Söderberg - the entrepreneurial side of “fika”

8 April 2021

No matter if it’s big or small, life-changing or an everyday thing, we all need a break sometimes. Perhaps a fika or an entirely new direction. In 2015, Åsa Penman followed her heart when she took over as Managing Director at Söderberg in Scotland. Söderberg, a well-known business in Edinburgh, launched its first café in central London in 2019. The Link had a virtual cup with Åsa to learn a little more about the love of baking, the Söderberg brand and milestones of the café saga.

The Söderberg company began its journey in 2007 to bring the Swedish bakery experience to Scotland. Since then, it has opened eight coffee shops and takeaway units throughout Edinburg and London. Åsa entered the picture by the time of opening of cafe number four and five. “When I joined the business in 2015, I had no experience of the food or hospitality business having worked as a project manager for several years but, I jumped at the opportunity to work with something I had always been passionate about; Swedish food and baking!” Together with the growing Söderberg team, Åsa has put ‘Swedishness’ and ‘fika’ on the forefront of the scots’ minds.

Building a brand, building an identity
There is no denying that ‘Swedishness’ is a big part of the business. Traditional Swedish baking and pastries meet new takes on classics like pistachio mazarin and parsnip cake. “Our continued focus is on the four cornerstones of our business; classic and delicious Swedish baking, great quality coffee, relaxing and stylish spaces, and warm and helpful customer service”. Several factors are pointing to the rampaging of Söderberg, amongst them is diligence to find the right venue, getting to know the clientele and focusing on building the foundations of the brand bit by bit. Central to this effort is, of course, finding the right people who understand the company directions as well as the customer. Each element is important in itself, but together they form the recipe for long-term success.

According to Åsa, there are three pillar stones to consider for a thriving business. First, time and effort need to be devoted to finding the right people as a well-motivated and strong team builds a resilient business. Second, understand why your customers stay loyal to your brand and never compromise on those reasons. Once your business starts to grow, knowing this, let’s you become more efficient without altering the brand’s essence. Third, have an ambitious plan but be prepared to acclimatise as you go. The ability to adapt is key to survival and growth, something that 2020 has shown us. In other words, to expect the unexpected.

Söderberg offers a sense of community, the given place to go for a quick fika break or brunch with friends. A milestone in Söderberg’s history is Soderberg Pavilion’s opening, which serves fika alongside sourdough pizzas and brunch. The Pavilion has become a place of events such as jazz evenings, it has grown in popularity and gained a regular crowd. Another milestone was the opening of Söderberg Soho on Berwick Street in 2019. “Apart from our focus on fika and brunch, we have had great fun hosting ‘Lillördag’ live music evenings in our 1960’s Scandi basement as well as Scandi supper clubs on themes like Crayfish, Julbord and Swedish Summer. It’s been fantastic! We absolutely love our fabulous Soho regulars and the energy of this part of London.”

London calling
Back in Edinburgh, people are queuing on the opening day of a new Söderberg café. London’s competition has proven itself more challenging and diverse, but Åsa sees it as a driver of force. It has kept the Söderberg team on their toes, always ensuring they provide the customer with what they want. “A large proportion of our customers in Edinburgh are regulars who visit several times a week, and we were thrilled to find that the same is true in London.”

Åsa confirms that there are a few initiatives put on hold by the on-going pandemic, and there are still a lot more in store for Söderbergs looking ahead. “In the meantime, we keep trying as best we can to support our communities and look forward to a time when we can all meet up in coffee shops, bars and restaurants with our friends and family again!”

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