When I first started at the magazine many years ago, I remember my boss, Ed Lee, telling me that the baking industry was one of the best industries because bakers, for the most part, are just simply nice people and they are willing to help each other out. I’m glad to say that I’ve found the same to be true myself.
Bakers are very community-minded in that they are not afraid to share ideas, solutions or even lend a helping hand to their fellow bakers. And the sense of community extends to their customers. Almost every baker I’ve interviewed during the years has said they are willing to help out their community organizations with product donations. While this a great marketing tool to help grow sales, I’d like to think that they also do it because they see a need in their community that they can fill.
But how often do you step out from behind the counter to really talk to and get to know your customers? Numbers from the POS system can only tell so much. Last month, I wrote about what makes a “real” bakery, focusing on the mechanics of baking. But “real” bakery can mean much more.
I recently spoke with Charlie Feder, owner of Rossmoor Pastries in Signal Hill, Calif., and he mentioned that bakers are among the last professionals who can still factor in their customers’ lives in a personal way. Bakeries are one of the few places where you can see the same customers every day, whether it’s for their morning coffee and breakfast pastries or for a cupcake or brownie as an afternoon pick-me-up.
And consumers tend to have fond memories of their local bakeries, as bakers often supply the key food elements to many of the important events of their lives–wedding cakes, birthday cakes, Christmas stollen or pre-Lenten paczki. It is no secret that people often fixate on food in their memories as sensory memory (taste and smell, especially) is often the strongest.
But Feder wants more, and maybe you should too. He wants to become the bakery in their lives. He wants his customers to consider his bakery part of their history and their future. This is what “real” bakery means to him–having 20-year-olds come and say they’ve been coming to the bakery their whole lives along with the gray-haired man who has made the bakery a part of his daily routine. Do you know these customers? Do you know their history and the role you play in it?
“To me the big picture is get out there and put your arms around your customers,” Feder said. “Real bakery is community.”