It’s been a tough year of headlines for Patisserie Valerie, and its new owners are keen to move the conversation on.
At the launch of its autumn/winter menu in London this week private equity firm Causeway Capital Partners, which bought the business out of administration in February, made it clear it is looking to shake off the spectre of the past.
Patisserie Valerie was trading from around 150 sites when it collapsed in January following the discovery of a multi-million-pound black hole in its accounts under previous parent company Patisserie Holdings, chaired by entrepreneur Luke Johnson.
On Monday Causeway unveiled new dishes and blue and gold branding for the bakery chain, which it hailed as the ‘future of Patisserie Valerie’.
“The last year has been doom, gloom and despondency, so it’s great to have conversations around new products,” says Paolo Peretti, who joined the chain as managing director in April.
Updated packaging is being introduced to 12 central London sites this week before rolling out across Patisserie Valerie’s remaining c.75 cafes by the end of the year. Staff uniforms will switch to navy blue aprons and white shirts this weekend.
The new menu launches tomorrow (31 October) with dishes such as croque monsieur made with two cheeses from Neal’s Yard Dairy, and ‘winter warmer’ items such as vegetarian chilli; and venison and cranberry stew bowls.
Patisserie Valerie has also teamed up with chef Reshmi Bennett, of London’s Anges de Sucre bakery, to create two eclairs in raspberry and pistachio flavours; a salted caramel and chocolate bombe; and a winter spiced cheesecake.
“This is probably the biggest menu change that I’ve ever been involved with,” says Peretti, who previously worked at Leon and Vital Ingredient. “We’ve touched about 70% of the products. There’s no more frozen pies in microwaves.”
The menu will continue to evolve, with the next relaunch set for February.
A “long overdue” refurbishment of Patisserie Valerie’s estate is also planned to begin before Christmas, updating the interiors with the blue and gold colour scheme seen on its packaging.
But will it be enough to make Patisserie Valerie stand out? In London the group faces competition from established bakery chains such as Le Pain Quotidien and Caffe Concerto as well as Gail’s Artisan Bakery, backed by Johnson, which is looking to double in size over the next three years.
Peretti hopes over the next year the changes will help Patisserie Valerie carve a niche in the market as an “alternative to mainstream brands”.
He adds the group is “a patisserie, not a casual dining chain”, though its all-day brunch accounts for around 20% of sales.
“The new-style stores will be really different, it’s a complete evolution from where the brand is currently,” he says.
He is also hopeful to shake off the negative headlines and misconceptions about the business. “Lots of people still think our stores aren’t open, but people will get used to us being around again.
“We’ve been working hard with the teams in-store to feel positive about the future of the business.”
For now the bakery chain must wait to see if customers on the high street will share this enthusiasm.