Gerhard Jenne muses on the pros and cons of business decisions and on whether cake can be a panacea for the soul when the world is full of woes

I was a surprised to see that Tesco had to announce the closure of some the Harris + Hoole coffee shops it backed last year by taking a 49% stake.

On the other hand, a giant like Tesco will have looked very closely at the return the various sites provide and, if some aren’t measuring up, I guess it’s nothing much for them to close a few.

For a small business such as Konditor & Cook, such decisions might be harder than for a giant like Tesco, but escape them one cannot.

In the last year, we stopped selling savoury food in one of our shops, since it turned out to be an unprofitable and time-consuming distraction from the core of the business. And earlier this summer, we closed our only stand-alone coffee shop, a collaboration between us and the Curzon Cinema Group.

Besides its extensive cake menu, which did provide us with a ready market for our products, we offered a coffee menu as well as alcoholic beverages. In that, it was very different from the rest of the business and needed a whole set of different skills and people to run it. When the Curzon announced it wanted the site back because it had plans to redevelop the entire cinema, we thought the time was right to let it go.

Initially, our turnover did drop, but by specialising, we can run our other sites more efficiently, and it has freed up time to look into developing new sites and new ventures, some of which are in “solicitor’s hands”, but can hopefully be announced in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, I was at a lunch party last Sunday and The Great British Bake Off came up as a topic. I liked the statement by one of the guests, who thought that baking was such a soothing topic when everything else on the news smacks of doom and gloom. From Iraq via Gaza and Ferguson, there is indeed a lot of violence and aggression around and, in his words, he felt that “there’s nothing a nice piece of Victoria Sponge cannot gladden”.

Well, I think he might be right. Our cake sales have been excellent of late, but is it really down to the bad news elsewhere?

It feels we are benefiting from a high number of tourists in London and seem to have gained quite a few new customers from large companies that have moved into redeveloped office sites near our stores. Our regular customers are also giving us plenty of support and haven’t all yet succumbed to home baking inspired by Paul and Mary, or as a result of purchasing the Konditor & Cook baking book… Phewww!

In addition, I have to give credit to our team. We tirelessly try to improve our products and services, as well as our staff training, and it feels the never-ending hard work is achieving some results! Here’s to more cake!!!