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10 Tips

to Unleash the Potential

of Your Bake Shop

by Diane Chiasson, FCSI

Running a bakery operation takes much more than just displaying the regulars like fresh bread and muffins. As an operator, you must think of what will lure your customers into your bakery and it has to be creative enough that they will be coming for years to come. Freshness is an obvious key factor and should not be overlooked. Nothing should go on the shelves that is older than a day unless it is reduced in price. Remember, as a bakery facility, you have that fresh baked aroma, which means an increase in impulse sales, so use it to your advantage. Much more thought and work must come into play if you want your bakery operation to be a huge success.

Research rituals

It is important that you know your customer inside out, as you want to serve them as best as possible. Survey your current customers to see what they think of your bakery items. Ask them what they like and what they think you could do better. Are your items as fresh as they could be? Is your staff as friendly and helpful as they could be? It is also equally crucial to research the competition so that you are always one step ahead of them.

If you build it, they will come

Yes, this is an old saying but nothing could be closer to the truth. Operators should build their bakery displays so customers can see them from across the facility. Use nothing but the freshest ingredients and food items in your display. Display bakery items such as bagels, baguettes, cookies and dessert bars using unique plates, dishes and rattan baskets. Use fresh fruits, fresh and dried flowers, in addition to ears of wheat and corn to add to your displays. Custom-design wood tilted racks to display breads, pies and Danish so your customers’ mouths will be watering from the minute they walk in the door. Do not forget to change your display every 10 days, and label each item so customers know what they are buying. Your display could be the best one on the block, but your customers will get bored of it if they see the same thing every time they enter your facility.

Creating color eye-catchers

Color is one of the most important factors when dealing with bakery display. Because most of the colours in bakery items tend to be browns and beiges, it is necessary to pump up your operation with bright colours such as red, orange, or yellow, that will complement any bakery display you build.

Have fun with cross-merchandising

Cross-merchandising is a unique way for you to get your point across. Whether your bakery is a sole operation, or it is located in a grocery facility, a lot can be done to merchandise and sell your bakery items with other relevant products. When displaying specialty breads, do not be afraid to merchandise the ingredients as well. Display fresh herb breads near fresh herbs. Then cut up a few of the loaves so customers can capture the taste. Or, cross-merchandise bakery items with the deli and soup counters. Coffee is the next best thing to display with any bakery item – display beautiful packages of coffee next to your mouthwatering bakery items and they will by flying off the shelves. Also, try cream cheese and bagels, focaccia bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, or fruit and lemon cakes with whipped cream.

Selling with signage

It is important to be clean, concise and to the point when designing the signage for your bakery operation. Make it as easy as possible for customers to purchase bakery items in your operation by providing proper signage. After all, the reason for putting up a sign in the first place is to inform your customers about your products so they will buy them! Signage can be displayed in all shapes and sizes and should be used accordingly. Use small chalkboard signs for muffins, cakes, cookies and bars and bigger signs for sectioned areas of your operation. If you insist on handwriting your signs, be sure to make them legible and graphically appealing.

Lively lighting

Lighting is a very important role when it comes to bakery items. It should be an aspect you think of at all times when designing your bakery display because it helps to sell your products. Do not over- or under-light key areas of the facility. Lighting is meant to add life to your bakery products, while showing off the details of your products. Strive for a warm, comfortable environment that encourages sales. While you will not be asked to conceive and implement a lighting system, you will be asked to keep an eye on lighting systems to ensure cleanliness, accuracy of beam, and that burned out bulbs are identified and replaced immediately.

Make it spotless

Cleanliness will help to ensure your customer will come back for more of your tasty bakery items. The last thing a customer wants to find is a dusty food counter or a spotty sneezeguard. This goes for three-tier displays, display racks, utensils, shelves and employee uniforms. Ensure your staff wears hairnets, hats and disposable gloves while handling bakery items. Post signage that lets customers know you are in control of your cleanliness.

Keep them stocked up

Keeping an eye on your bakery stock is pertinent to running a bakery facility. Make sure to have all the favourite bakery items in stock at all times, in addition to some new and improved items that are sure to knock your competitors off their feet. Feel free to try a variety of items, as your customers will get bored of the same bakery items over and over. Again, keep in mind your customer base. Ask them what they would like to see on your shelves everyday and be sure to follow their requests.

Crucial customer service

Make it the goal of your bakery facility to offer the best possible service to your customers. It is important to train your staff to be the best they can be, while constantly selling and up-selling your products. Provide a script to follow so your staff is consistent with each sale made. This way, there will be a decreased risk of making mistakes. Hand out customer comment cards to get ideas on how you are doing. Sampling your bakery items also works as a customer service tool. If you make it easy for your customers to try your food, you will satisfy their cravings and close a sale a lot faster. Sampling also allows you to offer items you wish to add to your menu, but want to try out first. Provide bakery sample stations as soon as your customers walk in the door, at the counter or throughout your facility. You will see it in the customers’ eyes if your new bakery item will be a hit or miss.

Promotions and contests

Promotions and contests are two of the biggest things you could do to get your customers bursting through the door. They help you build rapport with your customers, while providing them with extra value to your facility. Use national holidays for special promotion periods, or make one up of your own. A popular contest item is the business card draw. Keep a fish bowl at your bakery counter and ask people to drop in their business card for a chance to win a prize. Business card contests are great because they allow you to see who is coming into your facility, while getting the complete contact information to reach customers for future promotions. Hold a bake-off and encourage your customers to join to show off their secret recipes. Whatever your bakery promotions, be sure they fit your facility’s personality or your customers may get confused about your identity.

Many Thanks to
Diane Chiasson, FCSI
for this excellent article.

President of Toronto-based Chiasson Consultants Inc., Diane is a foodservice and retail merchandising and marketing specialist who has worked with high-profile independent restaurants, major hotel and restaurant chains, corporate cafeterias, coffee bars, casinos, clubs, hospitals, colleges and universities, in addition to supermarkets, convenience stores, specialty food and gift stores for the past 20 years.

You can call her at
416-926-1338 or
1-888-926-6655, fax her at
contact her via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
or visit her web site at http://www.chiassonconsultants.com

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