Hotel Chocolat

Cranfield School of Management

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Success Story

Hotel Chocolat continues strong growth

Angus ThirlwellAngus Thirlwell co-founded Hotel Chocolat in 1988.  At first the company specialised in business-to-business promotions, but soon developed a parallel activity, selling to consumers direct.  During the 1990s the business evolved into the UK’s leading specialist in direct mail chocolate gifts under the Choc Express brand.   In 2000 (post BGP) a further phase of expansion took place, with the creation of the membership-based Chocolate Tasting Club.



Angus attended BGP after two episodes of attempted expansion had not delivered the anticipated benefits to the business.  BGP provided the ideal environment in which to reflect on where the company was going:



“BGP challenges every assumption you have ever made about your business and uncovers the real areas to work on.  The toolkit of skills you learn in the process enables you to see where you are going in a cooler, more analytical light, ”  says Angus.



In the years since BGP the business has undergone significant change.&nbspIt is now re-branded as Hotel Chocolat, and sales and profits have more than quadrupled.&nbspThe top management team attended additional developmental training at Cranfield.&nbspAt the end of 2003 the company featured in the Sunday Times list of the UK’s 100 fastest-growing companies.&nbspThe crucial thing now is that the pace and direction of growth are what Angus and co-founder Peter Harris are planning for.&nbspThat growth has included expansion into retail: in 2004 Hotel Chocolat opened its first outlet in the Harlequin Centre, Watford.&nbspA second followed, in July 2005, in Milton Keynes.&nbspToday the business has a dozen retail outlets, in London, southern England, East Anglia&nbspand the Midlands, and Hotel Chocolat is firmly established as the leading player in its niche.

Angus makes a point of returning to Cranfield as&nbspa guest speaker&nbspon new BGPs.  Concerning his own investment in BGP, Angus is unequivocal:


“Anybody who is serious about their business will find BGP well worth the money.”

For more information about Hotel Chocolat, visit



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