A rebellious act: the dessert bars that are booming

Despite all the hype around healthy eating, consumers are still looking for those indulgent treats.

20 November 2018
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image credit: Instagram @creamscakeuk

Have you noticed the sly revolt happening against healthy eating? It can be seen in the rise of dessert bars and ice cream parlours as they creep out into more locations around the UK. There’s a theme to these sweet traders’ menus with all of them offering waffles, pancakes, ice cream, cookie dough and puddings, with the aim to dish out indulgence.

An analysis of almost 500 town centres by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that along with coffee shops and craft beer bars, ice-cream parlours are one of a handful of growing sectors on the high street. The number of ice-cream parlours rose by 20% last year, with consumers seeking out adventurous flavours. Ice-cream parlours are perfect for experience-seeking millennials who crave innovative, affordable treats, said PwC consumer expert Lisa Hooker. “They have lots of products. It’s fun. There’s a lot going on.”

This trend is set to continue as well in 2019 according to Waitrose and Whole Foods, who have predicted frozen treats to become experimental trailblazers.

Food Spark takes a look at what tempting treats are on menus and where these desserts dealers are headed.


image credit: Instagram @creamscafeuk

This retro Americana-inspired concept has 61 dessert parlours around the UK from London Bridge to Cambridge, Bristol and Manchester.

Treats include sky-scraping rainbow coloured concoctions with flavours like cherry, banofee pie, mango, cookie dough, caramel and toffee, and chocolate chip. There are Big American-style waffles freshly made to order with a range of toppings, although customisation is available, while the chain has also tapped into the trend for Asian desserts with the bubble waffle. It serves up crepes and hot puddings too including pecan pie, carrot cake, cheesecake, apple pie and chocolate cake – making it a go to place for winter indulgence as well. Home-made gelato is a signature siren, with 31 flavours and secret recipes.

Creams co-founder Adam Mani told The Guardian that a broad swathe of millennials, many non-drinkers or infrequent drinkers, are looking beyond the pub or coffee shop for places to meet: “Youngsters don’t necessarily want to be in environments with alcohol, and families feel safer sending their kids to a place where they can have an ice-cream. We try to accommodate every ethnicity, dietary restriction and taste. I think that’s worked well in the sense that people’s social and cultural sensitivities are unconsciously accommodated.”

With its over the top sweets, Creams aims to reach 80 sites by the end of 2018 with a goal to reach 300 by 2022. Last year, the company also opened its first site under its new flagship ’steampunk’ inspired emporium format. The brand has largely grown via social media and Mani claims it has a cult following among young people – those under 25 – where the average spend is £8.

While the Creams management team believes the casual dining sector is saturated, when it comes to the dessert parlour, they say it’s a segment that is still maturing meaning there is “very little competition and much synergy in being positioned near eateries”, according to Food Spark’s sister site MCA.

Haute Dolci

image credit: Instagram @hautedolci


Haute Dolci has the standard waffles, pancakes, crepes, cakes, gelato and milkshakes, as well as macarons.

The concept was created by the founder of Heavenly Desserts, Nizam Mohamed, according to the Leicester Mercury. He describes Haute Dolci as an enigmatic and exclusive restaurant specialising in lovingly crafted luxury desserts that arouses the high culture of Paris and fuses it with Italy’s infatuation with all things sweet.

Situated in Cheshire and Coventry, there is another branch opening shortly in Manchester and Blackburn and it has plans to open another four sites before the end of the year.

Heavenly Desserts

image credit: Instagram @heavenlydesserts

The high-end dessert café chain offers everything from cookie dough delicacies to ice cream, pancakes, cakes, artisan slices and waffles. All of the desserts are designed to be irresistible, elegant and innovative, providing a special moment of pure indulgence, according to the company.

Founded in 2008, it currently has 13 sites with nine more expected to open soon. Locations range from Colchester to Leicester, Nottingham and Oxford, and with another 10-15 sites to come in 2019.

Delightful Desserts

image credit: Instagram @delightfuldesserts4

Continuing on with the theme from the other dessert parlours, it sells ice cream, cakes, sundaes, waffles, cookie dough, crepes and British puds, including a limited selection of gluten-free and dairy-free options. Setting itself apart from the others, it specifically offers an afternoon tea every day of the week, as well as kid’s parties.

It also launched a cereal collection this month, which combines its dessert bases like crepes, waffles and cookie dough with cornflakes, coco pops or crunchy nut cornflakes. “Each dessert has been adapted in a breakfast style so that your sweet tooth can be satisfied from morning till night,” it said on the website.

This Midlands-based dessert café is aiming to have 25 sites by the end of the year. 

Icestone Gelato

image credit: Instagram @icestonegelato


The Yorkshire-based dessert restaurant Icestone Gelato has a menu with crepes, Belgian waffles, hot cookie dough, brownies and sundaes, but also features different desserts like profiteroles and gateaux.

It also offers afternoon tea.

Cookie dough dishes include red velvet; Nutella and strawberry; and white choc and Oreo, while its crepe range features options like Kinder Bueno and Nutella Spread.

It’s back to school puddings take people back to the dinner hall to tuck into the likes of apple crumble, choc pudding, cornflake tart, jam roly poly and sticky toffee.

It has 12 sites including in Leeds, Bradford, Birmingham, Chester, Liverpool and Manchester.

So could this trend satisfy Sparkie’s sweet tooth?


Sparkie says:

With the rise in health food, I have also noticed a rebellion of sorts. It’s certainly a smaller trend but it definitely exists there if you look for it. It appears to be a side effect of the popularity of the 5-2 diet, which allowed for some days of indulgence if you were able to stick to a strict low calorie diet for the weekdays. It’s been playing out in a few ways; retailers are expanding their premium offerings to fill this niche as an example. The influx of the man food eating challenges and freak foods were predicted to fade away as the health food trend grew, but the ones who did it well have seen growing success.

Alongside the trend for health, dessert bars fit in with this niche too. Borrowing from these concepts is quite simple. The regular restaurants or even retailers could invest in a customisable dessert set up similar to what these have, that way you could have both regular food and the desired indulgence without having to change location.

The standard method of customisation; adding sweets and chocolate bars into a mix, is seemingly growing stale. I would suggest the next thing we will see is a bank of innovation but it’s difficult to predict what form that may take.

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