Sendik's empowers bakery managers
“Managers have quite a bit of autonomy, and we empower them a lot,” says John Wollner, director of deli/cheese/bakery operations for Sendik's Food Markets, a seven-unit supermarket chain based in Milwaukee. (An eighth location is set to open in September.) “We give our managers full power to set their case with what they want. It's up to them to find what works great in their area; product lines can differ widely. Our competitors have a set way, but with us, we're getting managers who are saying ‘wow, I can actually enjoy my job again. I like coming to work because I can run it like it's my store.’”
Managers are in charge of ordering product for their bakery. Products are ordered daily from one of the two Sendik's locations that do the majority of the production and from area bakeries that supply their product to Sendik's bakeries. For products coming from another Sendik's location, trucks run two different circuitous routes, so each bakery gets deliveries twice daily. The bakeries are split by location with northern Milwaukee-area stores supplied by the Grafton store and southern stores supplied by the Greenfield bakery. Outside bakeries deliver directly to each location.
Regular managerial meetings
Wollner and his seven bakery managers meet every two months to discuss successes and challenges at each location and to brainstorm new ideas. It also gives managers an opportunity to introduce new products that are working in their location to the managers of other locations and allows them to try it in their stores. “We have these meetings to keep the focus on our core mission. Everything we do and finalize, we decide as a group and vote on it,” Wollner says.
Wollner tries to meet with each store's manager every week to go over any issues. “I'm there to assist in any way I can. If they are short of people, I can go work the counter or do whatever they need to ensure we're running smoothly,” he says. Bakeries have from eight to 20 employees. In addition to managers, the in-store bakeries also staff sales assistants and cake decorators as well as bakers in some locations. All employees are cross-trained; each can handle production and serve customers.
With the seventh location opening just last month and another coming in the fall, Sendik's tries to promote from within to keep the bakeries running smoothly. “Our last opening went great. It actually was the smoothest opening so far,” Wollner adds. “As we keep opening stores, we keep learning.” Five years ago, Sendik's had one location. Within the last two years, the company has opened four stores.
The newest location features several managers that were promoted from within the company. New managers had several weeks of training at existing locations. Managers from other locations also helped out in the new store for the first few weeks to ensure the process went as smoothly as possible.
“Bakery is obviously one of the premier perimeter departments. We're always looking for ways to grow and get better,” Wollner says. “We're not perfect yet, but that's why we empower managers to come up with new ideas.”
Emily's Bakery and Deli runs like a family
Third-generation owners, brother and sister Steve Fox and Norine Bishop, extend the meaning of family to their staff at Emily's Bakery and Deli in Hastings, Minn. “We're a family-owned business and we stress family,” Bishop says. “We try to take into account the needs of our staff, their personal lives and their personalities as well. We try to find them a niche where they are going to be comfortable and assign them to positions of strength where they will be successful.”
With full-line bakery and deli operations under one roof, Bishop and Fox need both structure and flexibility. Sales staff is cross-trained for the bakery and the deli while production employees are generally assigned to one department.
Fox runs the nighttime production, while Bishop and her store manager handle the front end. Another brother, Mike Fuchs, is the production manager overseeing daytime production. “My dad also works part-time. He's 75 years old and he still works. He's the hardest working person I know,” Bishop says. She and Fox purchased the bakery from their parents in 1988. The bakery came into Bishop's family when her grandparents purchased the bakery from their in-laws in 1948.
Donuts, buns and bread are produced overnight while pies, cakes, icings, puff pastry dough and cookie baking occurs during the day. The daytime production staff also cuts out all the donuts for the next day and pans them on screens in the cooler. Then, the night production pulls the donuts from the cooler and proofs them until they are ready for frying, Bishop says.
Keeping customer relations personal
Production orders are still taken by hand. “We have a system that is all by hand, but it works. We are sort of old-fashioned that way. We like to take orders over the phone, so we can talk to our customers and get their exact needs,” she adds. With the numerous custom orders the bakery handles, that personalization is important, and training of employees is key. New sales employees spend several days just working the registers to learn the products before they are allowed to start taking orders. Cake orders are the last item they learn. “Those are so customized and so important to the customer. If they answer the phone before they are trained, they have to pass it off to someone who is trained.”
Once the orders are written in the order book, they are transferred to the production work sheets. It's a quick, streamlined process, Bishop says, and it's been working for the bakery for years. “We're big note-takers,” she adds. For upcoming orders or products that aren't made regularly, management posts notes in the back to alert the bakers. “We've got notes hanging in the back about what is coming up, so they have it in the back of their minds,” Bishop says.
“We're a very busy bakery. Our bread and butter are our rolls and donuts,” she adds. “Customers tell us ‘you just don't see this kind of bakery anymore,’ and customers like our kind of bakery.”
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