Ole & Steen will reconsider outlet expansion at the end of this year, having focused on streamlining in-store operations across its UK estate.

The Danish bakery and café, which also operates 26 sites in the UK and five stores in the US, made a DKK 182m (£20.6m) loss in 2023. 

Group CEO Joachim Knudsen, who joined the business in January, tells MCA, “We don’t see opening new stores during 2024, although if the right opportunity arrives, we will. Otherwise, our focus is really on driving organic growth in our existing stores.”

“We don’t have anything in the pipeline for 2025 as of yet, but that’s something we will look at the back end of the year.”

Further down the line, Knudsen still sees “much more potential to grow” in Greater London. 

This year, the brand is honing its in-store operations, enhancing digital engagement, and focusing on talent development.

“We have launched new features on our app, we are ensuring that we have the right people to lead our stores and focusing on delivering the highest quality of bread, pastries, and cakes to our customers in the UK,” he explains.

A significant aspect of Ole & Steen’s UK strategy in 2024 involves refreshing stores to emphasise the brand’s Danish roots.

“We have undertaken a refresh of half of our London estate, highlighting the ‘Danish-ness’ of the business and our commitment to artisanal bakery methods.”

This effort includes educating customers about the cultural heritage of Danish rye bread and showcasing a premium product.

Ole & Steen Chia Rye (2)

“There is an ongoing education around the product, and it is about really showcasing what the Danish bakery is. In the UK, it will always be a focus of ours to help the citizens of London understand the quality of our products, and that is done through fresh, good-looking stalls, excellent hospitality, and the wonderful products we sell to our customers.

“We understand that there are differences between doing business in Denmark and doing business in the UK. But we still believe that our products are meaningful for our British customers.

“It is imperative that we display our products in the most appealing way to our customers. That goes very much hand-in-hand with how we have refreshed our stores this year.”

Knudsen said that an approximately 20% reduction in financial losses indicates progress amidst challenging conditions, where the post-pandemic landscape and inflationary pressures have posed significant challenges for the brand.

“The first quarter of 2024 was a challenging trading environment, and we’ve seen optimism coming back into Q2, in terms of our performance in our stores.

“Currently, we’re quite optimistic -we think that the second-half year will be better than the first half, in terms of managing the cost base, but also driving organic growth.”