When Mariano’s Fresh Market opened a store two miles down the road from Lovin Oven Cakery in Libertyville, Ill., the last thing general manager Matt Slove expected was to see business improve in the long run.
“We saw a significant hit to our cakes when it first opened,” Slove says. Instead of waiting for the damage to worsen, Slove visited his competition a few times and examined his own cake line for improvements.
“We did some investigation into what kind of market Mariano’s was trying to hit and learned it was for families of six people or less.”
Mariano’s offers 6-in., two-layer cakes featuring high-end contemporary designs and some fondant. At that time, the smallest cakes offered at Lovin Oven were three-layer, 8-in. rounds, so Slove duplicated the six best-selling 8-in. cakes in the 6-in. size and offered them at both of Lovin Oven’s retail locations for $22.95. Each store sells an average of 25 per week. Contrary to what Slove anticipated, sales of 8-in. cakes are up as well.
Monitoring the competition also inspired Lovin Oven to revamp its tiered cake program. Instead of taking tiered cake orders by appointment only and charging per serving, the bakery now offers cakes ready the next day that are priced using a stacking fee instead of per serving. The bakery sells between 12 and 20 per week. “We have seen a phenomenal amount of business from that. It created a market for us,” Slove says.
Although the bakery didn’t create the category, it is benefiting from the buzz generated by its main in-store bakery competition. “Competition makes you better,” he says. “It’s about stepping back and saying, ‘There are no sacred cows here; we can make some changes and it will make us better.’”