Xpat Report: 'Sugar' Candy Shop In Budapest

  • 25 Nov 2010 12:00 AM
Xpat Report: 'Sugar' Candy Shop In Budapest
Paulay Ede Street 44…46…48. Finally I arrived to the most particular candy shop of the 6th district, Sugar! I came here with the objection to explore a really sugary story by making an interview with the founder of this wonderful place, Eszter Horváth.

I feel like Alice in Wonderland. I just don’t know where to look, everything is so magical. But how this amazing idea came? Was it the influence of your confectioner parents?

Yes and no, the answer is not so easy. After I have finished university, I started to work in the fashion industry as a stylist. At that time, about 10 years ago, it was really a new thing in Hungary, it hasn’t already diffused. We were only in five in the whole country as professional stylists. Due to this there had never been lack of work, so bit by bit I was building up a really successful career as I became always more and more acknowledged.

Working as a stylist and establishing a confectioner’s shop aren’t too related fields of work. So how this turnabout happened?

One day my parents wanted to open a new shop and they also found a perfect place for it but it was a little bit too big for them. So they offered me the storey to establish there my own candy store.

And you accepted this offer…

Yes, with the condition that they give me carte blanche concerning the style, the pastries, the design, so everything.

So you hadn’t got any problem with the location but what other initial difficulties you had to face, if any?

Of course I had! One of them was obtaining the operational permit, unfortunately it took really a long time. Another obstacle was the financial problems. My parents aided me but as the expenses were the double of our budget, I had to take out a loan. Then I had to solve the question of finding an appropriate confectioner who is opened to new things and who I can trust.

Creating a white world

Can you tell me what the basic idea of this shop was?

It was to found something completely new and unique by offering pastries and fancy cakes that nobody sells yet and by creating a design that gives you the sensation to be in a real candy-world where you want to return in any case.

Yes, I really feel something, as I would be in a different, thought friendly universe…

You got the point. The height and the size of the place were planned in this way, so the guests can really feel that they are in a different world. That’s the reason you can see so many confectioner elements in the decoration; just to mention a few: the seats with the shapes of lollipops, or the sugar in the loo around the basin, and when you sit by a table, you can see thousands of candies under the glass layer of the table. The sum of these makes this place so futuristic, so modern.

I noticed also another characteristic thing here, namely that everything is white. What is the reason for that?

You know, when I was establishing the shop, my business concept was to sell colourful candies. The idea behind was, that colours attract people and even animals, just think about the bees which fly on the colourful flowers. So by painting the walls and everything around to the colour of white, I can lay even more emphasis on my pastries.

Before the establishment what did you imagine as a vision of your enterprise?

Before it, two words were in my mind: uniqueness and specialty. As a stylist I really learned how to improve and validate the quality of my creativity. To be honest, back then, you really could be well-known if you were brave enough to think outside the box, and dare to undertake your ideas. This was my vision when I established my candy shop.

How you could achieve this vision, you mentioned now?

First of all I turned it into a mission statement to follow, that was to bring something here, in Hungary that can really catch the attention of the customers and that follows also the oversea trends. Because like this, when one day, I hope, I will grow outside of this country, I won’t have any problems, because even if you can already find these kind of candy stores, with the constantly improving of our products I’ll be able to survive also on that market.

No competition for guests?

You mentioned market. How do you see your current status on the market?

Actually we’re very lucky. As I told you, uniqueness and creativity have really a great role, when creating an enterprise. Due to this, we haven’t got any competitors on the market. Nobody –besides us- can offer this variety of candies and pastries and such an unforgettable milieu in a shop. But the other side of the shield is, because of my ’experimenting’ with our products, that confectioners here in Hungary don’t really accept my products. They say that what I do is not confectionery.

But you don’t listen to them...

No, not at all.

Whose are your market targets, your guests?

My guests are in their tens, and in their twenties, but I often have guests whose are thirty years old. But the common attribute of my guests is that they all want to experience something new.

How fast did your shop become famous?

I needed about 2-3 months. Luckily I had good connections with others in the media, so I could advertise it in a lot of places. And of course, the unwritten tradition had a great role, that my guests all told their friends my place, so its reputation really grew up.

Under power

What kind of technical equipments are you using in the shop?

For the quick and smooth service, we use computers to record the orders and we connected it with the storage. This program is very expensive, but facilitates the control and the adjusting of the stock. We also help our buyers by offering them the possibility to order via telephone or fax, even on-line.

