Shop sign for Gail's Bakery's newest store in Brentford, West London.  Kat Anto-Lewis   2100x1400

Source: Kat Anto-Lewis

Shop sign hangs outside Gail’s Bakery’s newest store in Brentford, West London

Gail’s Bakery has unveiled plans to open up to 35 new stores across the UK this year.

Speaking at The London Coffee Festival earlier this month, Gail’s managing director Marta Pogroszewska revealed the estate expansion target while noting that the latest shop opening in Brentford marked the firm’s 131st location.

Gail's Bakery's new shopy in Brentford is housed in a listed warehouse building which once played host to a grocery store,  Kat Anto-Lewis

Source: Kat Anto-Lewis

Gail’s Bakery’s new shop in Brentford is housed in a listed warehouse building which once played host to a grocery store

She said a further four new retail outlets would be added by the end of May – in Bristol, Petersfield, Chester, and Thame near Oxford – and confirmed that bakery shops at the “three biggest stations in London” were also in the pipeline for 2024, although she didn’t reveal the full details.

“Scale gets bad press,” admitted Pogroszewska, while claiming the company didn’t see itself as a chain. “We will forever be a neighbourhood bakery business. We’re a place for all people who appreciate quality and craft.”

She described the original Gail’s shop on Hampstead High Street (opened in 2005) as “such a superpower” despite being one of its smallest bakeries. “Every single [coffee shop] brand has opened in Hampstead, and it’s beautiful to see because it brings so much richness to the community,” she said.

Pogroszewska assumed the MD role eight years ago following a stint as Pret’s director of operations in New York. For the past six months, she has also been the COO of Bread Holdings Ltd, the private equity firm that owns Gail’s as well as wholesalers The Bread Factory and Bertinet Bakery.

Although recent media speculation alleged Gail’s was considering drive-thrus as part of its expansion plans, Pogroszewska said the company had no specific strategy to explore that business model, although she did concede that it was a “huge market” presenting a “big opportunity” for growth.

Gail's Bakery MD Marta Pogroszewska (right) speaks with MCA deputy editor Shwetali Sapte during London Coffee Festival 2024 - British Baker   2100x1400

Source: British Baker

Gail’s Bakery MD Marta Pogroszewska (right) speaks with MCA deputy editor Shwetali Sapte during London Coffee Festival 2024

Gail’s opened a total of 21 shops last year, which was a little under its ambition of repeating the 28 new sites from 2022. “We just do what makes sense,” co-founder and CEO Tom Molnar told British Baker.

“We found 21 great sites – it is not the number that drives us, we would rather open less and better. Having said that, there are a lot of empty locations in some great neighbourhoods and it is sad to see them not used,” he added.

Gail’s first expanded outside of the southeast of England back in June 2022 with a shop in Manchester. Pogroszewska said the business had taken “a bold step” in deciding not to change the prices of its bakery products and was grateful the brand had been embraced by their new northern customers.

Gail's Bakery CEO Tom Molnar 1394x1800

Source: Gail’s Bakery

Co-founder and CEO Tom Molnar

Now the business is venturing into another new region, the southwest, with a store in Bristol’s Clifton Village. “I am happy we are a bit closer to some of my favourite growers, millers, and food pioneers,” commented Molnar.

Gail’s works with several producers from the region, such as Shipton Mill flour, Quicke’s dairy, and apple juice supplier Wildpress.

“The UK’s baking and food scene is getting increasingly better and more exciting. Bristol’s progressive spirit and fortunate geography in the middle of some great agricultural land, with a long history of good producers, should continue to nurture and attract new ideas,” Molnar asserted.

The new shop will create up to 15 jobs across management and craft roles.

It will stock Gail’s core range of artisanal bakery products including sourdough loaves (some of which were recently reformulated with whole grains), sweet and savoury bakes, and freshly-made sandwiches, along with seasonal specialities such as Chicken, Tarragon & Ham Hand-Pies, Sour Cherry & Chocolate Scones, and Crispy Squash & Sage Challah sandwiches.

Gail's Bakery's various sourdough offerings at one of its shops  2100x1400

Source: Gail’s Bakery

Sourdough offerings at a Gail’s Bakery shop

Molnar revealed Gail’s was currently looking at a few options for new sites near Birmingham, adding: “We would like to have more around Manchester, where we have had a wholesale bakery for eight-plus years serving lots of great chefs”.

He noted that the craft food and baking scene was improving as people choose to be more intentional about what they eat. “We are one of many makers who believe there are opportunities to eat better, increase the number of good choices and work with farmers and other producers to create a better food system. We think there is room for more than 10% growth, but it will take a lot of work,” he added.