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Butterscotch Bakery

Offering the best of American treats you can find this side of the pond.

Born with a desire to be the 'neighbourhood bakery' that stays with you your whole life.

Bea Vo interviewed by Alex Mann

What is your background, how did it lead to you starting Butterscotch Bakery and where have your biggest influences come from?

I’ve been a pastry chef for more than 17 years (please don’t do the maths and figure out my age!). I previously spent time at Nobu, Asia de Cuba, Ottolenghi, and trained at Le Cordon Bleu before I opened my first Business Bea’s of Bloomsbury in 2008, and then co-created Bloomsbury’s in Dubai in 2010. I left Bea’s of Bloomsbury in 2014 to open Stax Diner; an American restaurant, and then Boondocks London and Famous Flames in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

 

The business started life on the internet, does the internet make it easier for new brands to develop due to limitless exposure or is it harder as there is no room for mistakes?

The internet, while the start up costs are infinitely less than a bricks and mortar site, it’s harder to get attention because there’s just so much out there available on the internet. Cake, at the end of day, is a word of mouth proposition — people who eat and enjoy your cakes will tell their friends, who will tell their friends, and it just grows exponentially. You can game the system and spend a lot of money on SEO, but unless you’re selling something tasty, people won’t come back. With a cafe, you get to develop a consistent following with neighbours, locals, and workers in the area, and this helps to keep things relatively stable, whilst online sales tend to be lots of weekend birthday parties or holiday seasons like Christmas.

 

How important has your premises been to butterscotch and where do you see yourself next?

I think White City Place has been an amazing fit for us—we have an amazing production kitchen that let's us make food to our high standard in a way other places might not be able to — and it also aids to continue fulfilling online orders, as well as fulfilling office catering onsite and servicing our cafe customers. To be honest, I love the idea of a really interesting secret space that’s off-pitch, hidden from public view, and having a spectacular afternoon tea parlour available by bookings only.

How have the mix of operators and the local residents in White City Place affected your business?

White City Place has been such a dynamic environment — it’s great to see a vast number of workers, students and residents who appreciate what we do, not to mention there are so few good cafes out here in West London compared to East London. We’re very happy to be here. Plus, we also have an office catering menu exclusive to White City Place, which means we can send out piping hot madeleines, warm cinnamon buns, and Square Mile Coffee to any office meeting. Any way you can entice people to come to business meetings, we’re happy to help!

 

How have you differentiated yourself from competitors?

Our biggest concern is substance over style. There are lots of pretty cakes out there, but they taste like cardboard — I’d rather have an ugly cake taste amazing than a pretty cake taste horrible. Luckily, our cakes aren’t ugly - AND they’re tasty to boot! As long as we focus on taste above all else, whilst still having a clean, sophisticated style and design, we can’t go wrong.

 

What are your plans for the future of Butterscotch Bakery?

We want to grow it organically, as Butterscotch is part of the 'Feed Your Soul Family', and all of the sites have to work together cohesively, and so we don’t want to expand too quickly and sacrifice what it is that makes us special. So for now, if we see something interesting pop up with a ready and willing audience, we’d be happy to consider it, but for the moment we are really happy with where we are at.

Butterscotch is meant to be the neighbourhood bakery that stays with you your whole life - from the cafe you go to for a first date coffee, to where you order your birthday cakes, engagement cakes, wedding cakes and christening cakes from; simply a part of the fabric of someone’s life. Created with a real belief that you really can feed your soul, not with stale, factory produced products, but with food made with real hands. In 5 year's time, we would love to have an afternoon tea parlour, and an expanded cafe/brunch spot somewhere in central London. I definitely want to have a soda shop/dessert bar, maybe with cocktails, as I really love making ice creams and would love to find a way to get that into the repertoire.

What do you believe are the challenges for butterscotch?

The biggest challenge for Butterscotch is being able to really transmit the message of just how much crazy effort we put in to even the littlest details. For example, at 3 o’clock every day, we bake fresh hot madeleines, for anyone ready for their 3 o’clock coffee/tea break. After they’re gone, they’re gone. We make our own organic coconut milk for our coffees from scratch. We brew our chai latte for 2 hours to get it very strong. There is so much care and attention to all the little things, it’s about educating the public that there’s a reason why there’s a premium over a cake or coffee from a high street chain or supermarket.

 

How do you think current trends in the marketplace will affect the brand?

Right now there is a trend towards healthier eating and we have started to respond. For example, originally my breakfast menu was going to be full of waffles, gooey cinnamon buns, caramel French toast etc. (okay, I kept the cinnamon buns!), but instead I asked 100 people what they actually ate for breakfast before work and 9 out of 10 said “Porridge.” So our Goldilocks Porridge Bar was born with 60 toppings. This way you can either be super healthy and have lucuma powder, maca powder, date syrup and paleo granola with fresh fruit, or you can be indulgent and have sea salt caramel, fig bourbon compote, almond butter and fudge sauce. The sky’s the limit!

The trend towards accountability is also important — we go organic where we can, not just because it’s trendy but because it’s worth supporting the organic industry to show that yes there’s interest, and we should make the effort to farm sustainably. This is why we have Square Mile Coffee and the Estate Dairy on board, who take care to make sure people and the land are being looked after.

 

Where do you feel the food industry is heading?

In light of Brexit it’s really hard to say — I would like to see it continue where it is going, where people are appreciating better coffee and better food, but are also open to just different flavours. 10 years ago I couldn’t sell a yuzu pistachio macaron to save my life, today the more esoteric, the better, and that’s always a good thing.

 

butterscotchbakery.co.uk