is the backbone of
this bakery cafe.
David White and
envisioned a retail
bakery, but now
lunch and catering
account for 69
percent of sales.
The lunch rush starts early at Bountiful Bread in Albany, N.Y. At 11 a.m., the line of customers already snakes through the store and stretches almost to the front door.
David White and Mark Burgasser never envisioned such long lunch lines when they opened Bountiful Bread 10 years ago in a 1,100-sq.-ft. storefront in Albany's Stuyvesant Plaza. That is mostly because they never envisioned serving lunch.
Originally, the co-founders' vision was to open a bakery to produce handcrafted, artisan breads for retail and diverse, local, full-service restaurants owned by White's management company.
“The week before we were scheduled to open, we were baking loaves and giving them away,” Burgasser recalls. “People liked our bread so much, many of them asked us if we would be offering sandwiches at lunch.”
Not that there were any shortages of lunch spots in the immediate area. In fact, numerous well-known, fast-casual (some bread-centric) chains have units within a one-mile radius of the bakery.
“Customers told us they liked the fact that our bread was made from scratch every day right on the premises,” he says. “They told us they wanted their sandwiches to be made on that bread.”
Seating at Bountiful Bread is at such a premium between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. that the WiFi service is suspended for these two hours each day to encourage table turnover. No one complains, Burgasser says.
Even more surprising is the fact that there were no complaints when the bakery recently increased the prices of its breads by 25 cents to keep up with rising ingredient costs.
“Our customers are more quality- than price-oriented,” he explains. “They understand the value of a consistently excellent product.”
In 2004, Bountiful Bread expanded from 1,100 sq. ft., half of which was used for bread and sweets production, to its current 4,800-sq.-ft. space across the plaza. About 35 percent of this space is dedicated to bakery production.
Prior to its relocation, sales were about $12,000 per week.
“We had hoped to build sales to about $25,000 in the new, bigger facility,” Burgasser says. “However, sales jumped to more than $30,000 the first week following the move.”
Of Bountiful Bread's $2.4 million in annual revenues, about 88 percent come from retail sales and catering. Retail bakery product sales account for close to 19 percent of that total (4 percent from retail breads and rolls; 8 percent from cookies, brownies and bars; 5 percent from breakfast muffins, buns, breads and cakes; and 2 percent from tarts, cupcakes and mini-cakes).
Bread-based items also are the focus of the 35-seat café's menu. All soups and salads come with sides of oven-fresh breads or rolls. Customers also can have their soup, chowder or chili served in boule bowls.
Wholesale to White Management's six full-service restaurants accounts for the remaining 12 percent of sales. At the Butcher Block, a steak and seafood restaurant, loaves for the salad bar are stored for slicing in Bountiful Bread's logo bags. As a result, Burgasser says, the breads served in the restaurant become big sellers in the bakery.
Adding more wholesale accounts is not a priority for Bountiful Bread, according to Burgasser, “because we want to keep our concept fresh and our bakery a destination.” He points out that the bakery's base of regular customers, which includes students and faculty from about a half dozen local universities, people who work at area businesses and merchants from the shopping plaza, spans a 15-mile radius.
Bringing customers into the bakery also provides ample opportunity for sampling and cross promoting. Premium jams, oils and dips, for example, come with a free loaf of bread.
Bread main focus
About 14 varieties, including farm bread, German caraway rye, multi-grain, pane paisano, the best-selling baguettes, cranberry walnut and cinnamon raisin, are daily staples on the bakery menu. The signature paisano sports a flour stencil, which changes to reflect the season or special events. For example, flowers for spring or a big “NY” for the local team during this year's SuperBowl.
In addition to the core loaves, Bountiful Bread offers three or four special “breads of the day,” such as apple pecan, five cheese and Greek olive and oregano, which are featured on a rotating basis. Some of these limited edition loaves reflect particular holidays. The bakery sells about 500 round challahs during the two days leading up to Rosh Hashanah, and last year, the bakery sold 100 of its 3-lb. turkey-shaped breads around Thanksgiving for $18 apiece.
Bountiful Bread's loaves are made from scratch and leavened with one of three natural starters (sourdough, rye or biga) and unbleached flour. The five bakers produce an average of 300 loaves and 100 rolls from the same doughs per day.
Fermentation times are up to five hours, and the breads are hand-formed. Bread production begins at 9 a.m. and continues until 8 p.m.
The first loaves of the day come out of the oven around noon and continue to be baked throughout the day. From midnight to 8 a.m., the Bountiful Bread crew turns out a wide assortment of cookies, brownies and bars; Danish, cinnamon rolls and other breakfast sweets; hand-rolled croissants; tarts and coffee cakes.
