Tech made easy
Many people embrace technology, some adopt it slowly over time, and a few shun it altogether, but it doesn’t really matter what your take on technology is, the fact that it has become an integral part of everyday life remains. Not only does business necessitate technology on some level, but profits and costs rely on technology more and more every day. And while one all-encompassing software or app for the retail bakery, many solutions exist to help the retail bakery cut costs and improve its bottom line.
Oftentimes bakery products need to stay the same. If your shop offers something that sells well, and has sold well for a long period of time, there’s no need to change it. Business operations however, require a different approach. Although a system may work for you and not cause monetary losses on the surface, new and technologically advanced methods might offer cost cutting advantages that you didn’t know existed.
Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito co-own Baked in New York City. They’ve recently opened the second location of Baked in the Tribeca neighborhood, but it was the first shop in Brooklyn ten years ago that showed them how technology could help with the business side of things. To give the Brooklyn store a cool look, Baked opened with a vintage register to give it a 1950s drugstore look, realized some new tech was needed.
“We realized it’s great to look at, but terrible for accounting, so we evolved,” Lewis says. “We went from no register to a modified register/POS system and now we have a full POS system.” Both Baked stores now use Square Register and have found it to aide with task of bookkeeping immensely. “It’s really transparent,” Lewis adds.
Point of Sale
Part of the reluctance to adopt new technology relative to POS systems has to do with the older credit card technology, but companies like Square Register have sparked more evolution in that field. If retail bakeries want to remain solvent it’s important to accept credit cards. However, some of the systems available make it incredibly difficult to get an exact number for tracking sales and margin.
Using the old way, companies charged different rates for different cards. An American Express might cost the retailer one percentage, while a Visa was different. “And, you could have an American Express card with three different rates. There was no way to tell,” Lewis says. “So from an accounting perspective it was really difficult.”
Square technology charges one rate for every card. There’s no need to go over monthly statements trying to figure out the exact charge for all the different cards that might be used at the bakery in the course of a month. “For Square to simplify that is just brilliant,” Lewis says. “I can see right away how much money I’m making on each item based on what the swipe is.”
Everyone knows the old saying “time is money.” When it comes to scheduling employees, doing it the old fashioned way takes a lot of time, which means it costs a lot of money. Technology offers a way to schedule employees in a fraction of the time it takes to sit down and create a schedule. Then the time it takes to make adjustments for time off, employees trading days, etc., must also be factored into the equation.
Online, cloud based technologies make scheduling employees and juggling all the variables that go with it very easy managers and owners. Baked adopted online scheduling and Lewis and Poliafito reap the benefits through time saved. “Scheduling employees is really hard once you get past ten employees,” Lewis says. “Everything is done online now and it’s so easy.”
The program allows instant access to the shifts and hours worked, and the employees have access to the system. The system’s capabilities allow employees access to request time off or trade shifts with co-workers without the need of a phone call. Lewis can see these changes in real time and technology automatically makes the changes. “It’s the smartest thing ever because I think people can forget that scheduling employees can almost be a part time position,” Lewis says, “especially when you get to 20 or 30 employees.”
While technologies geared toward the production side of the bakery do exist, they’re set up for larger hotel-type operations that produce larger numbers than most retail bakeries, Lewis says “We’ve investigated it, but they’re for somebody that’s pumping out 15,000 croissants a day, not 150.” For the retail bakery, the cost of such technology doesn’t make financial sense. However, existing programs that already exist, and come with most basic operating systems do exist.
Spreadsheet programs can be set up in a number of ways to perform custom calculations. Once established, users punch in the numbers they desire and formulas for production are made easy. “We used to do it by hand, but now we do it by excel,” Lewis says. “This is just excel documents that we created ourselves.” The set up should be simple. If you’re not comfortable with setting it up, most likely you have a staff member, friend or family member who can knock it out for you.
For bakery owners to embrace a new technology and make it work, they first need to make sure that whatever it is works for their specific business applications. Many online and cloud solutions offer trial periods for the product. “We’ll know within 30 days whether or not it will work,” Lewis says. Many facets of the solution will need evaluation during that trial period. “Can all of our staff members use it? Do they find it exciting or not?” Lewis adds. But these are not the only questions that need answering before the choice is made.
Technology comes with many benefits, but it also comes with some drawbacks that depend on your level of skill and ability. “There are some solutions where it’s more time to set them up than it’s worth, so we try to avoid that,” Lewis says. “If it looks like we’re spending more time setting up than we actually are using it, then it’s not necessary.”
Another factor to consider is whether or not the creator will maintain and update the solution regularly. If the supplier of the technology designs it once and then moves on, once operating systems get updated there’s potential for the solution to be rendered useless.
“We’ve had it where we’ve worked with a cloud based solution, but once apple or a PC updated their operating program, it doesn’t work anymore. That’s awful,” Lewis says. “Now we evaluate whoever created this piece of technology. Are they big players? Are they serious about it?”
Be Careful and Remain Authentic
Front of house customer service is the one place where technology doesn’t fit into the retail bakery’s business plan. Customers want to see someone, talk to someone about the product and get details that an online store doesn’t provide. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have an online presence, you should, but greeting customers by name and engaging in conversation is part of the innate charm in a retail bakery.
“Our customer service is still very old-school,” Lewis says. Most retail bakeries thrive as part of the surrounding community. It’s important not to get so reliant on technology that you lose part of the reason your customers come to the shop. “You don’t want to go so far out that you lose that personal touch,” Lewis says. “We’re a bakery. I want to hear about grandma’s 80th birthday.”