What is in this article?:
- How Kneaders meets the needs of Utahans
- European tradition, American flair
With 21 locations, this Orem, Utah-based foodservice chain focuses on quality bread to form the basis of its popular sandwiches. Top-notch pastries and candies satisfy diners’ desire for sweets.
European tradition, American flair
Pastry production begins at every location at 2 a.m. and finishes between 10 a.m. and noon. The pastries are rooted in European tradition but feature a distinctive American flair. They are often sweeter than their European cousins. For example, the fruit tart’s dominant flavor is the vanilla mousse. One the newest and most popular products is the chocolate dome, which features chocolate cake and chocolate mousse topped with chocolate ganache and garnished with chocolate swirls.
To help introduce new products, Kneaders has begun running contests for its pastry employees. A recent competition was to find new cookie flavors. About 25 pastry chefs participated. They produced their cookie entry for two weeks and had it on display for sampling in the stores. Customers were asked to go to Kneaders’ Facebook page and vote on their favorite cookie variety. The result was six new cookie varieties customers loved. Now, the corporate team is tasked with working out which varieties make sense to offer on a regular basis in every location. Kneaders plans to run a similar contest for different products once a year.
Once pastry production winds down at midday, the bread team takes over with feeding the sourdough starter and mixing doughs. Fresh breads start rolling out of the oven around 5 p.m., and bread production winds down at 10 p.m. Eleven varieties are available on a daily basis; 2-lb. loaves are produced for individual sale and 5-lb. loaves are baked for sandwiches. Varieties include the best-selling asiago cheese and French country sourdough as well as ciabatta, chunky cinnamon and rosemary focaccia. Seasonal varieties, such as pumpkin and lemon blueberry, rotate throughout the year.
“It’s funny what’s in a name and a price,” Worthington says. “French country sourdough is our best-selling bread but when we started making it we just called it sourdough and nobody bought it. We raised the price a dollar and renamed it French country sourdough. It’s our most popular selling bread now.”
With every location producing freshly baked items from scratch, training is crucial to maintain product quality and integrity. New hires work for a month before they are tested for certification. For example, pastry employees have to be able to name the five types of chocolate the company uses, what the different chocolates are used for and the temperatures for heating them. They also are tested on how quickly they can fill 100 éclairs.
The bread and pastry manuals contain detailed instructions so employees with little baking knowledge can replicate the products. Employees also are sent to classes at AIB International or the San Francisco Baking Institute on a regular basis or instructors come to the chain’s locations to teach new methods. Kneaders recently introduced webinars, so the corporate bread and pastry bakers can work with bakers in the stores to correct problems they may be running into.
Kneaders recently held a pastry rodeo where all pastry employees from all the locations gathered at the Bakehouse for competitions and demonstrations. The employees were judged by Kneaders’ ingredient suppliers on how well they could complete tasks in a given time, such as how fast they could decorate five fruit tarts. It gave Kneaders the opportunity to compliment employees on their abilities as well as correct mistakes. “It was our effort to try to get speed and quality up to our standards so they could be faster in their stores,” Worthington says.
Continuity through all locations
The product line is identical in all locations. “I feel pretty strongly about that,” Worthington says. “We have a big population that is in all the stores and they’re disappointed if it’s not what they’re used to.” While franchisees can decorate their locations to fit their own demographics, they must purchase décor from approved suppliers. And certain things are always the same. Products in the showcases are set the same in every location.
“In every one of our stores you’ll walk in the door and while you’re standing in line you’re right in front of the pastry display. We want them to say, ‘Wow, that is absolutely amazing. I’ve never seen anything like that,’” she adds.
“What it gets down to is about the food, and the main thing is our product is fresh every day. We like to think our brand is comfort with the freshest food possible and a focus on relationships, whether it’s the relationship with our employees, with our customers or our food purveyors or equipment suppliers,” Worthington says. “That’s what we do at Kneaders is care about the people.”
On 9/11, she debated whether to keep the stores open and an employee convinced her to stay open because people needed a place to be. It was one of the busiest days for the company. “People just needed that comfort of the homemade bread and going somewhere where they knew people would be. We had people sit for hours and we had standing room only at one point. That was really the first time I realized that we’re not just selling bread and pastries, we’re selling comfort to people.”