Bakers traded ideas, tips and a few bakery war stories at the education-focused RBA Roadshow launch in Chicago.
On an unseasonably warm December day in Chicago, more than 140 bakers converged at Kendall College to help kick off the Retail Bakers of America (RBA) Roadshow. After a packed morning of bakery tours at Delightful Pastries, Dinkel's Bakery and Roeser's Bakery, attendees returned to meet with the more than 30 vendors showcasing their products and services and attend a full afternoon of educational sessions.
Pat Jacoby demonstrated an awe-inspiring suspended sprinkling can cake iced with 100 percent buttercream using galvanized steel pipes, floor flanges and PVC piping in under 45 minutes while a captive audience snapped photos and peppered her with questions.
Questions ranged from what to wrap galvanized steel in so it doesn't touch cake or icing (modeling chocolate, foil or plastic wrap) to how to price it (factor in the cost of materials, then figure in time and labor) to whether Patty Cakes does deliveries.
"We don't deliver if it's not a wedding cake," Jacoby replied. "That's a can of worms I don't want to open, because then people would order 6-in. cakes to be delivered 30 miles away."
Jonna Parker of Nielsen Perishables Group engaged retail bakers in a discussion about how they can benefit from the in-store bakery data she presented in her session, asking whether retail bakeries were experiencing some of the same trends, including smaller portions and increased sales after 5 p.m. One baker noted that her store has had success offering a downsized muffin, though "we barely cut the price." Another changed the bakery hours at her second location to satisfy evening commuters.
Parker also noted that there is inequity in the success of supermarket bakeries, which offers significant leverage for retail bakeries. "Nobody is leading, except in specific markets," she said. "Typically consumers are surprised when the in-store bakery delights them; likewise, they're surprised when the retail bakery doesn't."
Renee Rouwhorst talked of the importance of helping consumers understand the process of building "as seen on TV" cakes in her "Qualifying the Sale" presentation. She offered tips such as asking open-ended questions as opposed to yes or no questions to place the onus on the customer, establishing a baseline price for tiered cakes and offering options even if customers don't ask for them.
"The perception people have of what we do is not realistic at all," Rouwhorst said. "That's why you need to communicate your pricing and why. People need to understand what the process is. Help them understand what they're paying for to build a relationship with them."
The day appropriately culminated with cocktails and a drawing of prizes, which included gift certificates, a cake kit and a chocolate fountain. "This is RBA at its best," RBA president Ken Downey told me that evening. "It's all about the education and interaction with fellow bakers."
Below are a few snapshots of the jam-packed day.
Bakers check out the Vendor Showcase before classes start.
Pat Jacoby, award-winning cake designer and owner of Patty-Cakes Bakery, Highland, Ill., shows off the finished product: a suspended sprinkling can cake after her "Internal Structure 101" demonstration at the RBA Roadshow.
Attendees listen to Kendall instructor Sue Tinnish's presentation on guerilla marketing tactics. "There has been a democratization in the ability to self-publish," she said of the growth of social media.
An emotional Heidi Hedecker, who recently earned her Certified Master Baker designation, is awarded with a certificate from RBA by Chicago Area RBA members Jory Downer (second from right), owner of Bennison's Bakery, Evanston, Ill., and Bob Fleckenstein (right), owner of Fleckenstein's Bakery, Mokena, Ill. "I was mentored by the very best," Hedecker said.
From left: Renee Rouwhorst, Ryke's Bakery, Muskegon, Mich.; Marlene Goetzler, Freeport Bakery, Sacramento, Calif.; Ken Downey, RBA president and bakery director, Kings Supermarkets, Ken Jarosch, Jarosch Bakery, Elk Grove Village, Ill.; and Beth Fahey, Creative Cakes, Tinley Park, Ill. "Six weeks ago, Beth came to me with this crazy idea for the show ... and I told her,' Just do it!' And six weeks later, here we all are, thanks to Beth," Downey said during the cocktail hour.