Why the Future Looks Bright for Retail Bakeries

From coast to coast, America’s retail bakeries are brimming with innovative ideas. It’s no wonder the future looks bright for the retail bakery community, fresh off a year in which total industry revenue rose an estimated 7 percent, according to our 2017 Retail Bakery Operations Study.

In Montclair, New Jersey, owner Rachel Crampsey innovates by conducting a host of events (a spring street fair, artisan bread/donut classes, summer baking camp, annual 5K donut run) that intertwine local customers into the fabric of the community and this neighborhood bakery. Montclair Bread’s clever catchphrase, “Fueled by Doughnuts,” helps build brand exposure for this bread bakery with a donut addiction.

“With bread, you can be part of someone’s family every day, whether it’s someone’s toast in the morning or the dinner table at night. It is part of people’s daily existence,” says Crampsey.

In Los Angeles, owner Raul Porto and his family innovate through relentless dedication to detail with regard to product quality, impeccable service and presentation.

As customers enter the newest Porto’s Bakery & Café in Buena Park, California, a 25,000-square-foot marvel to see, they are immersed in a multitude of sensory experiences: bountiful bread racks, a fresh-brew coffee and juice bar, a pastry station where artisans finish off individual pastries in full view, and a huge glass window to watch cake decorators working their magic on marble-top, stainless-steel tables illuminated by copper light fixtures above.

“It’s a spectacular impact,” Raul Porto says. “As bakers, we do all of these wonderful things, but no one ever sees it. We started thinking about baking as entertainment. Everything here showcases the lighting, the menus, the bread racks, the coffee bar, the cakes and pastries.”

In New York City, The City Bakery owner Maury Rubin innovates through product development (he created the original pretzel croissant years before hybrid pastries caught on), commitment to sustainability (his New York City bakeries include Birdbath, an eco-minded place that serves lots of organic and local items), and an expansive business network that includes full-scale catering, an international location in Tokyo and soon-to-be new location in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood.

Detroit’s City Bakery cafe will open daily for breakfast and lunch with service until late afternoon, offering pastries, salads, sandwiches, desserts, coffee, and hot cocoa. There’s also going to be a full-service commissary kitchen for City Bakery.

“Creativity is the lifeblood of The City Bakery, and the creative mood and landscape of Detroit right now is something we want to be a part of,” Rubin says.

Bakers surveyed in our Retail Bakery Operations Study reported there are numerous business opportunities on the landscape.

The following are expansion opportunities cited by the retail bakers:

  • New products
  • Wholesale
  • Catering
  • Retail locations
  • Franchising
  • New markets
  • Online
  • Shipping
  • Resort clients

“Local resorts are looking to our business to produce unique items for their guests, which number in the thousands per month,” says one wholesaler in the Northeast.

“We are expanding into a 40,000-square-foot building. In 2017, we open our third store. The business is now evolving to the next generation,” says a full-line retailer in the Midwest.

Improving social media interactions and connecting with next-generation customers to include online shopping opportunities is the focus of another full-line Midwest retailer.

“We are seeing the pendulum swing from gluten-free and 100 percent whole grain to more complex, tasty products made with a mix of white and whole grain flours to include ancient, lesser known grains,” says one full-line retailer in the Midwest. “In my judgment, the future of retail baking has never been better and offers exciting career opportunities for motivated individuals.”

James Beard Award-winning bakery owner Joanne Chang moved to New York City in 1997 to work in the cake department of the critically acclaimed Payard Patisserie and Bistro where she helped Francois Payard open the original Payard Patisserie on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Returning to Boston a year later with dreams of opening up her own pastry shop, she brought her French and American training to Mistral where she worked as pastry chef.

In 2000, she opened Flour Bakery + Café in Boston’s South End. Flour features breakfast pastries, breads, cakes, cookies, and tarts as well as sandwiches, soups, and salads. In 2007 she opened a second branch of Flour in the Fort Point Channel area, in 2010 a third branch in Cambridge near MIT and Central Square, and in 2013 a fourth branch in the Back Bay.

She also opened a Chinese restaurant called Myers + Chang with her husband Christopher Myers in the South End neighborhood in the fall of 2007. Since that time, the bakery business has expanded to eight locations.

“I’m always asking for feedback. It’s a signature style for me to ask constantly from all of my staff how they think we are doing and how am I doing. They help me grow!” Chang says with an enthusiastic smile. “I also read voraciously. I love cookbooks, management articles, and the business section of the newspaper. My staff often comes to me with ideas, magazines, Pinterest, Instagram, restaurants, cafes, bakeries. Everywhere I go I’m looking to see what other people are doing and what sounds/looks/tastes amazing.”

Chang innovates through the use of ingredients that today’s consumer want. Allergy issues are a big deal today, and Flour’s owner is always keeping her customers’ needs in mind, using feedback through social media to keep the conversation going. “Allergy issues are big. We have made sure to mark our menu items vegan, nut free, gluten free, low sugar, etc., to respond to guests who have various allergies.”