At the forefront of the UK’s culinary scene, Heavenly Desserts shines as a beacon of innovation.
Founded in Derby, England, in 2008, this restaurant franchise skilfully navigates the challenge of blending traditional hospitality with a cutting-edge digital strategy.
Heavenly Desserts’ digital-first approach has significantly boosted operational efficiency and enhanced customer experiences, propelling them to become the UK’s fastest-growing dessert restaurant franchise. The icing on the cake was Deliveroo’s Best Dessert Restaurant Award.
Chris Conaghan, operational development manager, explains how they combine the essence of traditional hospitality, leaning on talented staff, with the speed, precision and efficiency of a digital-first approach.
“Thinking digitally has had a seriously positive impact on our bottom line.”
Let’s unwrap Heavenly Desserts’ sweet success story.
Jump to the interview with Chris Conaghan.
Heavenly Desserts successfully marries traditional hospitality with a digital-first approach.
- Heavenly Desserts: UK’s fastest-growing dessert brand, founded in 2008.
- Operates nearly 50 locations in the UK, with international expansion in a.o. Canada.
- Chris Conaghan, Operational Development Manager
- Providing support to a growing number of franchisees.
- Ensuring efficient operations and decision-making.
- Implementing a digital mindset across the organisation.
- Automating processes like inventory and workforce management.
- Adopting online ordering systems and a new mobile app.
- Utilising tech for better decision-making in menu development and marketing strategies.
- Automation minimised human error.
- Processes are quicker and more efficient.
- Improved customer engagement and convenience.
- Franchisees are empowered with better business decision-making capabilities.
Heavenly Desserts: Global Expansion
Like many successful brands, the journey started from humble beginnings in Derby, England. Heavenly Desserts’ vision, though, has always been big – to share its delicious desserts ‘made with love, dedication, and passion’ worldwide.
Today the franchise operates in nearly 50 locations in the UK, while international ambitions are very much in progress with stores already open in Canada and imminently in the US, UAE and Pakistan.
Each Heavenly Dessert restaurant offers a unique ambience, but the quality of the menu is uniformly high. Expert teams develop the dishes, and only top ingredients are used. This culinary excellence is matched by attentive and personalised service, in line with the company’s mission “to deliver memorable dessert experiences that spark joy for every guest”.
Small Team, Big Impact
Despite the 700 staff bringing the brand’s magic to life daily in stores across the UK, the head office team is still small, says Chris. The question then arises: how do they manage to support their growing franchise network efficiently and effectively?
In a word, technology.
Implementing a digital mindset across the organisation “allows us to streamline things as efficiently as possible,” says Chris. That includes “automating manual processes such as inventory management with Apicbase and workforce management. “Our tech reduces human errors, saves time, and increases overall operational efficiency,” he says.
Our tech reduces human errors, saves time, and increases overall operational efficiency.
“Being ‘digital-first’ also significantly contributes to the customer experience,” explains Chris. He emphasises the role of online ordering systems in this.
“We’re on the verge of launching a new mobile app focusing on order-to-table service. It’s set to boost engagement, convenience and the overall customer experience.”
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Enabling Better Decision-making
A digital mindset not only strengthens relationships with customers. Chris notes that a digital mindset improves their team’s decision-making.
The data shows what’s effective and what’s not.
“It allows us to make more informed choices, especially when engineering menus or planning seasonal campaigns. The data clearly shows what is effective and what is not. It also helps the marketing team make more effective strategies.”
Heavenly Desserts’ digital strategy makes franchisee operations more efficient and profitable.
“It empowers franchisees to make informed business decisions. With tools for inventory control and stock management at their fingertips, they can streamline what were once manual processes. This access to detailed information helps our partners to manage stock more efficiently, make better ordering decisions, and understand profit margins. With front-of-house training, it enables effective upselling and waste reduction strategies, equipping franchisees to respond and adapt effectively, even without a hospitality background.”
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Boosting the Bottom Line
Chris emphasises the significant positive impact of digital thinking on finances.
Digital tools speed up what used to be slow manual processes.
“Digital tools and apps speed up what used to be slow manual processes. This greatly enhances efficiency. For instance, our workforce management tool allows franchise partners to easily schedule staff based on availability through an app.”
That means, there’s no need to look through print-outs, scrolling back through dozens of WhatsApp messages or emails.
“Additionally, with Apicbase’s margin management technology, franchisees can immediately see how gross margin affects the bottom line. This instant access to analytics lets them monitor margins on specific ingredients and recipes we’ve implemented in stores,” he explains.
Crucially, restaurants and headquarters don’t have to wait for periodic P&L statements to gauge performance. The moment they power up their laptops and access the dashboards each morning, they’re instantly informed.
This real-time insight allows managers to swiftly address any emerging issues, effectively preventing minor setbacks from escalating into significant impacts on profitability.
Powerful Dashboards: Get a 360-view of your sales & inventory data with Apicbase
Tech Integrations are Key
It is important to note that a digital strategy is not the same as ‘adding technology’.
Chris explains: “It’s not just about adding tools; it’s about finding solutions that align with our strategic goals. At Heavenly Desserts, technology decisions are seen as investments for franchise partners, ensuring consistency across all locations.”
Tech decisions are seen as investments for franchise partners, ensuring consistency across all locations.
“We don’t make these decisions in isolation. They are company-wide choices, aimed at enhancing efficiency across our entire operation,” he adds. “Selecting the right tech partners therefore is crucial for implementing digital solutions effectively into our operations.”
To make it all work, one thing is essential.
“Integration is key. We aim to select best-in-class systems that integrate seamlessly”, he stresses. “This kind of strategic mindset unlocks a significant competitive advantage.”
“An off-the-shelf reservation system, for example, might not be a good investment for our franchisees based on their turnover. Maybe it just doesn’t tie into their P&L very well,” says Chris. “It’s important to align the new technology with the franchisees’ needs and the company’s business goals. Questions like ‘Does it streamline operations and increase revenue?’ are crucial to ask before moving forward with any new product.”
Striking a Balance
That leaves us with one final question: Does the focus on technology detract from the customer experience?
It’s an important question to ask, since so much of what we love about hospitality revolves around the ‘human touch’.
For Chris and Heavenly Desserts, it’s about striking a balance.
“Traditional hospitality centres on guest care, so integrating all these systems does pose risks. It’s a delicate balance, but we ensure our team is well-equipped with ample resources and training. This way, we instil the essence of true hospitality in our staff, despite the presence of technology.”
Chris concludes, “To me, that is the true essence of useful technology: where systems add strategic and practical value by quietly supporting and enhancing operations in the background and allowing our employees to shine.”
Like their delicious desserts, Heavenly finds that balance impeccably with love, dedication, and passion.
Heavenly Desserts works with Apicbase to empower the franchisees with:
• optimal inventory management,
• data-driven purchasing, and
• control over food costs.
Get in touch to see how our software could also streamline your back-of-house operations.