This month's issue, in which we feature the Retail Bakery of the Year, is probably my favorite issue of the year. Something about going to visit the bakery that won is exciting for me, and hopefully, the owners as well. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy visiting all bakeries and all the bakers Modern Baking editors have visited have been very hospitable, but there is just something about the award that gives the visit a little something extra on both sides.
So, what makes a good bakery? Or what makes a good bakery exceptional? To pick the winning bakery, we look at a variety of parameters, including ingredient and product quality, marketing, merchandising, management's involvement in the industry, just to name a few. The things that keep most customers coming back is product quality and product selection.
William Seppi, general manager of Costeaux French Bakery, winner of this year's award, took an interesting approach when he joined the family bakery five years ago. He took a close look at the bakery's existing product line and assessed what products were the cornerstone of the bakery, what products were losing the bakery money or not providing a good margin, and what products could be revamped to produce a better margin. The result: he greatly reduced the number of products the bakery offered to about a hundred, with only a dozen items with several different varieties available daily.
And, he even took it a step further. When he remodeled the retail store, he reduced showcase space, cutting the dessert display area by one-third and the cookie display in half. With the former display area, the bakery either produced more than it could sell simply to keep the showcases full, or it only produced what it knew it would sell, leaving the showcases looking empty.
By taking a close look at his product line, Seppi was able to improve product quality and ultimately improve customer satisfaction.
Roche Bros., the in-store bakery featured this month, also takes a unique approach to being a good bakery by paying more attention to the products customers are asking for and then deciding how to produce them rather than offering new products that would easily fit into its current production model.
If providing customers with high quality artisan breads that they can't find at the competition requires Roche Bros. in-stores to make them from scratch, then they will and they do. If the in-stores can source a high quality dessert cake fully finished from a supplier, then that's what they sell to customers. This approach allows the company to provide customers the best products possible and still make a profit.
So what makes a good bakery? It's largely subjective, but customers know when they find one.