Gail’s has no immediate plans to enter the drive-thru market but continues to test new models and approaches, with white space for up to 500 shops in the UK.

Speaking at the London Coffee Festival last week, MD Marta Pogroszewska said the premium bakery chain would explore drive-thrus in the future if the right opportunity came along.

“There’s a huge market and we want to explore it,” she said. “It’s definitely on the cards, but we’re not going after it actively.

“We continue to push ourselves as we open in major travel hubs…but we will forever be a neighbourhood bakery business because of the connection we create wherever we go.”

Expanding outside the capital


As the brand continues to expand outside London, it has opened four bakeries in Manchester over the past year, with another two sites as well as a Bristol debut lined up in the coming months. A Birmingham launch is potentially further down the line.

“I drove 400 miles around Birmingham to understand what we’re getting into,” Pogroszewska added. “You want to understand what people are actually looking for, and how we’re going to add and contribute to the neighbourhood.

“As we test ourselves in new places and with new approaches, we definitely see good results and demand.”

When Gail’s first launched in Manchester, the team decided against making significant changes to the range or price point. The brand has been well received, according to Pogroszewska.

“We thought about what we should do differently – and decided to go with Gail’s as is everywhere else.

“We thought if we went into a new geography and change too many things, it may not be the Gail’s you know.

“We took a really bold step to keep Gail’s at its purest and truest, and it was really successful…we’re very grateful for how the communities welcomed us.”

As the group prepares to open its 131st shop this week in Brentford, it is going from “strength to strength,” and has decided to continue to stay true to its roots.

“We’ve had this conversation about Bristol as well,” Pogroszewska added. “We’ve decided we’ll do the same – great food and great coffee with beautiful teams in beautiful places.

“When we look at different models and adapt to different environments, this will be a consideration. But everyone who tries to scale and goes across different geographies has a mission they’re on, and sticking to the mission is very important.”

Positioning within the coffee market

Gail's Bakery chocolate bun

Gail’s is ultimately a premium bakery, but sees itself as a place for coffee enthusiasts as well, and anybody “who appreciates quality and craft,” according to Pogroszewska.

The Gail’s customer has come to expect and appreciate quality coffee, which has in turn come to be an important sales channel for the food-led business. The challenge is to improve speed and quality at the same time with coffee orders.

“It’s difficult to say if [the loyalty scheme] has pushed anyone to buy more coffee, but we definitely know more about our customers now.”

Nearly one-third of guests use the app, following its launch about one year ago. It was developed based on Gail’s stamp cards.

“We were one of the last in the coffee industry to do a loyalty scheme because we thought it was so cute, real, and honest to have stamps,” Pogroszewska said. “We have not overplayed the tech side – the app is very simple to use and very generous for customers.”

Delivering sustainability at scale

The Baker’s Breakfast Hamper, Gail's Bakery  2100x1400

Pogroszewska said delivering sustainability as well as rapid growth was an opportunity rather rather than a challenge.

“We look for partners who are absolutely able to scale and passionate about making a bigger impact.

“I think scaling gets a bad rep because you can be seen as a chain, and we don’t want to be seen as one. We have many more stores than when we started in 2005, but we want to take the opportunity to make more of an impact.”

From reducing food and coffee ground wastage to choosing the right suppliers and sourcing the right equipment, Pogroszewska acknowledges it can be challenging to deliver some sustainable ingredients at scale, but refuses to take the ‘glass half empty’ approach.

“We’re passionate about doing the right thing and seeing how far we can push on making a better choice, rather than an easier or cheaper choice.”

The secret to keeping customers coming back

Gail's Bakery cinnamon buns

Gail’s first location in Hampstead has been open since 2005 and in like-for-like sales growth ever since.

Many new concepts have opened in the neighbourhood, drawing more and more guests and adding to the community. “There is enough for everybody to share,” Pogroszewska adds.

For her, the secret is strong teams with a connection to what Gail’s stands for.

“We have this ethos we talk about a lot, but we’re not seeking perfection,” she said. “It’s important to have the best team with continuous passion to grow and be better every day.

“We’re also so grateful to our customers for sticking with us for 20 years and for being our biggest champions and challengers.”