Bakery adds personal touch to cakes using QR codes

Indi Brooks bought The Stanmore Hill Bakery in 1996 after the previous owner, whose family had supplied bread and cakes to coffee houses for over 100 years, retired. She rebranded the bakery London Cakes and continued to supply shops around the city.

In 2002, Indi realised she could expand by selling cakes online and Londoncakes.com was launched.

"The moment shoes started appearing on the internet and people were prepared to buy them without trying them on, I knew they were prepared to buy food stuffs," says Graham Brooks, Indi's husband and managing director of London Cakes.

Before the internet, people had to come in to the store or call to order a cake. This often led to spelling mistakes, other errors and unhappy customers, but the option to order cakes online completely changed that.

London Cakes continued to grow and in 2006, Indi and Graham started CakesNextDay.com supplying cakes to the whole of the UK.

"I definitely switched the business to online retailing at the right time," says Indi. "The big supermarkets and chain bakeries are really able to undercut on price and it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to compete with them."

Since the launch of CakesNextDay.com the company has seen annual growth of around 35% and Indi expects turnover of £1.2m next year.

"Because we make to order and deliver next day, the cakes are of the highest quality and we get recommended as a result," she says.

They sell 10,000 cakes a year and have served a number of famous customers celebrate, including Jonathan Ross, Kylie Minogue, One Direction, Cheryl Cole and even the Royal family.

Recently, London Cakes and CakesNextDay.com started offering customers a unique new way to personalise their cakes. They began putting QR codes in the corner of cakes so that senders can include a personalised touch.

Family members or friends can record a video message singing 'Happy Birthday' on their mobile phone or webcam and upload it to YouTube. They then go onto CakesNextDay.com and include the URL of the video when they place their order. When the cake is delivered, the recipient can scan the QR code with their phone to see the video message.

The QR codes can be used in a variety of ways. In May, London Cakes made 625 cakes with QR codes for Dixon's, the electronics and kitchen appliance shop, and sent one to every shop around the country. The QR code linked to a feedback page where employees could thank headquarters and tell them what they thought of the cake.

The Brooks, who also run the business with their daughter Nikki Georgiades, are already working on several new ways to push their business forward, including introducing a phone app and working with partners, such as greeting card companies.

In the future, Indi and Graham hope to become the brand leader in cakes.

"It is our dream to be the same size as Interflora just for cakes. You can order a personalised cake online and have it delivered anywhere in the world as you would a bunch of flowers," Graham says. "There seems to be no reason why this business model doesn't exist."

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