In Focus

EXCLUSIVE: Crepeaffaire talks product innovation and their ambitious plans for the UK and beyond

QSR Media spoke with Crepeaffaire to discuss the brand's footprint, and plans for new products and expansion in the UK and abroad.

QSR Media: What’s ahead for Crepeaffaire?

We have a very ambitious roll out plan both in the UK and internationally. In the UK, we’re fairly London-centric and we now want to go to further afield. To that end we have a few confirmed store openings over the coming months, starting with Chester.

QSR Media: What appeals about that market?

The Chester location is in a very good catchment area where I think consumers will enjoy our product. That being said, our platform works everywhere in the UK.

QSR: Aside from Chester what other locations are you looking at?

We’re also looking at St Albans, in addition to some of the outlet shopping malls, as well as prestigious entries into department stores. Because our stores don’t need extractors our footprint is small, which makes us very versatile in terms of the locations we can look at. Outside the UK, we are also in the Netherlands. We opened there a few years ago in a joint venture, and we’re doing very well. We plan to expand there. We also entered the GCC Gulf area couple of years ago as well. We’ve opened three restaurants in Kuwait, and are doing our fourth in February next year. We are in Saudi Arabia now – and we’re planning to open 20-50 stores there over the next 6-8 years. But we’re doing it in a measured way.

We’re also looking at other geographies but what we are not trying to do is become a chain. We are a group, we want to make sure that each place is individual. We do allow one to be different from another. I have a very great deal of respect for McDonald’s, but we are not the McDonald’s of crepes.

We are still in a niche segment, and I think that’s part of the charm that we remain a niche product and that in the design and everything that we do, we remain seen as a group rather than a chain.

QSR Media: How many stores have you currently got, and how many do you plan to have opened by year-end?

Currently in UK, we have 15 stores. By year-end, we’d expect to have 3 or 4 more. Our expectation is that we’ll have between 20-25 stores by the end of 2018. Outside of the UK, with our franchise and joint venture partners, we’re going to develop very rapidly those areas where we think there is real opportunity to scale up the business.

QSR: What have you found surprising about opening in foreign markets?

In regards to the middle east, we went in with expectations that 90% of our sales would be of sweet crepes. In fact, we’ve been able to carve out a breakfast segment in these markets. As a consequence, we have been able to do a lot more savoury meals than expected.

QSR Media: If you look in the UK and then abroad, what would be your top seller in the UK? What is it in the Netherlands, and what is it in the Gulf?

In all markets, chocolate, and variants thereof, are our bestsellers. On the savoury side, we recently launched a gluten free, organic and vegan buckwheat galette, which has really contributed to developing the savoury side of our offering.

QSR Media: What about product innovations? What innovations are you going to put out soon?

We’ve got a lot going on actually. In addition to our recently launched gluten free range, we also introduced a luxury indulgence range with a host of new and loved toppings, like luxury salted caramel and Ferrero Rocher. Further, we’re creating mini product offerings that work for children, or as snacks for adults. We are also developing a Grab-and-Go option- one that doesn’t necessarily need to be sold from a Crepeaffaire store.

QSR: How would that work?

We’re exploring a few options, both Grab & Go and Heat to Eat. Watch this space.

QSR Media: What threats and opportunities do you see in the marketplace?

We see immense opportunity in expanding the concept that we have. The basic concept works well, so we just want to expand it at a faster, albeit measured, pace. What keeps me up at night are the potential effects of Brexit on consumer confidence and on the labour market.

There are certain things that we can’t control, but what’s important is that we keep this industry that we’re in an attractive industry for guests and for people to work in.

QSR Media: Are you seeing a reduced footfall as a result in the fall in consumer confidence?

We’re fortunate that our growth has been quite good this year. We’ve seen strong like-for-like sales growth. More generally though I think over time, the economic growth in the UK will fall behind the rest of Europe because of consumer uncertainty.

QSR Media: How do you protect yourselves against these risks?

We do two things: first of all, in the QSR sector, we are at a price-point which is not exceptionally high, making it affordable for quite a few people. Secondly, we’re looking at opportunities outside the UK. Not so much to protect ourselves, but because our product and the brand is one that works well outside the UK. When I created this brand, it’s always with the intention to scale it internationally.

QSR Media: What do you think is your brand philosophy, and how would you differentiate yourself from competitors? Who do you see as your competition?

We see everybody in the food segment as our competition. We are unique though as we are in a sector which is different from others. Crepes are a great thing to eat while you’re sitting down, or on the go, and it works well in a delivery format. Crepes are also exceptionally versatile. They are effectively pockets in which you can place a variety of foods- sweet or savoury. 

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