Continental bakery firm plans rapid development

05 June, 2009
Page 10 

Continental bakery retail concept Belgique is planning a three-year period of growth, which will take it from eight to 25 outlets by 2012.

The Essex-based chain secured the backing of major Belgian flour and frozen bakery supplier La Lorraine Bakery Group, which acquired a 50% stake in the business. Belgique plans to expand into north and then west London.

"It is seven concepts under one roof - bakery, patisserie, chocolaterie, coffee shop, sandwich bar, delicatessen and wedding and celebration cakes," explained founder Igor Bekaert. "There are too many so-called bakery-patisseries where you cannot buy a loaf of bread, a birthday cake or a large fruit tart. But we do what we say on the door."

Pricing has been set to compete with the coffee chains. Said Bekaert: "It's very much a Continental experience, sitting down and having a good coffee and a quality pastry away from the fast-fast-fast food environment. It's not about having 17 different macchiatos."

Shop unit sizes are between 1,200 and 2,000sq ft, with seating areas of between 24-70 covers, and have been developed at a cost of £200,000-£250,000 per site. Products are supplied to the shops from a central production unit in Wanstead,

Bekaert was previously co-owner of Kent bakery wholesaler Bekaert & Dupont, which he sold in 2007 to focus on his then-four shop retail business.

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