Bakers Journal

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Concepts for Success: Five ways to help your bakery weather some tough times

The pandemic has made the going tough; but when things get tough, bakers get even tougher: Diane Chiasson shows us how.


August 19, 2021
By Diane Chiasson

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The past few months certainly haven’t been easy for small bakery operations. Every operator is looking for ways to make money and save money. Unfortunately, this pandemic is fuelled by fear which could lead to poor decision making. Times of crisis and challenges are always difficult for any bakery operator, but they also provide opportunities to innovate. Here are five ways that you can stay alive and thrive.

1. Give your bakery a facelift

Take advantage of low-traffic days to give your bakery a makeover. This can all be done on a budget. First, go for some of the least expensive items on your list, like a new coat of paint, some new lighting or inviting and colourful décor. Look at your old refrigerated display, and there could be a creative way to update it. A more efficient model will actually save you on energy and maintenance costs.  Even the smallest change will go a long way in making a positive impression. Your customers will appreciate a fresh look, and they will certainly feel that you care about your bakery and about them.  

2. Revamp your marketing

Unfortunately, many bakery operators start cutting back on their marketing and promotion during hard times. Marketing expenses are usually the first that is affected in a downtime. However, during a recession or a pandemic, it’s not the time to cut out marketing and advertising. Marketing during downtime is precisely what a bakery must do to stay at the top of consumer’s minds. As your competitors are cutting back, consider expanding your marketing efforts. 

Maximizing your free advertising through free social media sites. Platforms like Instagram are a great way to promote your bakery, and cost next to nothing. It will also help you build your audience and communicate with your customers. So put on your thinking cap, and try to figure out a way to get your bakery’s name out there.

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Ensure that you also have a well-designed and informative website so that your bakery ranks higher in search engines. Try to do more direct marketing activities with a birthday club promotion, a newsletter, or special events. If you can write a blog to promote your bakery, you could put your recipes and tips and updates to make your customers know what’s new in your bakery.

3. Evaluate your bakery menu

You should definitely take a closer look at your bakery menu. Does your menu meet the needs or desires of your customer? Can you remove slow items and menu items that aren’t moving? It may be the right time to trim down your menu, remove some sluggish items, and properly price each bakery item. Just remember that a more extensive menu isn’t always better.

4. Keep your overhead low

Your bakery overhead costs will affect your business’s profitability, and ultimately, its success or failure. Overhead means how much it costs to run your business. It’s now the right time to sit down with your management team to review maintenance contracts, service agreements, bookkeeping services, credit card processors, banking charges, and suppliers’/vendors’ contracts. Make sure that you don’t waste electricity, water or food. There are many small ways that bakeries can save money, from installing low-flow faucets and toilets to purchasing energy-efficient appliances, which will save you more on maintenance, fuel and labour expenses. Keep most of your lights off and use energy-efficient light bulbs, turn down the thermostat just a bit, run the dishwasher when full, and consider replacing plastic or other disposables with china, glass or silver; it’s not only good for the environment but the budget. Taking the time to make sure your bakery expenses are under control will help circumvent problems in the future. 

5. Keep your focus on great customer service

Make sure that you are always hiring people who love to serve and train them with examples of excellent customer service. You must know by now that employees tend to mimic the attitudes of their bosses. Many customers may also be grumpier than usual right now. Combined with your own amount of stress that you may also be experiencing, it would certainly be the right time to sit down with your staff and management to review ways to make your guest feel “extra special.” However, it’s certainly not the right time to backlash at them.

Make sure you are in your bakery storefront, communicating with your customers. Go out and greet your customers and let them know you are there, ready to serve them. Sometimes all you need to do is an” elbow bump,” the new handshake, for your customer to recognize the effort you made. Then, speak to your customers and find out what they like or dislike about your bakery. / BJ


Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 35 years by providing innovative and revenue-increasing food service and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655 or chiasson@chiassonconsultlants.com , or
visit www.chiassonconsultants.com