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Adding a touch of magic on the sweet journey to success for UK dessert brand

Adding a touch of magic on the sweet journey to success for UK dessert brand

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One of the UK’s leading dessert brands, Creams Café, was established in 2008 by Balal Aqil and Adam Mani. There are now close to 100 stores nationwide selling freshly prepared desserts ranging from waffles and sundaes to cakes and sorbets. 2020 was one of the company’s most successful and busiest years and it employs more than 1,000 people. Co-Founder and CEO, Adam Mani, tells Intelligent CXO about how Creams Café plans to expand internationally and where he gets his inspiration from.

Tell us a bit more about your business and how it started.

Creams Café is the UK’s leading dessert restaurant brand. Founded in 2008 by myself and my business partner, Balal Aqil, we felt that desserts offered an exciting opportunity in the food and beverage industry, due to their ability to excite the imagination. I loved the idea of creating an inviting and hospitable space that has just a touch of magic to it. For me, desserts definitely hold a sense of nostalgia of days spent at the seaside with my family, getting an ice cream if I had behaved! I love the idea of bringing that once in a while experience to the everyday, which is what we have done with Creams.

How has the business grown since it started and how do you ensure the brand continues to grow?

Creams has grown massively. Back in the day it was just myself and Balal and to get things off the ground we both worked every position you can imagine, from accountant to electrician to kitchen porter and everything in between. We now employ over 1,000 people and have stores across the country.

The appetite for Creams was there from the beginning which was amazing. We launched the business hoping for success, but I don’t think we ever imagined it would go the way it has. We had people approaching us from the offset that were super keen to get involved, and I think this is because we cultivated such a strong brand identify. It was a logical step to franchise Creams, and I really love that we provide people with the means to create their own success. In terms of growth for the business, I think it’s our constant innovation and drive to be bigger and better that keeps this going. We are always looking for ways to wow our customers and keep them engaged with the brand.

What’s the business’ approach to management?

We take a lot of pride in the people at Creams. While we have close to 100 stores nationwide, we really wanted to keep that ‘small business’ vibe, that is often more collaborative as well as communicative, and free of so much red tape. Our approach is open and supportive, always encouraging discussion and innovation. We love to push franchisees to take the reins and have total control, but we also ensure that we have a robust support system in place when needed.

What is your company’s vision and goal?

One of our goals is of course expansion, it always will be. I want to see Creams stores all over the world eventually. But I would say, more importantly, we want to ensure Creams positively contributes to local communities as well as the planet, and that we’re always giving back. We have made it a real priority to develop more initiatives to support this, such as our apprenticeship scheme, giving young people the chance to get a foothold in the workplace.
Our Creams Academy is a training portal that provides the chance for every staff member to develop their skills, whether they are looking for a short-term boost to take the next steps in their career elsewhere, or if they’re looking to stay at Creams long-term and work their way up.
We also have the Creams Foundation, which supports a number of projects each year, including the construction of education complexes, water, sanitation and hygiene projects and the provision of food and clothing in countries including The Gambia. We also partnered with Crisis in December 2020, pledging an initial £16,000 worth of donations. It’s these types of initiatives that are key to us as a business.

What kind of clients and market do you serve?

Creams appeals to a really diverse audience. Our branding is focused around being quite urban and edgy, but we attract all sorts of ages from Gen Z to millennials, as well as families with young children looking to go somewhere for a treat. We also have quite a cult following of loyal customers. I think Creams is a social experience, thanks to how Instagrammable our desserts are. They demand to be noticed and also are perfect for sharing with friends and family alike.

What has your career looked like so far?

After completing my degree in Business and Computer Sciences at London Metropolitan University, I realised I had quite a knack for entrepreneurism, so I took a position in sales. I knew I ultimately wanted to run my own business one day, so I was constantly on the lookout for opportunities and inspiration.

I met Balal through a mutual friend and we had similar goals and aspirations, and after seeing the success of a local ice cream shop, we decided we wanted in. We didn’t want to do anything by half though, and just put something out there for the sake of it. We wanted to ensure that we had the product just right, so we spent the next two years travelling to Italy to research and sample gelato, and then in 2008 we founded Creams Café.

How do you equip your staff with skills and knowledge?

We offer an immersive training course to each new starter. This involves them heading to our training store and spending the day tasting gelato and our other desserts (it’s a hard job but somebody has to do it!), as well as getting to know the vibe and atmosphere of Creams, practising serving customers and asking any questions they have in a one-on-one session with one of the Creams trainers.

We also have the Creams Academy, which is our training platform that provides every single staff member with on-going information to provide a first-class service to every customer. Through our newly launched apprenticeship scheme, we also help train young people and equip them with skills to succeed, showing them the exciting world of a desserts and opening them up to a career they may not have considered before.

How do you work with other executives within the C-suite to make sure your voice is heard?

I have quite a collaborative approach when it comes to working with others in the C-suite. I like to challenge people and ask questions to draw out ideas, as I fully believe everybody’s voice should be heard. I think we have fine-tuned the balance of having an informal and relaxed atmosphere that fosters creativity, while still having rigorous processes and plans to ensure everything runs smoothly.

What does Creams’ international growth look like?

There is a real appetite for Creams across a number of countries – most imminently within Egypt and the US. We’re just looking to go where there’s demand, and these two destinations are both known for having quite a sweet tooth typically so they’re a great fit for Creams. Pretty much everyone in the world likes desserts, it’s a crowd pleaser of a product, so the expansion possibilities are huge. We’re looking in particular to target those places that haven’t yet encountered truly disruptive desserts, like you find at Creams Café.

Where did you/ do you get your inspiration from?

When developing Creams in the early stages, we went on a trip to Italy to taste gelato and learn the authentic process for making it, which we brought back with us and channelled in to creating our own gelato factory. This trip was a huge source of inspiration but I would say I can be inspired by pretty much anything or anywhere. I like to think I’m quite an observant person, so I’m always looking for something to spark that next idea.

Why do you think Creams Café has been successful so far?

I think we have a real agility to the business, meaning we can move quickly when we identify an opportunity. We are always bringing out new seasonal desserts, whether it’s for Wimbledon, Halloween, Easter or Christmas, we bring something sensational to the table every time. Thanks to our cult-like following and loyal customers, we also have been lucky enough to work with some amazing partners like Cadbury and Hershey, meaning we can go even bigger and better. Continual innovation is key if you want to stay ahead of competitors.

What was your favourite dessert as a child and does this resemble any item on the Creams Café menu?

When I was younger, I always loved cookies. I remember being with my mum in the kitchen, preparing the batter with her and stealing a lick from the spoon when she wasn’t looking, as we all do! The smell of those freshly baked cookies stays with me to this day and always takes me right back to our kitchen. Cookies and cookie dough features on several of our desserts at Creams, like the newly launched cookie dough stuffed waffle, and I always hope to evoke similar memories of nostalgia with our customers when

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