With their recent announcment that they had opened an outlet in Tokyo, we spoke with Asher Budwig, Managing Director of Lola's Cupcakes about his plans for the brand.
QSR: We've seen you open a number of mobile kiosks of late vs your more traditional type of store. Is this strategy one that you'll pursue going forward or can we expect more store concessions or 'freestanding' stores?
You can expect a real mix of stores from us. We have enjoyed opening some of the smaller mobile ‘carts’ and also variations such as Victoria Place which is an in-line unit. We are shortly due to be opening a small store in Chancery Lane station, so we are open to interesting and creative spaces providing they fit with our customer and brand.
QSR: Are you looking for more locations in the UK? If so where (eg inside London or outside London) and what type of locations work for the brand?
We are looking for more locations, and very excited about the possibilities of outside London. Shortly due to be launching in Manchester Trafford Centre, which is our biggest jump to date, and we’ve recently been doing a pop up in Bicester Village, so very keen on bringing hand crafted cupcakes further afield. City locations such as the west end work really well, as they are densely packed and have lots of tourists coming through. Transport hubs are great, as people can grab a box of their favourites on their way to dinner or when travelling up and down the country so we will continue to explore that route too.
QSR: How did the Japanese expansion come about and what made Japan an attractive market?
Japan was an attractive market, as Tokyo is such a vibrant and growing city and a fanatic place to launch the first Lola’s. I was privileged enough to be out for the opening, and it was an amazing experience to see how the Japanese customer really engaged with the London brand. We are located in a very fashionable part of town ‘Harajuku’ which is similar to Soho/Covent Garden, and really fitted well with our brand. We’ve got a fantastic local partner and team, and better still one of our decorators that used to work in London (Japanese) is now back home in Tokyo working at the Lola’s store there.
QSR: Did you have to change your offering to suit the Japanese market? If so, how?
We launched 4 flavours to suit the local market, Tokyo Vanilla, Blood Orange, Mont Blanc (Horse Chestnut) and Match (Green Tea) but we kept 8 of our originals from London. This mix has worked really well as people can get something they are used to and something such as Carrot which they really are not!
QSR: More generally, how did you go about preparing the brand for international expansion? Did you have to change the way you operate at all to do this?
We’ve had to undergo some changes naturally in the UK to gear up for this. We typically invite the local franchisee here to the UK for training and marketing assistance, and then send some of our team back out to the franchisees country to ensure the operation is perfect. Our product development teams have been working quite closely to help source all the same ingredients, or similar like for likes, so its been a real challenge throughout the business.
QSR: We've seen a number of QSR brands looking to expand by launching supermarket lines- is this something you'd look at?
Lola’s is a premium, hand crafted and fresh product, and not wishing to say never, I’d say we are very happy looking after our customers from our own stores for the moment.
QSR: Are you looking for franchise partners in the UK?
We are always open to work with fantastic people, and very keen to explore locations outside of London.
QSR: How big do you see the Lola's brand growing?
Lola’s is still a small business, with a family culture, and we want to ensure we keep it that way. We are not expanding aggressively, we are seeking good opportunities where we believe customers will enjoy our products. Its hard to say how big we see the brand growing, but there is certainly more room overseas in territories such as India, America and Europe, and we believe theres still room in the UK for a few more hand crafted cupcake stores.
QSR: What is your top selling cupcake?
The red velvet cupcake is our most popular.
QSR: What product innovations are in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
Oooh…… not sure if I can but since its almost out the door I’d say ‘Mini Cheese Cakes’ which look and taste AMAZING !!!!!!
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