With the food sector blooming over the past two years in the market, one must keep a good ear and eye open out for all new concepts in order to be able to catch up, let alone try them all. The desserts and pastry section is a maze on its own, and we sit down with Karim Auf, co-owner of Zamalek’s The Batter Half & Co., to get the juicy details on the reasons behind this witty name, business and more.
What’s the inspiration behind Batter Half and Co?
I was always passionate about food, especially desserts, and I realized that there was a trend in Egypt to focus on a few items, like cupcakes, crepes or waffles. While specialization is a great thing, I also thought that dessert stores should be very creative and diverse. This was one of the key aspects of the Batter Half that we try our best not to say no to any dessert our customer wants us to make. So I decided to set up my own dessert store that would provide my customers with restaurant quality desserts and excellent presentation.
Who came up with the name and why?
Building up the brand and coming up with the name for The Batter Half & Co was a part I enjoyed doing very much with one of the specialised branding agencies here in Cairo. While they showed me a few options, as soon as I saw The Batter Half and its attached branding I decided it was exactly did what I wanted it do. It was smart, sophisticated and witty, which were key characteristics I wanted to bring out in the brand.
What’s your most popular item with customers?
We are very well known for our red velvets, which we have developed into a whole line of products, including cake pops, macaroons, cakes and even cheesecakes as well as the more traditional cakes and cupcakes. Even in Ramadan we used our reputation with the red velvet to bring in new items such as Red Velvet Konafa and Red Velvet Basboosa. People loved the idea of mixing very traditional items such Konafa and Basboosa with more modern items such as cream cheese icing and Nutella.
Do you have peak seasons where a certain item disappears off the shelves?
Ramadan was definitely a peak season and it was a huge success for us because our items were very exclusive to us and people loved them. Generally speaking, we are also very busy during wedding season because we cater a lot of weddings.
How long have you guys been in the market? Do you intend on expanding else where in Cairo or outside of Cairo?
In October, we will be celebrating our one year anniversary and we are very excited about it. We do plan on expanding both inside Cairo and outside Cairo in the near future, but we are just holding our breath for the moment to see how the political situation is going to develop.
Is there anything you noticed that should be worked on or avoided in the pastry/dessert industry or trend in Egypt these days? If not, what’s your secret for success?
I have realised that success is based on two key components: innovation and consistency. The Egyptian market tends to be a copy cat market where you have one idea that booms and then everyone tries to copy it. This is why innovation is very important and we saw that very much in Ramadan when we developed our signature items and people went crazy about them. Once we find items that our customers like, then the key to maintaining the success is maintaining the quality of those items.
How is it to work with your mother? Is it challenging or rewarding or both? Do you feature her recipes/desserts as well?
Working with family is generally complicated, but in my case we were able to split the responsibilities and obligations between us and then we were both able to focus. At first it was challenging, but we got over that quickly, especially since we have complementary skill sets. So my mother focuses on the creative aspect of the business while I focus more on the administrative and strategic side. Some of our most successful items were purely based on her recipes, such as our chocolate boules and our sweet potato with croquant.