As hurricane Gonzalo passes through the UK, Gerhard Jenne looks at the winds of change blowing through his own business… and hopes for the best.
Just as hurricane Gonzalo’s tentacles are reaching Britain with its strong gusts of wind, there is also a fresh breeze blowing through Konditor & Cook.
A new intake of staff – for the imminent opening of our pop-up store in Spitalfields, as well as the busy Christmas period ahead – gathered around the table at our Cake School yesterday. Everyone gets to introduce themselves, and in turn, they get to hear about our company ethos. It is also my way of introducing myself to new team members, in that I give them my ‘How did I get here’ story and how Konditor & Cook came to life 21 years ago.fresh breeze blowing through Konditor & Cook.
We try and make it fun. It isn’t just your ordinary PowerPoint presentation, but one peppered with amusing anecdotes and tasty cake samples to illustrate the topics and times touched upon. It also shows my more gentle side, rather than the gale-force wind they might encounter as I hurriedly breeze through a shop or kitchen at a later date.
There have also been winds of change at our store on Gray’s Inn Road this week. It is the second shop we have converted to just being a specialist cake shop, rather than continuing with the dual approach of savoury food and sweets.
It made sense in that location, since the non-profit-making lunchtime food sales have been in decline for some time. At first it was brought about by the change in office values and population. Many of the bigger companies around us vacated and moved to smarter offices in Kings Cross. Some of the buildings were then converted to residential use or are still in the process of being brought up-to-date as smart ‘mid-city’ office accommodation.
Recently, there has been an influx of new tenants to offices in and around Hatton Gardens. At the same time, Leather Lane Market, which serves this area, has re-invented itself as a thriving mecca for pop-up food — and street food is what rocks! We took a pitch ourselves, selling our brownies and Mini Bakes and the stall does very nicely indeed — introducing us to an audience that perhaps wouldn’t walk further or simply likes the informal ambience of markets.
It’s quite extraordinary how the food stalls and vans have eroded away and diverted business from formerly busy retail streets and sites. I worry about some of the recent arrivals adjacent to us. They grapple with hefty leases, with rents and rates that leave them with overheads close to £400 per trading day. When you can pitch up in a market for under £20 you know who’s quids-in.
Meanwhile the shopfitters have moved into our own pop-up concept in Spitalfields Market. With a scheduled opening date in less than seven days, this is the fastest opening I will have encountered since our first store back in 1993.
Back then it only took 12 days to convert a tired and fusty baker’s into Konditor & Cook. Thereafter, I was more ambitious and took on old Victorian buildings that needed knocking into shape or sunk a ton of money into converting a cavernous, breeze-block and glass-sided box in the Gherkin into a temple for cake — a breeze it was not!
We have had a good first half to this year: the accounts are in good shape and trading is brisk. I hope Gonzalo is the only ill wind we will encounter as we sail into the busy next six months.