Dubai-born Scoopi Café – with retail stores on Jumeirah Beach Road in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah – prides in being authentic yet creative and innovative. “The concept of liquid nitrogen ice-cream is itself very innovative in the food industry across the world,” states foodpreneur Zubin Doshi who got inspired by molecular gastronomy. He founded Scoopi Café, which is today renowned for dishing out unique liquid nitrogen ice-creams.
“What clicked for Scoopy was the ‘Black Diamond’ ice-cream, priced at AED3,000. It received a fantastic response, not only from media, food bloggers and critiques but we saw a lot of people ordering the ice-cream. It created a stir, giving us a lot of confidence. People didn’t buy an ice-cream; they spent their money to buy an expensive experience that they would cherish for life,” Doshi adds.
The ‘Black Diamond’ ice-cream is a sundae made with vanilla bean ice-cream from Madagascar, saffron from Iran, rare black truffles from Alba Italy and 23-carat gold flakes and powder. And the ice-cream is served in a golden handcrafted bowl with a silver spoon, which the customer can keep after eating the ice-cream.
Doshi claims that the ‘Black Diamond’ ice-cream is unique to Scoopi Café. “It is not available anywhere else in the world, with the ingredients I use to make the ice-cream. Recently, it caught the fancy of one of our Japanese customers who showcased the ‘Black Diamond’ ice-cream at one of the popular talk shows in Tokyo, Japan. As a result, we started seeing a lot of Japanese visitors who came in only to have the ‘Black Diamond’ ice-cream. Recently, we received a delegation from the Japanese embassy who wanted to have the ‘Black Diamond’ ice-cream.”
Three years ago, when Scoopi Café opened, it was the right time to introduce the principles of molecular gastronomy in ice-cream, Doshi feels. “Molecular gastronomy was probably coming up at that time. People did not know the use of liquid nitrogen in food. They were curious to experience what it was all about.”
But for a self-funded business, it was a risk too, because a fair amount of awareness was required for people to warm up to a new concept. “It was not easy. For four months, we did a show run in a warehouse space before setting up the café. Meanwhile, we continued the interior works at the café. Once the restaurant opened, we started facing a different set of challenges. Once we had customers in the café who had ordered the ‘Black Diamond’ ice-cream, and we did not have saffron – a key ingredient for the ice-cream. These were big learnings that taught me to do inventory. It also taught me to never say no to a customer,” Doshi recollects. “While the ‘Black Diamond’ ice-cream got us the limelight, what sustained our growth over the last four years is consistently high-quality of all our ice-creams.”
The first Scoopi Café came up on Jumeirah Road, primarily due to availability of space at a comparatively lower rent. Four years on, Doshi receives interests from many real estate developers to take Scoopi Café to their shopping malls. “But we do not want to be in a shopping mall. Scoopi Café is a passion project for me, and I don’t ever want to be constrained by any form of guidelines. It could impact the experience we offer to our customers – even though a mall location would bring us steady footfall,” he explains.
“Having that said, we are planning to expand the brand. We are looking for a location in Abu Dhabi. Saudi Arabia is another market where I feel Scoopi will click. Also, we are going to India, starting with Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. We feel India will be a good market for Scoopy,” Doshi observes. “We are also thinking of the possibility of rolling out our ice-cream trolleys in cruise liners. There is no one doing live ice-creams onboard a cruise ship. Another idea is to make fresh ice-creams for pets following the required guidelines, starting with ice-creams for dogs and cats.”