Be Inspired: Heavenly Desserts
Heavenly Desserts is a unique brand, dedicated to bringing luxurious products, distinctive quality, and an extensive range of beautiful desserts to the market. With a tailor made range of desserts available, Heavenly Desserts has established itself as one of the UK's most premium dessert destinations.
Managing Director Yousif Aslam, opened the doors to Food Franchise Magazine at their newest LiverpoolOne outlet. There we joined a number of local businesses and influencers from the local area as we fully immersed ourselves in the artisan dessert brand.
Yousif treated us to an exclusive interview as we discovered more about the Heavenly Dessert model and why they plan to take their growth strategy one step at a time.
What attracted you to franchising?
I think it was a natural way to progress, the sheer demand that we had from people asking us to franchise, we thought let’s look into this. For a longtime we considered not franchising, because we had created something that was our baby, and we thought do we want to give this away?
We ultimately didn’t want to dilute the brand and put it into the wrong hands. With business experience however we sat down and thought yes it is a risk but some of the most successful brands out there are franchises and they grew via franchising, so if done correctly it is a good opportunity and a good way to grow the business.
We wanted to let others who have the same ambition that we had when we started out to invest in something and build themselves a future, so it was a natural decision to franchise. We don’t cut corners, we never have done, and those same values are engrained in our franchise model.
Tell us about your journey so far….
Birmingham opened in 2007, that was our first store, then we opened in Derby in 2012. So between the first and the second openings there was a gap. A whole year later we opened in Leicester and in 2016 we opened Preston and Nottingham.
It has been a good journey, and within our first 12 months of the first franchised store opening we wanted to open about three to four stores. We wanted to do more, we could have done more - but we wanted the franchisees to be supported correctly and make sure they were happy before we go on to open more.
Oxford and Liverpool opened in the same month, it was never envisaged that way but it allowed us to test our capabilities. We realised we can support growth in our first year to a level that we didn’t think possible.
Why is Heavenly Desserts such a great franchise opportunity?
One of the benefits that we had was that we traded in our company owned stores for the good part of seven or eight years. We have overcome probably every single challenge that our franchisees are going to come across.
There is never a time where they will pick up the phone and say, we are having a bit if a challenge here, and we don’t know the answer to it.
Between our five company stores we have been there and done it before and we have learnt from it, so it puts us in a really good position to say what you do, which is to offer unrivalled support to our franchisees. We are not 9 to 5, our franchisees can pick up the phone and call us anytime. Between myself and the senior team, we are there and that’s what it’s all about.
With our customers it’s about having a personal relationship and it is the same with our franchisees.
Tell us more about your products…
Where we position ourselves is ‘affordable luxury’, we really like to go to the full extent when it comes to quality, and that is from everything from the décor to the quality of the products, right the way down to uniform quality and menu quality.
That’s the kind of values that we are trying to instill in our franchisees and they are happily embracing them.
We make sure that we have profitability but that the customer will be inclined to come back twice a week rather than once every two weeks because the price is too high. That’s important for us.
Everything is quality from A to Z, especially the products, that is where we intend to keep it.
Everybody talks about quality and being competitive, but what we find from customer feedback is that it is always easier to throw around the world quality, but in our case the proof is in the pudding.
I firmly believe that there are independents out there that are charging a disproportionate amount for products that are not the best quality. For us it’s about keeping everything the best quality that is available, as we believe that is what is going to keep our concept sustainable and will mean we will remain in the market for a lot longer.
Customer Service is key
One of the things we are big with, and that we instill within every single member of staff - is the hospitality side of our business.
What we try to do with our customer service side is really try and step into the ‘extended’ side of hospitality. It adds to the customers experience - that experience shouldn’t just be because their server on that day was a happier person, it should be every single person serving to that standard.
What trends are you noticing in the dessert industry?
One thing that is evident from the menu at heavenly desserts is the range of options available, most notable is the number of options available for customers requiring a gluten-free dessert.
The demand from our customers has increased and we thought to ourselves, if the customers want it and if there is a demand for it, we have got to do it.
It wasn’t just about ‘let’s pick anything up from the shelf that is gluten free and put it on the menu’ we went through a testing period, we had a whole range of products and put it to the test with a panel of our team members. We narrowed it down to make sure that we had the optimum quality.
As, with most free-from products there are a lot of ingredients that are replaced and that at some point it does affect the quality of the product. But saying that manufacturers have come a long way since the early days of developing free-from products and there are some really great tasting products out there.
What is it like to work at Heavenly Desserts?
Years ago when I was recruiting for our business one of the things that I would say to every single candidate, who would ask me the question; ‘What is it like to work here?’
I would say, genuinely, it is such a happy place to work and I think one of the reasons for that is we have this culture at Heavenly Desserts where everybody is a family and we also sell a happy product. Chocolate makes everybody happy, it is an overall happy environment and that reflects with the staff - they enjoy their jobs.”
What does the future hold for Heavenly Desserts?
We came up with about 150 territories where we thought we could open a franchised store, some territories are multi-store territories, big cities like Manchester and Liverpool for example is a two-store territory.
The plan is to open in as many territories out of the 150 that we can over a period of seven or eight years - we want to take it slow.
It is very easy to expand very quickly but what we want to make sure is that we have the right infrastructure in place, and that we are increasing that infrastructure from a support point of view for our franchisees to be able to cope with the growth.
This year we wanted to open between 3 and 4 I reckon that is going to be between 5 and 6, we are very happy with that and I think that once we have reviewed the first 12 months, we will be well equipped to open between seven to ten stores per year.
We are really looking forward to it and I am very excited - these are exciting times for Heavenly Desserts.Friday, 19th January, 2018