It’s always a breath of fresh air to walk into a bakery operation that really gets it, whether it’s an in-store, retail, foodservice or specialty wholesale bakery.
It's always a breath of fresh air to walk into a bakery operation that really gets it, whether it's an in-store, retail, foodservice or specialty wholesale bakery. Most bakeries featured in the pages of Modern Baking generally do get it…they're successful because they've held firm in their quest to offer their customers high quality, fresh-baked products.
It sounds simple, really. And, Modern Baking has editorialized about this topic since its inception more than 20 years ago. Quality sells in bakery, no matter what kind of bakery you are. But lately, with the economy in the doghouse, bakeries are taking a cold, hard look at their operations, trying to figure out ways to cut costs and improve profitability.
Two very important things retail bakers say they are refusing to do is skimp on quality or slash prices to compete with low-cost competitors (see p. 24). That's because they get it. They've designed their bakeries and developed their product lines, so their bakeries are destinations. Customers today need to make a special trip to visit a retail bakery, and successful bakeries have figured out ways to make that happen.
It is not easy. It is a constant battle and evolution of your business. But, as long as you don't lose focus on what makes your brand special, you should be OK and may even ride out this storm in better shape to make big moves when the market is ready.
Walt's Foods gets it, too. Under the guidance of a fourth-generation baker who helped found the department and an upper management team that respects and understands how a quality in-store bakery operation can benefit the whole company, Walt's in-store bakeries are going strong by “keeping it old school.”
What does that mean exactly? It means they continue to bake quality fresh products at store level, and the staff truly takes customer service to heart by getting to know their customers and offering them the products they're requesting. Only bakeries that produce their own products can do that.
That's not to say their in-store bakery operation hasn't changed during the last 30 years. Quite the contrary. They've centralized production of some labor-intensive product lines, remodeled and expanded numerous times and adapted their product lines and merchandising strategies for changing customer demographics.
Keeping it old school sounds simple, but it's actually harder. Of course, do not lose sight of new and innovative ways to reach your customers or offer the same ol', same ol' products you did 15 years ago presented in the very same way. Scrutinizing product lines in this economy is a must, and swapping out some ingredients that are too costly (ie. raspberries for blueberries or visa versa) doesn't mean you're cutting quality. Now is the time to be more meticulous than ever, but never lose sight of what made your bakery business successful in the first place.