PAUL Bakery is looking for partners to take the business outside London and grow it within the UK. We spoke to CEO Mark Hilton to find out more
Why has the brand decided to implement a franchise model and what benefits do you feel it will bring?
PAUL has been operating in the UK for 20 years and has a strong customer base in London that trusts us and appreciates the quality of our products.
Over the last few years, we’ve developed what we believe is an enticing franchise model, which will enable us to grow the brand outside London. We will continue to look for growth opportunities in London, but with the right partner will look to grow the brand outside the capital.
We have two key models we believe will provide prospective franchisees with investable propositions.
PAUL Express, which we have developed in recent openings, is focused on grab and go while offering eating in as well as takeaway. We also have PAUL le Cafe, which will have more seating and offer great coffee, small treats, sandwiches, cakes and bread.
We have focused on improving our website, our e-commerce platform and delivery opportunities while we’ve been operating through this pandemic and, as a result, feel we now have the means to offer customers our artisanal bread and baked products at home and in our PAUL locations.
Paul Bakery has an illustrious artisanal bakery history. How will this experience pair with its strong brand awareness help fuel its franchise expansion efforts?
With our artisanal bakery history and the credibility that affords us, we’ve developed our positioning as your neighbourhood bakery. This has stood us in good stead through the pandemic when customers have been able to rely on us and our products, while we’ve invested significantly in PPE and operational best practice to ensure our customers feel safe when visiting our stores.
Our challenge is that we are not present in neighbourhoods outside London - and we still have plenty of local neighbourhoods we can open and operate in the capital. We’re looking for franchisees who are interested in developing in regions where they’re based so that they are able to fulfil this role of the neighbourhood baker.
What are your goals when it comes to franchise development?
We clearly want to develop the brand in the UK outside London and believe there are plenty of opportunities to grow.
However, at this stage, it’s not about specific store numbers. It’s more important for us to find the right partners who are passionate about the brand, who believe in the brand story and who want to play a part in the brand’s continuing journey. If we can find the right partners and provide the structure and support to enable them to grow and flourish, store numbers will follow.
The important point is to find the right partners. From initial discussions with interested parties since we first announced that we were interested in franchising, we feel encouraged that there are some very capable, knowledgeable businesses that have the people, the financial means and the interest in the brand.
As our discussions progress, we would hope and expect them to result in bringing franchisees on board and we then look forward to helping them grow.
Are there any key cities or territories you wish to grow the brand’s presence in particular?
It makes sense for us to grow in regions where there is potential scale for prospective franchisees and obviously larger cities, in particular, provide that growth opportunity.
When we were looking at establishing this franchise opportunity, we looked at a number of cities across the country - from Edinburgh to Manchester, Cambridge to Guildford - cities with differing populations, geographies, different levels of competition and differing location opportunities.
We believe the brand would work well in all these cities, so eventually, we see the brand growing successfully across the country.
From a logistics perspective, it would make sense to open in concentric circles, radiating out from London. While strategically that would make the most sense, the key to a successful franchisor is having the right franchisees, so our focus will be on the prospective franchisee rather than a specific geography.
Does Paul Bakery employ a franchise model elsewhere in the world? How successful has that proven?
PAUL has been operating in France for 130 years and today operates in over 50 countries around the world, with company stores in France, the UK and Singapore and franchise stores across the other countries and markets. It opened its first franchise stores in Spain in 1985, so has a long and successful history of franchising.
The largest franchise partner is Azadea, an outstandingly run business that operates the PAUL brand across the Middle East. We also have numerous partners across Asia and North and South America.
In Europe, the brand has franchise partners across the continent.
There are obviously still numerous countries where the opportunity to franchise still exists, but one of the biggest gaps in this opportunity was the UK and this move is intended to address this.
What kind of franchisee are you looking for?
Ideally, the franchisee will have experience of the bakery sector or restaurant sector. It would be interesting if they have experience in operating or franchising other brands, though not essential.
We would like them to be able to demonstrate that they have a track record in operating retail or multiple location businesses and have the financial means to invest. All these aspects are measurable and quantifiable.
Over and above this is that little bit of magic - their passion and interest in the brand, the desire to engage with the brand and their drive to build a successful business with the brand. If we can find that profile, we will find some very good franchise partners.
What will a franchisee get in return for their investment?
For any investor, making a financial return on their investment is the main reason to invest and we would expect and welcome any investor in PAUL to have this expectation.
But over and above any financial return, we would also like to believe that prospective franchisees are investing in the brand for more that financial reasons - that they believe, like and value the brand, that they believe in the PAUL story and want to be part of the future journey.
We believe the brand allows them to position their business as the neighbourhood bakery and so help establish a presence in the communities in which they operate. We think they will become part of the PAUL family and help write the new chapters for the next 20 years that the brand will operate in the UK.
What makes the Paul bakery investment package different from other bakery franchise concepts?
There are many fine brands and bakeries out there and no doubt some of them offer franchise opportunities. We respect and admire these brands and hope they’re all navigating their way as best they can through this pandemic so that the sector and industry thrive again once we start to get back to a level of normalcy.
We do think though that PAUL provides a unique opportunity, a chance to partner with one of the leading global bakeries, a French artisanal bakery that has been operating for over 130 years that has built a strong and enviable reputation wherever it operates and now provides the chance for its prospective franchise partners to take the brand outside London and grow it within the UK.