Lean operation

Run your bakery efficiently and trim where you can without sacrificing quality.

If you own or operate a retail bakery, you most likely already have a love of baking or the baking business. When entrepreneurial bakers decide to open a run a retail bakery, the baking part comes naturally. Bakeries need to operate efficiently if they want to stand a chance to maintain profitability and longevity.

To run your bakery efficiently means knowing every aspect of the business and the time and costs involved. Just cutting employee hours during slow times or finding a supplier with quality ingredients for a cheaper price are not enough. Efficiency means the whole of running the bakery and making sure each facet of operation contributes the maximum efficiency to that whole.

Expenses

The easiest facet of your bakery to manage and maximize efficiency comes in the form of expenses. Whether it’s the utility bills and rent, or ingredients and cost of production, you can see the hard numbers of expenses giving you the information you need to asses and manage them. This is not to say that it’s easy to cut costs, but you can view them and know immediately what you spend and what you take in.

Once you have all the expenditures in front of you, go over them in as much detail as possible and look for things to cut back on. However, never sacrifice quality to save money. Know where the fine line between efficiency and poor quality exists and do everything in your power not to cross it. Consider all expenditures and how you might make adjustments or eliminate them on the way to a more efficient operation. Energy saving equipment, food waste, labor, suppliers, etc. all matter and should be scrutinized.

In your effort to lean out your expenses you need to examine every expense no matter how small. Look for things that don’t directly contribute to your bottom line. Consider cutting extras or perks that do not directly involve the bakery’s bottom line or operation. Cut as many frivolous expenses as possible, but be careful and consider the comfort of your employees.

Employees

The quality and reliability of the employees your hire play a crucial role in the success or failure of your bakery. Take time and put forth a solid effort when choosing not only who you hire, but also the best way a hire fits into your business overall. Once you feel you have put the right people in the right places, give them what they need to help the business succeed.

One strong belief held in the business management world states that employees derive their motivation to do a good job from their surroundings, the knowledge of their role within the operation and development opportunities. A comfortable employee who knows what’s expected of them and believes they have a chance to grow in a friendly work environment will strive to succeed.

Employees see the processes and machinations of your bakery operations first hand. They are on the front lines. Your employees gain a strong perspective of what’s working well and what’s not working on a day-to-day basis. Meet with your employees regularly to ask them their opinions on how the business can run better and how to improve efficiency in production. When employees do a good job, improve efficiency or come up with good ideas, praise them publicly and if you can, reward them somehow.

Marketing and Promotion

Bakeries need to market themselves and promote their products. The expenses involved in marketing and promotions differ from the typical “hard” expenses in that adding or cutting from the budget might not show up in a number that allows owner operators to make solid decisions on whether or not the money spent comes back into the shop in revenue. Proprietors do have to spend the money though to make sure existing and potential customers don’t forget about the bakery altogether.

Getting the most out of your marketing dollars means spending in the best way possible that has the potential to give you the best results. Know the message you want to send to customers and send it in the most cost effective ways possible.

Knowing your immediate competition allows you and your bakery to better differentiate. If you know your competition and what they offer, you can market and promote the things that you believe make your bakery stand out. If you produce specialty items that are all-natural, gluten-free, kosher or even home-made or made from an old family recipe, these are things that must be in the forefront of your marketing and promotional efforts.

You must prioritize your internet presence in today’s web-based world. Spend the money to keep your bakery’s website up to date and it will make a difference. Also, take full advantage of social media. Make it an integral piece of your online marketing and promotions. Not only do more and more people use social media for shopping and reviews, but it’s free.

When it comes to social media marketing, use them all to reach as many demographics as possible. Facebook, for example, has fallen out of favor with the millennial age group, but expanded greatly among Gen Xers and baby boomers. The younger ages now spend more time on Twitter and Instagram. Whether you use all social media platforms available or just one, you must use them to engage your customers.

Customer engagement should be your priority. Instead of just running promotions with images of products you’re having a special on, show what life at your bakery is like. Create a community through your social media posts. And again, engage your followers as much as possible. Respond to their posts, carry on conversations with them. This builds relationships with followers and makes them more apt to frequent your bakery without giving thought to the bakeries that do not.