Business and Operations
Best Kind Bakery
A passion project turned into a professional business
By Bakers Journal
Bakers are already operating in an era where issues like food waste is a concern and energy conservation is key, but the pandemic has sharpened that focus. By reducing oven time, and tracking orders carefully, environmentally-aware bakeries have achieved cost reduction as their goal. Less food waste, more ingredients; less hydro, more operating funds.
While preserving resources is commendable, many have resorted even leaner operating models, like this year’s winner of the Inspirational Bakery Contest, Best Kind Bakehouse of Vancouver, BC. Many restaurants and cafés operate on a skeleton crew, shifting to an online ordering model. With indoor dining areas closed, cafés and bakery-delis have pivoted to outdoor seating or curbside pickup after a phone call or online order.
That’s how Best Kind Bakehouse’s winning entry caught the judge’s attention. Owners, Mark and Carly Burton know what it feels like to have lost employment due to the pandemic. They put their skills to use; Carly was a former event manager at the Fairmount Hotel Vancouver, and her husband, Mark, was chef and instructor at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. Together, they run an all-virtual bakery out of a commissary in Vancouver.
“Due to the pandemic, the hospitality industries were very, very hard hit. So, I started baking bread. But, being from that professional kitchen background I can’t just make one loaf of bread,” chuckles Mark. “We had to start giving them away.” Their journey began with a visit to a friend’s place with some artisanal bread that piqued neighbours’ curiousity.
“We started taking the opportunity to jump on our bikes and start riding around and just literally handing out loaves of bread. And, you know, people were coming down and greeting us and they were very excited. They were saying, ‘hey, my neighbour saw me coming up with this package of bread and they were wondering where I was getting it from?’ I was like, ‘oh, okay, I might have an extra loaf.’ Then, it was just basically through networking through our friends.”
“At that time, we had no website. We weren’t doing any marketing. It wasn’t even a business. It was literally, just making [bread at] a loss.” Despite baking and taking orders, and texting to notify bread lovers their order was ready, he didn’t consider his craft a business. It was only until one person offered to pay for Mark’s hobby that he realized this could be a lucrative opportunity.
The couple takes orders all week until Thursday, then Mark spends all of Friday making bread and pastry: The weekend is spent delivering. They choose to stay small and keep their environmental footprint low, and baking all the orders in one shot prevents needless waste of electricity. By taking orders in advance, he doesn’t generate food waste with overstock.
Once Mark’s order list logged in at 62 loaves a week, it was Carly who suggested a larger workspace. “The beautiful thing about a commissary kitchen is you can start with a little bit of space and then eventually grow into more space, should your business start to grow,” recommends Mark.
With a larger workspace to produce profitably, the couple realized people outside of their social circle were to ready buy baked goods online the same way they were willing to buy clothes, books and groceries through a website or phone app. His wife, Carly, created their online presence using her mouth-watering photographs. “The website was simple: I used Squarespace as a pre-set… you just drop in the wording and the pictures and it’s very user friendly.” Carly cited the simplicity of online ordering as the key to their success.
“With everyone being at home, or most people being at home a little bit more, people like the convenience, the safety and comfort of having fresh baking show up at your door,” explained Carly. “When they come through our parking lot at the Commissary Kitchen to do their pickup, and they just stop alongside of the building, pop their trunk, we drop it in the trunk for them. Give them a wave, say ‘thank you,’ and off they go. We make it really easy for them.”
From Best Kind’s slick online presence to their order-and-deliver system, you wouldn’t guess the entire operation is run by only two people. Mark’s creativity and energy is seemingly boundless. “Carly tells me that I’m very odd,” laughs Mark. “After twelve hours in the kitchen I still come home and cook, and I still love cooking.” The inspiration for intriguing flavour combinations like peanut butter paprika cookies or their double chocolate rosemary sourdough cookies comes from their love of local ingredients and their imagination. “We are tied to the community and we are tied to ingredients that grow here, they are the things that will grow best…. it’s not that everything local is best, but a lot of products that you have access to are very seasonal, fresh and exciting to us.”
The dynamic duo expresses the hope that they will be able to expand their operation in five years, but want keep it scaled to a manageable size that will allow them to put their personal touch on their brand. “I’m not looking to scale this to the point where it’s straight across Canada just yet…I think that we can grow with our consumer base with our customers to the point where they’re satisfied. We’re still providing the same product the same service. And we’re still getting the satisfaction and running the business the way that we want it to be run.”
Watch the interview with the winning bakery |HERE|