West Palm Beach, Fla. foodservice company What's 4 Dinner had been doing fine with its original Web-based family meal delivery business. But, entrepreneur A.J. Hurwitz saw opportunity in the cupcake trend.
“I was telling my wife [co-owner Abby Hurwitz] about how well places like Magnolia and Crumbs were doing,” Hurwitz says. “We didn't have anything like that in our area, but we did have a kitchen capable of producing a lot of cupcakes.”
The husband-wife team started a sister business, What A Cupcake, which opened its first retail locations in Boca Raton, Fla. and Wellington, Fla. Six more are slated to open in the area within six weeks.
“We felt that combining two concepts under one roof will hook people,” Hurwitz says. “We are selling 500 to 800 cupcakes a day at each shop, and the shelves are bare by the end of the day. It can be embarrassing to have potential customers come in to an empty shop.”
At about 1,000 sq. ft. each, the cupcake shops do not bake in-house. The meal delivery and cupcake businesses share a 3,500-sq.-ft. commissary. Baking goes on from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. every night, when the ovens would otherwise be idle. Cupcakes are then packaged, sealed, and delivered to the retail shops.
Hurwitz hired three pastry chefs to experiment with formulas and flavors. They did a lot of testing, playing and batching to see what would work. After forming a solid foundation of formulas, they started “going crazy” with unlikely flavor combinations and ingredients. Cupcake varieties now number more than 80, with anywhere from 30 to 40 available each day. Hurwitz pointed to the Red Bull cupcake, based on the popular energy drink, as an example of the flavor range. “It's yummy, but it also gives you that extra little jolt,” he says.
In order to market the cupcake venture, Hurwitz gave free cupcakes to local businesses and schools to whet the local appetite and show what they could do on a bulk scale. They also decorated a truck as a cupcake to have a community presence and distribute cupcakes at local events.
The couple has found that the two businesses dovetail nicely. The popularity, color and spectacle of the cupcake stores draw people that might otherwise not know about meal delivery business. At the same time, What's 4 Dinner is becoming increasingly synonymous with dessert cupcakes.
“A lot of bakeries have to throw product away at the end of the day, but we can repackage the fresh cupcakes, made that morning, as desserts for our meal delivery business,” Hurwitz says. “If we have enough left, at least.”