Mark Hilton joined bakery chain Paul as chief executive late last year. He talks to Katherine Price about driving the brand's growth outside of London, attracting more franchisees and tackling food waste
What are your plans for the brand?
The primary objective is to grow the business, both in the capital and outside of London. Therefore, one of our main focuses is to develop a model that is attractive for investors to become prospective franchisees.
The work that has been done over the past 18 months to develop the Express model, following successful openings at St Pancras and Tottenham Court Road, has provided us with a concept that we believe will present a strongly viable investment opportunity, with a smaller footprint, simplified operations and lower investment.
Does this include new products?
Our Express format has necessitated the development of an enhanced grab-and-go offering. We are continuing to develop this range, meeting consumer needs at different day parts and occasions, as well as focusing on healthier products and vegetarian and vegan offerings.
How are you working to attract new franchise partners?
To secure interest from future partners we have added resource to our team to bring in experience and insight of the UK market. With their leadership, we will become more active in communicating with investors and sharing the story of Paul. We believe as they hear the story, learn about the brand's success internationally and, most importantly, understand the performance of the business in the UK, that we will be considered by prospective franchise partners.
Are you looking at any particular areas of the UK for expansion?
We have opportunities to continue growing the brand in London; this will primarily be growth through our own investments. As we move out of London, future growth will be predominantly, although not exclusively, through future franchise partners. We are currently working on determining priority cities and areas, where we can focus efforts to connect with prospective franchisees, but if we are approached by the right partners with the strengths and capabilities that we are looking for, then we are open to have dialogue with them.
How are you ensuring the Paul offering stands out and is resilient in challenging market conditions for food brands?
Even though we have strong heritage, the brand is still evolving to meet the needs of consumers today. There are not many brands that can offer the depth of our product range, so I believe that our offer is significantly differentiated in the marketplace.
How is Paul tackling its food waste and improving its sustainability credentials?
Last year, we saved 55,000 meals through our partnership with Too Good To Go, helping reduce our CO2 footprint by 137 tonnes and turned 4.5 tonnes of surplus bread into bread pudding for London-based charity, the Felix Project.
I'm very proud, not only of what we have managed to do so far, but also of the way the teams across our stores, bakery and support office have really engaged in all of our CSR initiatives.
Last year, we saved 55,000 meals through our partnership with Too Good To Go, helping reduce our CO2 footprint by 137 tonnes
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