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The Dulce Story

Kobus WieseThe first Dulcé retail store was opened in Rink Street in Port Elizabeth in 1984 by Hubert Stempowski . Dulcé became synonymous with a high quality ice-cream product in the Eastern Cape. The product was manufactured on site and sold from the machines to the customer across the counter ie “straight from the cow to the cone”. After numerous requests from people wanting to set up replicas of the Rink Street store then run by Lee Caldecott, the Dulcé Café Franchise Operation was established in the early 90′s. The experience gained by developing and running these stores was the ideal way to create a winning concept, business system and menu. Mike Pullen, now the MD of Dulcé International (operating the brand name outside of SA and SADC), joined the group in 1994, contributing his management and financial skills. Between 1995 and 2003, over 25 more stores were opened nationally, concentrating on regional shopping centres, and small towns or niches where they had captured markets. The 2 years from 2001 was a period of consolidation after a management buy out of the Franchise, and the real Dulcé Café Franchise of today was born. The coffee shop industry had become saturated in the South African market and especially in regional shopping centres. Dulcé therefore carried out extensive research throughout Europe and the UK in order to establish a certain concept that would be more suitable for alternative market environments and require less capital, hence the establishment of the Dulcé Espresso concept. The Dulcé Espresso Bars can be found in captured markets such as hospitals, universities, business parks, casinos, hotels and airports. Many of these smaller outlets have the ability to achieve the same bottom line as the larger outlets, because of their lower overhead cost structures. What makes Dulcé stand out from the overcrowded coffee market? “Dulcé has captured a niche in the market by placing ourselves strategically between a restaurant and a coffee shop, classifying ourselves as a continental café or espresso bar in the true European tradition by serving 4 major products, namely, food, liquor, coffee and ice-cream”.

DulceMeals2Martin Fuller, joined as business development director of Dulcé in 2003, adding his international business experience background to the team. Our marketing consultant Brigid Jaucot, came on board full time as the National Marketing Manager. Also, an initial exploration into the selling of the Dulcé Franchising concept into countries or regions outside South Africa as Master Licences was started in 2004. Dulcé Café grew steadily locally in South Africa throughout 2005 , and offices were established in all the major centres in South Africa. An agreement was signed with Remza , a Bahraini based company to expand the Franchise into certain areas of the Middle East in 2006. The first international Dulcé was opened in September 2006 in Bahrain . Dulcé Café increased its advertising drive through its newly appointed advertising company, Artifact, and a whole new corporate ID was rolled out by mid year, culminating in a TV advertising campaign in late 2006. Dulcé also expanded outside its SA borders into the SADC area with stores opening in Namibia and Gabarone in 2007.

The Dulcé group expanded in late 2007 / early 2008, in setting up 2 new Franchise concepts, which with the economic downturn were not over successful, and it was thus decided to rather focus on Dulcé Café.

Dulcé Cafe’s successful expansion with our partners in the Middle East, was halted, and mutually dissolved in 2009 when both parties expansion plans diverged significantly.

Imported Italian Pizzas were added to the menu in 2010.

DulceMeals1It was decided to look externally to the company, utilising experts in their fields, to develop a new store design and a new menu. The process was started in 2010 , culminating in an exciting new store design and new menu . The menu was implemented in late 2010, and the roll out of new stores and steady revamp of existing stores has been in progress from 2011.

The Dulcé Espresso bar concept, was replaced by a more “on the Go” concept in 2012 – a smaller faster menu for smaller sites, with a lower set up and operating cost.

Dulcé International sought out a “better fit” partner , and in 2011 negotiated a partnership & signed a deal with a Saudi based company; Franchise Experts, to open stores in Saudi Arabia and the MENA countries, the first of 3 stores in Riyadh being opened in mid 2013. Further expansion in Africa will also take place, a store opened in Tanzania in 2012, and a store will open in Ghana in late 2013.

In early 2013, Mike Pullen sold out his majority shareholding in Dulcé Café SA (to focus on the international market) to Kobus Wiese of Wiese Coffee Holdings.  The company is now operating both brand concepts independently, under common management, consolidating initially, and then expanding from mid 2013, utilising the positives & strengths of both companies.

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