Let’s go a little bit more in details. Concerning the structure, can it be compared to an ordinary confectionary or is it structured in a completely different way?

Well, basically it can be compared. We have confectioners, waiters, waitresses, and a bookkeeper as in most of the confectionaries. Besides them there is also a storekeeper and a franchise manager who is very busy nowadays luckily.

Punctuality as a whimsy

So how many employees do you have?

All together there are 45, including all the above mentioned positions. We have 3 excellent confectioners, 12 skilled waiters and waitresses also a cleaning troop, the managers. But anyway, I think our recruiting method is more special than our structure.

It sounds very interesting. Would you speak about it in details?

Yes, of course. In case of confectioners we expect at least 5 years experience, in case of waiters it’s a bit more complex. First of all, counts the qualification in catering. Then the personality of the applicant, they have to be very sociable, kind, polite and they also must match with the philosophy of the company.

Sorry for interrupting but what do you mean by this?

In my point of view, a person who doesn’t like sweeties at all, but here I put the emphasis on at all, isn’t authentic in our case. So I will not hire him or her.

I see. So if the person is qualified and fit in the group what is the next step?

After a personal meeting they get a special material about our products that they have to learn. Then the applicants have to take both a written and an oral exam. If they succeed then they come for a test day. Finally, if they performed well, we employ them.
I know it sounds very strict, but we sell high-quality products so high qualified work staff is very important.

Please, tell us a few rules regarding the workers.

Workers are regularly (every month) sent to trainings and their performances at these are very important in tip calculation. Waiters and waitresses work in 6 hours shift and are paid per hour. Upon this all the tip they earn is theirs, but its distribution is also based on the above mentioned training participation.
There is test buying, too, through which I can check their work.

How do you tolerate latecomers?

My answer is very simple. I don’t. Every employee has only two chances. After the first delay they don’t get their tip. After the second they are no longer the members of our team. I know it sounds very ridiculous but that’s it. So to say punctuality is my whimsy.

“Usage of good materials is half success”

So at the first place there is always the quality of the pastries?

Exactly. Our shop is famous about it. We prepare our cakes and candies from the finest ingredients. I always search them, within and without the country. For instance I prefer more the French chocolate, instead of the Belgian one, because its texture is better to use for further preparations. But we have the same machines, what you can see in other confectionaries. The usage of good materials is half success.

And what is the other half?

As we have to sell our products, we try to have as much influence on our costumers as we can.

What do you mean?

We communicate with our future buyers. We are on social networks, like Facebook, so people can follow us, what are the new trends, and our new products. We created also an own webpage, where people can lost in the world of candies. But not just at home, also in the shop. We give the opportunity to use internet also in the confectionery by the free WI-FI connection and the internet stands.

Future plans

And is the shop successful?

More than I’ve ever expected. We have two shops already in Budapest and I’m planning to open one also on the Buda side, and further confectioneries in other bigger cities in the country. I would like to create a franchise. I’ve already received offers from London and Tokyo, but first I’d like to create my shops in Hungary and see if they are successful enough and go outside the boundaries only after this.

What is the conception of the new opening shops?

I thought to divide them into four categories. The first level is being only a candy shop with ca. 50 m2. The second is already a shop with a small confectionery with minimum 100 m2 place for the costumers. Here they can buy 8-10 types of cookies, which arrive in prepared form and they must be only decorated. The next has to be minimum 200 m2 that is a shop with a whole, big confectionery with confectioners, who must have at least 5 years experience. The fourth is the third option completed with the preparation of cakes. This method is needed a confectioner with at least 6-10 years experience. Finally I suggest opening in every type of shops, a playroom for the children.

Do you want that these shops would be different or similar?

Similar. They will get everything fixed, like the design, the business plan and the manual-book. And they have to pay a fixed monthly charge too, for the usage of the franchise.

I see that you don’t make the usual error of successful entrepreneurs, namely that you lean back and watch how your business is going.

No, absolutely not, because I know if you don’t work continuously hard, one day your business won’t go anymore.

I hope that I could give you at least a little piece of this wonderful place with my interview. I suggest to all of you to visit this candy shop, especially now that wintertime is approaching and we all want to escape from the cold wind and snow to another world. And this store is a perfect place to take refuge, even if only for a few hours, because it’s able to fill you with warmth and joy also on those gloomy days.

By Bakalár András, Katona Nikolett, László Antónia, Németh Gábor, Goldbach Zsuzsa

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