Heidi’s Swiss Patisserie, on Hayling Island, near Portsmouth, epitomises a typical Swiss patisserie in all but location; its Swiss heritage is reinforced by the whiff of pastries and cakes and the chalet-style décor.

Heidi’s, launched in 1969 by Swiss countryman Ernst Strassmann, former head patissier at Fortnum & Mason, has grown into an eight-strong chain of traditional Swiss patisseries and coffee shops, bringing the art of fine cake-making to the UK mainstream.

Six years ago, the original patisserie format was bolstered by the introduction of a coffee shop and, subsequently, by savouries and sandwiches. The chain’s corporate identity has also received a make-over and the Swiss chalet beams are gradually being superseded by more contemporary features. Strassmann’s daughter Heidi Elliot now has day-to-day control of the business.

With a budget of £70,000, Elliot enlisted the help of shop fitter Dollar Rae to overhaul one of its two shops on Hayling Island. She explains the theory behind the changes: "The shop design there hadn’t changed for 10 years. We thought it was time to introduce a more contemporary look as we have already had four other shops refitted over the last 10 years." She wanted to update the design and make it lighter and brighter, but without alienating traditional customers, she says.

Elliot comments: "The good thing about Dollar Rae is that it offers a complete counter service, including a design to fit the area provided and the incorporation of branding. It also supplied the fridges, installed the units behind the counter and the gantry as well as the counter itself."

A modernisation of the original corporate colour scheme - burgundy and gold - was introduced, along with new signage on the shop front and new graphics panels. A bespoke 580cm counter, with ambient, refrigerated and hot sections, and a wall display gantry were also installed. The slightly smaller counter comprises two interlocking parts where savouries and quiches compete for attention alongside cakes and pastries, such as strawberry flans, fresh fruit Danish pastries and Florentines. A selection of celebration cakes are displayed in the shop’s front windows.


Dollar Rae director Neil Atherton says: "Our objective was to upgrade and enhance the image and customer perception of the shop, based on an impactful projection of Heidi’s reputable quality, traditional craft values and distinctive product profile, while also retaining the friendly, personal service ethos of the company. Along with revamping the shop front, this involved a total refurbishment of the bakery shop and coffee shop interiors and layouts to create more space, improve circulation, and produce a fresh, visually appealing look. The project extended to the reworking and redesign of the company’s well-recognised logo. The new corporate identity is also suitable for use on the company’s labels, napkins and packaging."

Muted ceramic tiles have been laid on the main shop floor, while light ash flooring has been used in the coffee shop. An internal staircase, providing access to the office above, was relocated outside the shop, enabling the coffee shop to be expanded from 16 to 28 covers. It was refitted with a mix of banquette seating and wooden high-backed chairs and tables. The side walls of the coffee shop are painted toffee brown and illuminated with decorative halogen lights, giving a warm aura.

Elliot decided to cut the space dedicated to bread to make room for a wider variety of savouries and sandwiches. "The takeaway element of the business is a lot more profitable now than it was 10 years ago. Bread represents around 10% of sales at Hayling Island, while savoury products and sandwiches account for 25%. This does vary from shop to shop though," she says.

The job took two weeks - an extra three days on top of the estimate. Elliot comments: "All our refits have over-run by around two to three days. This has nothing to do with Dollar Rae and is usually due to plumbing or building work. It’s quite complicated to pull together a job of this scale."

The overall cost of the refit stretched to £75,000, once the new furniture had been purchased, but the reaction from customers has been good and sales uplifts have followed.


Elliot confirms: "Customers have reacted well to the changes; 99% have responded very positively. They like the fact that the shop is now light, bright and smart, but that it still has a traditional feel. Business on Hayling Island is very seasonal, but the coffee shop has been a lot busier this summer and we hope to maintain this throughout the year. The coffee shop represents about 40% of our turnover."

After refitting its shops, the company will focus on expansion. Elliot comments: "The bakery at Hayling Island is capable of supporting a couple more outlets, so at this point we are thinking of opening further afield - possibly within a 30-mile radius, depending on what we can find." n


=== Heidi’s at a glance ===

Brand: Heidi’s Swiss Patisserie, Hayling Island, Hants

Established: 1969 by Ernst Straussman

Number of outlets: 8 - all in the south of England

Head office: Hayling Island

Annual turnover: £2m. Coffee represents 40% of total turnover

Customer profile: Mainly mothers and retired people

Best-sellers: Cornish pasties and sausage rolls

Cost of refit: £75,000

Refitters: Dollar Rae

Changes: New corporate logo and colour scheme; bespoke 580cm counter with ambient, refrigerated and hot sections, banquet seating and high-backed chairs