Gerhard’s blog: Advent Time

Gerhard Jenne shows how a year of change at Konditor & Cook has made the operation more polished amid a sparkling pre-Christmas London. 

Am I the only one who finds London particularly polished and festive this Christmas? So far, the crisp, cool weather has provided the perfect backdrop for London’s sparkling festive lights, and the shop windows are more mesmerising than ever, inviting hordes of people to spend, spend, spend and spend. It’s not surprising everyone is expecting this to be a bumper Christmas.

Our own tills have been ringing nearly as sweetly as the bells of St Paul’s (the one in Covent Garden, not the cathedral), where this week I was called to get into the festive spirit — as if countless mince pies haven’t made sure of that!

Yes, it was time again for the Food Chain’s annual carol service. Every year we donate a large batch of our famed pies and delightful cinnamon stars to help to raise money for the Food Chain, which provides communal dining, free groceries and nutritional support for people living with HIV. More and more people struggle with their weekly shopping bill as the general rise in food banks tells us, but those hampered by illness find it even harder.

As the theologian Albert Schweitzer said, “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” For us, this is a great opportunity to help others. I think that, on the whole, the baking profession encapsulates a lot of this spirit in its DNA.

Next week, I’ll don my Mystic Meg cloak and gaze into a crystal ball for 2015. Today, however, it is time to reflect on the changes that this year brought about.

We set out to improve our margins and prune away the less profitable parts of the business to focus on our core activity: baking cakes and treats — the stuff we are famed for. It wasn’t easy to accept change, but change there was.

We stopped selling savoury food in two stores, closed one that was operating as a café/bar, stopped our small and time-consuming wholesale activity and took a hard look at the breadth of our product range.

The result is that streamlining our product lines has helped with improving the merchandising and this, in turn, has led to core product ranges seeing a sales increase of 50% and more. Not producing low-margin savouries and wholesale has helped operationally and improved labour cost in our kitchens.

The opening of a smaller site in a high-footfall location has been a success. Just a couple of months in, we are already beating targets. We re-organised our production and delivery service, and can now offer next-day delivery and collection on online London orders.

The K&C recipe book published this year has been going down a treat with our baking-mad customers and sales have been heating up as Christmas approaches.

I guess the lesson is: be not afraid of change. And so at the advent of 2015, Konditor & Cook is not only looking festive, but also more polished — just like London.

www.konditorandcook.com

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