Signature sweets include the Brownie Surprise, made by cutting a sheet pan of regular brownies into 24 rectangles, piping on some house-made buttercream, coating the confections in chocolate ganache and drizzling the tops with white chocolate. Chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies also get the luxe treatment with buttercream filling and a dip in ganache.
A breakfast favorite is the Rocky Mountain muffin top created by Burgasser, a graduate of Alfred University's culinary arts program. The formula calls for placing small balls of cinnamon bun dough and raisins into muffin tins; then, after baking, finishing the product with a honey glaze and white icing.
Six months ago, the bakery introduced a round, pull-apart challah, which Burgasser called “a major success.”
The majority of Bountiful Bread's bakery business is full-service from its behind-the-counter bread shelves and countertop pastry and cookie displays. A few packaged, grab and go items are stacked on a table in the middle of the store's retail area.
Among them are several different types of trays, such as 6-lb. mixed cookie combinations for $14, and the store sells about 36 each day; 6-lb. bar trays for $14.99 with sales averaging 12 per day; and 8-lb. breakfast trays with a selection of pastry items for $14.99 of which 12 to 18 are sold per day.
Burgasser points out that shrink at the bakery is low, about two percent. He credits nightly product sales tracking as well as a staff of employees that have often been with the bakery for years.
“Our turnover rate is very low, probably because we like to empower our employees and promote from within as much as possible,” he explains.
Head Baker Bill Haggerty, for example, began behind the counter as a clerk and received his bakery training on the job.
As for future expansion, White says that the company is planning to do it through franchising. He explains that the infrastructure is in place and the first Bountiful Bread franchise opened last December in Louisville, Ky.
Bountiful Bread at a glance
Location: Albany, N.Y.
Primary business: retail
Number of locations: 1
Key personnel titles: Mark Burgasser and David White, co-founders; Patrick Teeter, general manager; Josh Olcott, chef
Product line: breads, rolls, cookies, Danish, muffins, brownies, cupcakes, coffee cakes, individual tarts, cinnamon rolls, scones, sandwiches, soups and salads
Sales breakdown: lunch items, 69%; breads and rolls, 4%; cookies, brownies and bars, 8%; breakfast muffins, buns, breads and cakes, 5%; tarts, cupcakes and mini-cakes, 2%; wholesale, 12%
Facility size: 4,500 sq. ft.
Production methods: scratch
Major equipment: vertical and spiral mixers, bread and bun dividers, baguette moulder, deck oven, convection oven, refrigerator, freezer, refrigerated service and self-service cases, bread slicer
Bountiful Bread a sampling of prices
|Muffin, 7 ozs.||$2.25|
|Giant cinnamon bun, 10 ozs.||$2.29|
|Danish, 8 ozs.||$2.25|
|Muffin top, 4 ozs.||$1.75|
|Giant cookie, 3 ozs.||$1.95|
|Brownie, 5 ozs.||$2.25|
|Cupcake, 7 ozs.||$3.50|
|Baguette, 16 ozs.||$2.75|
|Cranberry walnut bread, 21 ozs.||$4.50|
|Raisin challah, 22 ozs.||$3.95|
|Northern ciabatta, 32 ozs.||$3.95|
|Pane paisano, 21 ozs.||$4.50|
|Multi-grain, 22 ozs.||$3.95|
|Semolina roll, 3 ozs.||$0.75|
|Ciabatta roll, 3 ozs.||$0.75|
|Brownie surprise, 7 ozs.||$2.50|
Matching marketing dollars to a mission
When it comes to allocating its marketing dollars, Bountiful Bread co-founders David White and Mark Burgasser prefer to put their money where their mission is. Community service is a big part of business at the Albany, N.Y. bakery. And commitment to the community led to the development of the company's ongoing “Cupcakes That Care” campaign.
Every month, excluding November and December, Bountiful Bread donates $1 from the sale of every regular size, 7-oz. cupcake to a local charitable organization. The bakery has supported the American Cancer Society for 11 years, says Bountiful Bread's Community Outreach Specialist Marjie Rekoon-Burgasser, and now is planning to showcase and raise funds for a different local non-profit each month.
The colorful, elaborately decorated cupcakes; available in chocolate, vanilla and red velvet filled and iced with fudge, cream cheese, buttercream or jam, and topped with a wide array of candies, cookies and nuts; are prominently displayed near the bakery's cash register. Point-of-purchase signage at the register and throughout the store explains the campaign and counter personnel remind customers as they check out.
Press releases from the bakery alerting the media to the effort have resulted in a good deal of local coverage, Rekoon-Burgasser notes. Information about the campaign also is included on the company's Web site.
Aside from the caring cupcakes, Bountiful Bread supports community-based non-profits all year long through donation of product and gift cards for auctions.