What is the history behind Gails? Is there, or was there, ever a ‘Gail’?
The GAIL’s Bakery story began in the early 1990s, when Gail Mejia and our bakers started serving London’s top restaurant chefs. Today, baking for top chefs continues to be our main focus. In 2005, we opened our first neighbourhood bakery in Hampstead. Our aim is to make world-class craft bread a part of every community. We want to reinvent the way Londoners think about bread – fresh and handmade – and their neighbourhood bakery – local and beautiful.
Your background was as a Baker – do you still get time to make bread or is it just ‘management’ for you now? Are you constantly coming up with new artisan bread recipes? Is ‘bread’ still the core of your business?
My job is to create an environment in which our bakers – the heart of our business – can use their time and their hands to bake with the best ingredients possible.
Who creates your recipes? How often do you introduce something new?
Roy Levy is our head baker and we have a team of bakers who bring his recipes to life every day. Having worked with Gail for many years, Roy is the engine of our business and bakes and creates constantly. We introduce new breads, baked goods, breakfast and lunch into our shops throughout the year, but we tend to focus our recipes on seasonal changes to use the best ingredients we can find.
How much have you had to adapt your recipes to cater for allergies/intolerances and low sugar/salt etc?
We are keen to bake healthy and nutritious food. We have recently introduced our first Gluten Free Sourdough, which we took ages to perfect. We also have sourdoughs that are made with alternative flours like spelt and rye.
We have dairy-free and flour-free food across our menu – from soups to breakfast pots to cakes.
I notice you have recently introduced a delivery menu – how is this going? How far does this span and who is your target audience?
We love delivering our food across town. We deliver our regular goodies but also bespoke mini versions to suit meetings and parties. Everything is available online: gailsbread.co.uk.
Gail’s has a very distinctive ‘look’ – did you have a designer at the outset?
We cherish our design partners, who help bring our vision to life through graphics.
All your café’s in SW London are very child-friendly – did you set out to appeal to the ‘family’ market?
We get up every day to make good bread more accessible and whilst many of our customers are local families, we bake for everyone who fancies high quality sourdough. We did, however, create a couple of loaves recently for families specifically in mind as we were encouraged by our customers in Barnes and in Hove. The Barnes loaf and the Hove loaf are big, beautiful tin loaves that are perfect for sandwiches.
What do you think makes you so popular and sets you aside from others providing something similar?
Our baking. We focus relentlessly on the quality of our food and our bakers. We’re also proud of our coffee. We came up with the GAIL’s House Blend in 2016 after perfecting the recipe with our specialist coffee partners, Union, where it’s roasted by hand, using the highest quality beans, here in London. Our coffee is designed to suit our favourite time of day – morning – and is great on its own as an espresso or served with milk.
Most of your branches are in London – just a couple outside in Summertown, Farnham and Hove – where next?
We are happy to be baking in a few communities outside of London and hope to grow sustainably.
To what do you attribute your growth from an independent coffee shop and bakery to a household name?
There is a growing appreciation for good food and our customers trust that we are high quality bakers. We try and create welcoming environments in our bakeries through the way we design our spaces, our brand and, crucially, our people, who work to put smiles on the faces of our customers every day.
What is the future for Gails?
The future for GAIL’s is more great bread, innovation in baking.