A coffee and donut — perfect commuter food. Many bakeries find themselves a stop on customers' daily commutes to or from work. Some bakeries are even near prime locations where a large number of commuters gather, such as a train station. Nielsen's Bakery in Homewood, Ill., is only one block from a train station on the busiest commuter rail line in the Chicago area. After 19 years in business, the bakery has developed a seamless system to serve customers who may only have a minute to spare.
For commuting customers, the key is to get them in and out of the bakery as fast as possible, a concept that runs contrary to trying to keep customers in the bakery longer, so they purchase more. At Nielsen's, two lines form in the morning: one for commuters who are grabbing a cup of coffee and a pastry and another for all other customers. If they want to buy a dozen donuts, customers know they can't buy that at the coffee bar, said Suzanne Ehlebracht, co-owner of the bakery. The bakery also offers sandwiches, so customers can buy their lunch before they get on the train.
The bakery benefits from customers' evening commute home, as well. Nielsen's struggled to find the perfect closing time that made the most of potential sales and staff hours in the difficult economic climate. When it closed at 3 p.m., it missed the evening commuters' sales completely. So, the bakery stayed open until 5 p.m., then 5:30 p.m., until it finally hit on 7 p.m. as the perfect time. Nielsen's gets a lot of customers waiting for people to get off the train in the evenings, and while they wait, they'll buy a cookie or cupcake or a dessert to take home that night, Ehlebracht added. Commuters, who've had plenty of time on the train to think about dinner, also stop by to pick up that night's dessert.