We caught up with Sally’s Hand Rolled Ice Cream in Dublin to get the scoop on how Square has helped them to adapt their business during the pandemic.
Sally’s Hand Rolled Ice Cream founder, Robert Joyce, had an idea to put an Irish twist on a Thai dessert trend — hand rolled ice cream. Originating in Thailand in 2009, the sweet treat — which is rolled at -30 degrees and mixed with a whole range of delicious toppings — has since become popular worldwide. In 2018, Robert combined the Thai technique with high quality Irish dairy, and Sally’s Hand Rolled Ice Cream was born.
We caught up with Robert to learn more about his business, the challenges they’ve faced during the pandemic and how switching to Square has helped them save time and money.
Tell us how Sally’s got started.
We saw the concept whilst travelling to Thailand in 2017 and had an idea to combine the Thai technique with an Irish dairy base. I was working for an airline at the time, but myself and my business partner decided to go full-time into starting the business in 2018.
We first started experimenting with the product at home and then we started selling it at the Bushy Park food market every weekend. We got very lucky with the location, and as the ice cream grew in popularity, we started doing catering for corporate events, making ice cream for companies like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and some Irish government bodies. Because the reaction to the product was so strong, we really wanted to find a way for our business to run seven days a week, so we started trading in the Square Shopping centre in Tallaght.
We came off to a tremendous start, but then all of our retail side of the business was forced to close in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Since then, we’ve been selling our ice cream online all over Ireland, and we’ve just opened up in retail again in the last few months.
You were an early adopter of Square. Why did you decide to switch to Square?
As our ice cream is so time-consuming to make, we needed a very fast transaction system. So that’s why I checked out the Square POS. We recently started using the Square card reader which is five times faster than the system we previously used and it’s contactless as well, which is great.
Additionally, our old system was counterproductive, as I’d spend a lot of time scrolling through pages to get a reading of our daily sales. With Square, I can open up any date range and it gives me all the statistics that I need in less than five seconds. I was also looking for a system where I didn’t have to pay a monthly fee and Square seemed like the most affordable option for small business owners. It’s also very price competitive at only 1.75% per card transaction.
We have recorded all our data on the Square system for nearly a year now and we have a lot of information that we can dig out at the end of each day, which includes cash sales, card sales, inventory management, and what our bestsellers are. I even have a timecard system on Square where staff can log into when they come in. All of their hours are calculated automatically through timesheets and also their pay as well, which we send on to payroll. We used to spend a lot of time every Sunday trying to calculate hours and what time staff come in, so the new clock-in system saves us a lot of time and is working tremendously well.
What would you say to another business owner who is thinking of switching to Square?
I’d completely recommend it. Square is probably our number one used business tool at the minute. We have two directors — myself and another business partner — and we’re able to log into the system anywhere in the world and check in on the day what’s going on.
For example, today our sales are up a little bit, and it gives us good stats on what the sales were from last week. Because our product portfolio is so small, it’s very simple for us to plan better and see how our business is doing on a daily and monthly basis.
In addition to changing your business tools, you’ve also had to make some other significant adjustments due to the pandemic. What are some of the ways you’ve adapted your business to cater to the new ‘COVID-19’ normal?
I think the pandemic has taught us a lot of things. Our business used to work a lot through crowds and the pandemic has really changed that dynamic. We’ve installed a new kiosk in our stall where we have full glass protection between us and the customers, which has made it a less sociable experience.
If you go anywhere in Dublin or Cork today, you don’t see busy streets anymore. So impulse purchasing is kind of dwindling. To combat that, we’ve really had to market our products more digitally. For instance, we put up a lot of digital advertising screens on loops to show customers how the ice cream is made, instead of them having to watch it with busy crowds. We’ve also put a lot of emphasis on online marketing videos on social media, especially Tik Tok.
In response to the closure of our outlets, we started selling “Sally’s at Home” kits, which allows customers to make the ice cream themselves from the comfort of their own home. We’re getting very busy with our online sales of kits and with staff working from home. We give customers all the sauces, all of the tools they need, the ice cream bases, the toppings, and the instructions so they have the know-how to make it. So, it’s kept us busy. Doing business online has basically given us a get out of jail free card for COVID with retail being shut for the last year, and with that in mind, I think we’ll need to keep learning how to get closer to what we do creatively in a digital sense.
If you’re craving one of Sally’s delicious, signature ice creams (we know we are), you can visit them in The Square Shopping Centre in Tallaght and visit them online at www.sallys.ie, where you can also order click & collect. And don’t forget to check them out on social: