be acquired from the composer or license holder. Typically, it is possible to obtain a “blanket” license allowing a businesses to play music owned by a large catalog of artists and recording studios. Such licenses can be obtained from Performance Rights Organizations, such as ASCAP or BMI.

Certificate of Occupancy

Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).  A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease a location:
    • It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a gelato bar
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or build a location:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your gelato bar will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.


STEP 7: Get business insurance

Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.

There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.

Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.

FInd out what types of insurance your Gelato Business needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Gelato Business.

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.

Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.

If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.

How to promote & market a gelato business

The best way to promote your business is through word of mouth. To get people to the first batch of people coming in though, you'll likely have to do a Grand Opening, complete with free scoops and lots of advanced party planning. The more attention you can attract at the beginning, the more likely it is that excitement will continue long after you've cut the ribbon. You'll want to monitor the Yelp page carefully. The gelato bar website should be easy to navigate and have excellent content. Advertise to customers about company values too. For example, those willing to pay a few bucks more for a single scoop expect their ingredients to be sourced locally, sustainably, and responsibly.

How to keep customers coming back

The best way to retain customers is to deliver the best possible product and service at all times. The more attention put into every touchpoint between the business and the customer (including in-person, over the phone, and online), the more likely it is that customers will continue to spread the word about the gelato bar. Collect feedback about every aspect of the business from measures like surveys, reviews or conversations, and then adjust the business as need be.

STEP 9: Create your business website

After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.

While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.

Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:

  • All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
  • Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
  • Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.

Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.

Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.

STEP 10: Set up your business phone system

Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.

There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.

Recommended Business Phone Service: is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.

Is this Business Right For You?

Gelato started getting more attention in the late 1990s and really started to pick up steam in the early 2000s. It falls under the $14.3 billion a year ice cream industry, and recently experienced an uptick in sales. There is a distinct market trend showing customers want to pay more for premium ice cream treats like gelato.

Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?

Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!

Entrepreneurship Quiz

What happens during a typical day at a gelato business?

Owners must hire the right staff, advertise their business, and find the best location to attract hungry crowds. A typical day may have the following to-do list:

  • Order supplies
  • Create a budget
  • Perform hands-on customer service
  • Schedule employee shifts
  • Commission work for the company website
  • Respond to customer concerns on feedback sites like Yelp
  • Ensure all food and beverages are being made responsibly and up to company standards

Ordering must anticipate higher volumes of customers without wasting too much product. To a certain extent, an owner may be able to distance themselves from the actual production of the gelato, but it helps to have a full understanding of all sides of the business.

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful gelato business?

Owners should have a lot experience in the food service industry, including customer service, production, and management. They should have a good understanding of what it takes to give customers a consistent experience no matter when they walk through the door. A formal education such as an MBA or culinary school will certainly help, but the real value lies in having a thorough understanding of how each employee works together to form a cohesive team that can produce and serve superior tasting gelato.

What is the growth potential for a gelato business?

From 2013 to 2014, the amount of people purchasing gelato increased by 247%, and has achieved modest gains since then. The amount of gelato purchased in stores and from neighborhood businesses is predicted to remain strong, however the overall trends do not necessarily point to growth spikes as high as were seen a few years ago.

The most successful shops are rooted in innovative flavors (e.g., toast and jam, olive oil) and standard dessert menu items (e.g., cakes, pies, specialty sundaes.) Gelato bars are most likely to do well in large cities where residents are always looking for a little novelty. As long as the business can change with the times, there should be plenty of room for growth.

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Take the Next Step

Find a business mentor

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Learn from other business owners

Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.

Resources to Help Women in Business

There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a gelato business?

Start with a variety of flavors, and over time you can weed out ones that aren’t popular. Most people can read through up to 25 flavor names before they start to feel overwhelmed. Offer samples as though your business depends on it — because it does. Your job is to get customers hooked on a certain taste they can't find anywhere else. You may also want to shell out more money for employees who really know their way around customer service. New businesses will need to make a stellar first impression, and it will be hard to find employees willing to go the extra mile if you're only paying minimum wage.

How and when to build a team

Building a team is all about defining the core qualities of employees. Your employees should be able to work under extreme pressure, and they always be looking for ways to make customers happy. Even the most demanding and picky person can be won over by genuinely good customer service. The best time to build your team is right at the beginning, so you can form a core group of people who want to see through what they started.

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