“A dessert café that focuses earnestly on handcrafted soft serve ice cream, desserts and coffee whilst bringing you the finest taste and ingredients for a tantalising dining,” is how Hail’s Soft Serve & Dessert Café describe themselves.
Their name “Hail’s” is directly inspired by those pellets of ice that fall from the sky, appearing like swirls of frozen ice cream cascades.
Co-founder of Hail’s, Jess Au, shared how she differentiates Hail’s Soft Serve & Dessert Café from the rest of the dessert bars that populate Damansara Uptown.
“We focus on being fun and authentic, taking traditional desserts from the past and re-creating them in modern ways.”
Launched in 2015, they even offer a hybrid of local flavour and foreign taste, with the Ronut (rice mochi donut) paired with any soft serve flavour—one of the crowd favorites.
“We started taking in classic local flavours when we thought of our parents. We wanted to create a place that could bring not only friends but families together with tastes that are familiar to us.”
“One of our best-selling soft serve combo is a re-creation of the classic Malaysian Gula Melaka Sago Pudding, the Nyonya Delight, which brings nods and smiles to all.”
They were even featured on Insider Food for one of their popular creations, where they used blue pea flower tea to make the Gula Melaka soft serve and provide natural colouring for the flavour.
“The idea came from ‘pulut tai tai’, a type of nyonya kuih, where blue pea flower is used to get that natural blue. At that time, we couldn’t just make blue ice cream without a concept behind it, so gula melaka came into the picture.”
That Insider video saw 7 million views on Facebook alone, and over 76,000 shares. However, like many F&B establishments know, trends come and go, and it’s the survival and hustling after the hype has died down that shows the true grit of the team.
A business graduate, Jess worked in finance for a while before going into the culinary course and getting hands-on kitchen experience in Melbourne. She came back to Malaysia and started an online cake business before starting Hail’s.
“The idea behind it was to pair ice cream with desserts. We specifically pick soft ice cream for its texture, loving the concept of ‘freshly churned’ and ‘served at the right temperature’ to get that soft and creamy texture.”
Hail’s menu is not limited to soft serve flavours, as they also have homemade premium toppings designed to match with the ice cream, citrus waffles, baby crepes, pavlova, and even have their own batch of handmade coffee.
Premium toppings are made inhouse daily to ensure their freshness and are available from RM2 upwards. Some popular ones are Green Tea Marshmallow, Pink Peppercorn, Feuilletine Flakes, French Butter Cookie, Green Tea Crumble, Moist Chocolate Cloud Cake and many more.
Jess loves to experiment with different kinds of ingredients, stating that she creates most of her recipes from things that she feels passionate about.
“Inspiration comes from passion. I get them from my travel experiences, day to day life with people I meet, things I see, and even in my dreams.”
“Mad love for modern French pastry and the techniques and precision from the industry are the things that I look up to and learn from everyday in order to perfect Hail’s menu.”
“My all time local favourite dessert is the cendol. I think the person who created this dessert was a genius, because it’s so simple yet so good! You get that natural aroma from the palm sugar, flavour from the coconut milk, texture from the rice flour jelly, red bean and other condiments.”
As time went on, product differentiation becomes a necessity.
Distinguishing quality, pricing, branding, or service in order to stand out from the crowd yet maintaining the market share at the same time is a challenge.
In terms of business operation, Jess admits that finding the right staff will always be a challenge, as well as falling into a monopolistic market, where barriers of entry and exit are low.
The capital they started with was from their own pockets and was also partially funded by investors. It seems to have paid off, as they’ve seen revenue growth of 45% compared to their first year of operations.
They rotate their flavours monthly to keep customers on their toes, and so that they can try something new each time they visit Hail’s.
They recently upgraded their menu to a wider selection of desserts, with the introduction of Fluffy Waffle and Baby Crepe Series, Dessert Drink Series, and new premium toppings, just to name a few.
This will be launched in conjunction of the opening of their new outlet in Pavilion this coming November.
They’re also looking at incorporating more local flavours like teh tarik, pulut hitam, sirap bandung and other tropical fruits into their menu.
Hail’s is definitely looking ahead with their new store. They hope that their creative recipes and unique combinations will continue to remain a draw for the customers to keep coming back for their brand of soft serve.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s in a different side of town and opens up another part of the urban audience to them.
As shared on the team’s Facebook page, “We believe that it is not just the taste, but the experience that counts. There’s a story behind every creation, and we’d like to share it with everyone.”