Sharon Reid


Entrepreneurs are the best qualified to dispense business advice, Natalie Allen, owner of Sweet Things, the award wining bakery in Primrose Hill has compiled an essential guide to running a café/bakery.

Natalie, a former Project Manager working in the City, was inspired to set up Sweet Things through a sense of nostalgia; Natalie craved the authentic home -baked taste of her grandmother’s cakes. A genuine passion for baking/cooking also helped – she was a finalist on Master Chef, while catering for family and friends, along with running a cupcake stand soon followed.

Natalie opened Sweet Things 10 years ago, since its opening Sweet Things has been the recipient of 10 Guild of Fine Foods Great Taste Awards.

Natalie Allen - Sweet Things

Natalie Allen – Sweet Things

Guide to Running a Café/Bakery


1. Listen to customers, their positive and negative feedback is instrumental in progression and NPD  – new product development.

2. Work as a team. The bakery and shop staff work closely together so the business runs smoothly. Communication is key to success.

3. As the owner of the business, it is key to be as hands on as necessary. Sometimes I assist with baking, and work in the shop. Good for a few reasons – so the staff know you can perform every task, keeping an eye on staff performance, and customers like the presence of the owner too!

4. Read relevant bakery and retail press to keep informed of current trends within the industry. It is useful to research online regularly seeking out new recipe ideas, trends in other countries and keep on top of your competitors.image

5. Regularly negotiate and renegotiate with your suppliers.

6. Fix the price of some ingredients. If there is a product that you buy in very large quantities, try and agree a fixed price for 12 months with your supplier. For example, the price of our Belgian chocolate fluctuates regularly, so we fix the price once a year. Easier to control costs this way.

7. Bake everything from scratch. It’s an important USP. Good quality ingredients are key.

8. Give your managers the autonomy to make them feel empowered to make their own decisions.image


1. Buy second hand electrical equipment such as commercial fridges or freezers as these break down too frequently. It won’t save you money in the long run. For Ovens and mixers, if buying the best performing brands such as Tom Chandley and Hobart, second hand is a viable option as they have great durability.

2. Underestimate your costs. There are many hidden reoccurring costs! Insurance, fire extinguisher servicing, pest control, accountant’s monthly charges, waste disposal, packaging.

3. Be fooled that your commercial rent won’t increase considerably. We had a 30% rent increase imposed after three years.


For further information about Sweet Things please visit: