Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Le Gateau, the brand of catering, pastry and bakery, has gained a tremendous following and customer loyalty through serving products of European quality. Represented by 3 locations at Vake and Saburtalo, Le Gateau offers a tasty experience and a cosy place to enjoy chats. The FINANCIAL paid a visit to Manana Anjaparidze, the Managing Director at Le Gateau to gain insights.
Q. What does the 10th anniversary mean to you? How have you maintained quality for so long and what is the key to your success?
A. The 10th anniversary highlights the brand that Le Gateau has become. We have gone against the competition and overcome the economic crisis, opening 3 locations and maintaining quality, at first appreciated by a few, however, persistently paving the way to success. Our products are cooked with ingredients imported from, Israeli, Italy and England. And to control quality we have introduced HASP standards.
Jackie Kazan, a valued member at International Confectionery Association (ICA) and a partner at Le Gateau monitors our products and consistently provides feedback. There are no minor details while striving to offer the best and bite is all it takes to appreciate it.
Q. What were the major achievements and challenges in 2021?
A. Due to the difficulties posed by the pandemic, maintaining customers and business became a tough task. We lacked stability as the environment was unpredictable and changing fast. Our goal was to optimise resources and utilize our staff in all 3 of our locations. Implementing digital activities became the sole method to conduct business, therefore we teamed up with local delivery companies for the first time, before which, we only owned a small service to deliver cakes.
We have received positive customer feedback, which showed us tremendous potential in the previously unexplored direction. We have increased our online and social media presence and raised marketing expenditure, a process which we will continue. In a certain way, the pandemic urged us to seek activities and spot opportunities. The only thing that lacked was the physical presence of our customers who missed enjoying the Le Gateau environment.
Q. How did the pandemic change your market?
A. Pandemic extended market and allowed us to reach further areas through technology. We have gained a lot of new customers who were grateful to discover us.
We have also spotted that the lockdown decreased the competition, as many businesses were closed due to instability, lockdowns, restrictions, and financial difficulties, which naturally increased demand. Another difficulty was maintaining staff as people stayed away from restaurant-related jobs due to its instability, however, we have overcome that challenge as well.
The pandemic made customers more demanding and quality-oriented, the values which we have been pursuing since day one. The admirers of our product gradually grew and we found new customers who appreciate Le Gateau.
Q. Did you shift towards using online platforms? How did the business model change?
A. Revenue from delivery platforms balanced 70% of the loss caused by the pandemic. It was a tool that granted resources to retain staff and cover costs. We remained active and decided to pursue marketing campaigns and platforms that enable wider reach, have become an integrated part of the business model. The marketing expenditure tripled in 2021 and our feedback indicates that lots of new customers were reached who were glad to hear about Le Gateau.
Q. What was the major learning experience?
A. The challenges posed by the pandemic urged us towards solving many problems which would ultimately become our learning experience. The “survival instincts” paved the way to see different perspectives and opportunities amid crisis.
One of the lessons that the lockdowns have shown was the risks of depending on distribution, therefore we have decided to shift towards cultivating our ingredients in a piece of land in the Natakhthari region. The farm which is supported by infrastructure will soon be ready to grow 100% bioproduct with no chemical substances. The idea was born 3 years ago as we wanted to use our bio ingredients in our products and the pandemic fastened the process. We reject harmful alternatives and owning the farm will help us to even better control what goes into our product.
Q. What were the most demanded products?
A. The unique taste of our bread and pastry has always been a customer favourite. The mother dough that our partner confectioners have brought all the way from Israeli, carries a unique flavour that people love. Unfortunately, we are only duplicating the dough day by day which only enables us to bake a limited number. Our bread has no yeast and is a great healthy product with astonishing taste and flavour. Our croissants and pastry also are made with little to no yeast as well as customer favourite shu cake, which is a mixture of Israeli dough and traditional Georgian cream.
Q. What are your expectations for the year 2022?
A. We believe 2022 will be the end of the pandemic, therefore we have decided to open a new location targeted at tourists. Seeing great feedback on Trip Advisor, we wanted to introduce our product to the segment. We believe that the pandemic will finally be over which will bring tourists back and the fourth new location will be ready to serve them in spring. We are very optimistic about the future and even consider opening the 5th location by the end of 2022 if the time is right. We will stay active operate our bio farm, initiate marketing activities and start hosting cooking masterclasses.