When running a mountain lodge in his native Sweden around a decade ago, Peter Ljungquist came to the conclusion that he would like to make the best jam, chocolate and ice cream in the whole country. And since he had "always been passionate about bread" too, a bespoke brick oven was installed in the traditional farmhouse in southern Sweden, which became his production hub.
When visiting Edinburgh several years later, he immediately liked the place and decided to see whether the concept, tested on a largely rural customer base in Sweden, would translate to an urban environment in a different country. The central Quartermile district was chosen, because Ljungquist regarded the mix of heritage and striking new business and residential structures as "an interesting idea".
Launched in 2007, the Peter’s Yard coffee shop and bakery has become renowned for its high-quality, handmade artisan crispbreads made to an authentic Swedish recipe, using all-natural ingredients, including sourdough, fresh milk, rye flour, whole wheat flour and honey. Its product range also extends to traditional Swedish cakes/pastries and cardamom buns, which Ljungquist describes as "probably the most common bun in Sweden and now our most popular line". This Christmas, Ljungquist intends producing two Swedish festive favourites namely saffron bread and pepparkakor (a ginger biscuit).
In terms of quality, there is far more to Peter’s Yard than the products it sells. The 10 members of staff have received training from one of Sweden’s premier chefs, while the high-spec décor has been chosen to create a welcoming atmosphere "where people want to relax and meet friends" over a bite to eat and a cup of coffee a concept known in Sweden as fika. Pointing to the light, airy design and to the lack of a partition between the 600sq ft bakery area and the 50-cover, 1,200sq ft customer area, Ljungquist elaborates: "We didn’t want to hide anything. We wanted people to see what we were baking and to see us making the sandwiches."
The outlet in Edinburgh, which also sells assortment packs of company products, is on course to beat its budget by 30% this year and record a turnover of £700,000. And although launched only this summer, Ljungquist is confident that the wholesale arm, run by Wendy Wilson Bett and Ian Tencor, will add significantly to this success by supplying crispbreads to high-quality food halls, delis and farm shops, as well as into the foodservice sector. He notes: "Our customers already include food halls at Fortnum & Mason, Harrods and Fenwicks; cheese shops like La Fromagerie; farm shops such as Secretts and Cheshire Smokehouse; and major retail outlets, such as Lewis and Coopers. We also supply Martin Wishart’s Michelin-starred restaurants in Scotland."
The wholesale arm’s best-seller is the 200g crispbread pack, which retails for £3.50. At the coffee shop, meanwhile, hot drinks, cakes, sandwiches and soup are good earners but not the selection of breads. Ljungquist observes: "We make 100 loaves of bread by hand each day, on which we make no profit, because price expectations in the UK are still so low even when it’s ’real’ bread. But we believe a bakery has to have bread for sale, so we continue to make it to help build our positioning and reputation."
Although a man of seemingly the calmest of personas, he admits to one slight irritation: being described in magazine and newspaper articles as "a Swedish businessman". He explains: "I am Swedish, that’s true. But you couldn’t find anyone further from being a businessman."
Clearly, success for Ljungquist is derived from feeding his own soul, as well as the Edinburgh public. Despite offers to extend the Peter’s Yard concept to other cities in the UK, he is not leaping at the opportunity. He says: "I ask myself ’How will it benefit my life?’ I’m perfectly alright where I am."