Following the successful launch of stores in London and Manchester, German bakery franchise Bake & Take is ready to roll out across the UK
Although there are many stereotypes about the British that don’t stand up, there’s one that definitely holds true: we’re suckers for a sausage roll. With that in mind, German bakery brand Bake & Take looks all set to take Britain’s high streets by storm.
Bake & Take’s model originally began life in Germany in 2001 as the brainchild of Dr. Hans Christian Limmer and Dr. Dirk Schneider. “They defined a concept that they believed would be unique in Germany: a fully self-service bakery,” says Robin Page, UK master franchise owner of Bake & Take. Thanks to the capital that they had at their disposal, they were able to buy up a multitude of small independent bakeries across Germany and rebranded them as backWERK – German for baked goods. The two founders quickly settled on franchising as the best model to help them expand, rapidly rolling the brand out across Germany, Netherlands, Romania, Switzerland and Belgium. “There are currently about 360 stores across Europe, with the majority of those being in Germany,” Page says.
When backWERK decided it was time to crack the UK, it needed to find some master franchisees that were up to the job. Fortunately, a contact at the bfa was able to point it in the right direction. “One of their consultants knew my franchise background and asked if I knew anybody that would be interested in taking on the master licence,” says Page. Suffice to say, having spent ten years as franchise director at Cash Generator, the high-street pawn broker, he could see the potential of backWERK’s model. He turned to long-time friend Steve Mahon, who had previously been managing director of bluechip brands like Ebuyer.com, Cash Generator and Wine Cellar, and asked him whether he’d be interested in partnering to bring backWERK to the UK. “After a couple of visits to Germany, we decided that it was something we wanted to look at,” he says.
But whilst both parties agreed that the partnership was a good fit, this didn’t mean there weren’t still creases that needed ironing out. “It took about nine months to agree a deal with Germany because a lot of the parts of the contract they insisted on, we wouldn’t sign,” Page says. “We needed to have total autonomy for the UK.” Whilst elements of the branding and store fit-out have to be kept consistent with the parent brand, Bake & Take has retained a high degree of control over its menu and products. “We stood by our guns and we’ve got a fairly free hand with what we do in the UK,” he says.
Once an agreement was signed, the next stage involved adapting the concept to British shores. “There was a lot of trial and research,” says Page. “Steve and I spent weeks researching all of our competition.” Although the duo have aimed for pricing in the same ballpark as a store like Greggs, Page feels the ambience of their cafes – with softer lighting and free wifi – is more akin to the upper-end high-street eateries. “It’s really upmarket and very much like going into a Pret a Manger or an Eat,” he says.
Another way that Bake & Take has set itself apart from its competition is with the freshness and variety of its products; many of the franchise’s lines come in frozen and are baked fresh each morning. “The mainstay of our business is providing the bread for good quality sandwiches, be it fresh baguettes, turkish flatbreads or German kaiser rolls,” Page says. It also serves products at a range of temperatures. “In most of the larger cafes, we have three distinct display models: hot, cold and ambient,” he says.
Having established the franchise model for Bake & Take, the next step for the pair was opening their pilot store in 2014. “We’ll have been trading in Greater Manchester for two years this May,” says Page. “It’s a profitable cafe operation with nearly 100 seats.” And, as soon as they’d proven the efficacy of the model, they kicked off a major franchising drive, opening their first franchise store in Sutton before lining up a roster of new franchisees from Aberdeen all the way down to Eastbourne. “We’re currently working on leases with seven new franchisees,” he says.
During this period of recruitment, there are some specific competencies that Bake & Take is looking for in its franchisees. “You’ve got to have a good work ethic, strong business acumen and, in the early stages, you need to be very hands-on,” Page says. The franchise is also very careful not to let people overstretch themselves financially: throughout his career, Page has learnt that allowing franchisees to tie up too much of their resources in the franchise is a recipe for disaster. “All that does is create an issue for them at home,” he says. “It becomes stressful and the business suffers.”
Fortunately, Bake & Take hasn’t struggled to find franchisees with the right stuff. “Based on my experience in franchising, it’s about identifying the right channels,” Page says. Rather than hitting up the large-scale franchise shows, the franchise has adopted a multi-channel approach, using word of mouth, a strong online presence and the services of a recruitment company to draw in new leads. It also runs twice-monthly discovery days split between the London and Manchester stores, at which it averages 12 to 15 potential franchisees a session. “The quality of people is exceptionally good,” Page says. “We’re probably converting one from every discovery day at the moment.”
Perhaps one of the reasons the brand is proving so popular is the versatility of the concept. “The nice thing about this particular franchise model is that it is completely modular,” Page says. Bake & Take is currently offering up a range of store footprints and styles, including fully-fledged cafes, grab-and-go stores and compact pods for places like supermarket car parks. “We’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes so we can offer a model that suits various marketplaces,” he says. “We can even produce a drive-through.”
And Bake & Take is looking to capitalise on this by forming key partnerships with petrol stations and supermarkets, as well as making the most of multi-site operators looking for new opportunities. “A number of people have opened multiple Subway or Domino’s Pizza stores and can’t open anymore,” says Page. They’re looking for the next new thing in the marketplace that will allow them to open ten or 15 units.” Thanks to these partnerships, the franchise hopes to hit some ambitious expansion targets: it’s aiming to open 12 outlets in 2016 and 100 within the next five years. “It’s a very exciting time for Bake & Take,” Page concludes.