Patisserie Valerie is seeking reposition itself as a more contemporary, aspirational brand with a new store design and blue colour scheme set to be piloted in three London stores, and a proposed new opening in Hammersmith.
Paolo Peretti, managing director for retail, spoke to MCA after the unveiling of a new menu, which he said used more expensive ingredients, costs he said were managed by reformulating the cakes to make them smaller.
The changes come as the new management team attempts to draw a line under the previous business operation, which was bought out of administration after a £100m black hole was revealed in accounts, leading to five arrests by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
Peretti said it was a “significant change of direction” for the brand, which was seeing it target new customers, and position itself as a more premium concept, along the lines of Le Pain Quotidien or Paul.
He said the new business, backed by Causeway Capital, would measure like-for-likes from 14 February when the new owners took charge, with the previous numbers in doubt and under scrutiny by the SFO.
On the menu changes rolled out earlier this week, Peretti said: “It’s a change of direction. We’re trying to broaden our appeal and make it more aspirational. We’ve been using quality, more expensive ingredients. The feedback from customers on taste is it’s a significant step forward
“We do accept that it’s quite a big departure, and it will take a bit of time for people to get used to it and bed in.”
The director said the brand, founded in Soho in 1926, had gone back to its core proposition, after straying into casual dining territory.
“The menu has been rationalised to make it easier to follow,” he added. “We’re a patisserie, so we have a menu that’s congruent with that aspiration. We see ourselves as a cake-based version of Le Pain Quotidien or Paul - that is where we’re aiming to be.
“The prices are broadly the same, but the slices are slightly smaller, as had a lot of feedback that the slices were too big. Where they’ve gone up it’s by a few pence.
“Before the brand was attempting to be all things to all people. Stores were labelled as brasseries. There used to be burgers and lasagnes on the menu, which I don’t think is what a patisserie is all about. We’re not a restaurant.”
Three London sites have been identified for the new look, as well as a new opening in Hammersmith which is in legals, and is set to replace a previous store which closed.
“It isn’t going to be an evolution – they are going to look quite different,” he said.
“The brand has gone as far as it can in its current iteration. We’ve chosen a more contemporary colour palate and concept graphics. It’s quite a significant makeover. There will be more blue in it then there is currently.”
Peretti said there were still issues to work through, but that he hoped the changes would draw a line under the previous business.
“We’ve worked through a lot of legacy issues that are well documented – a sense of direction, who we want to be where we want to be.
“There remains a lot of work to do, but I’m encouraged by the progress. Still there are the practicalities of transferring leases across – we have to got give or six months’ work to do on that.
“In terms of like for likes, we will start measuring from 14 February. What I will say is we are pretty confident with our own numbers. The stores we tested the new menu in we saw a slight uplift. There will be a new iteration. We are reaching out to a new customer as well, so it will take time.
“A lot of media attention has all been about the past, and we’ve trying to move the conversation onto the future.”