There’s never been a better opportunity that exists today to engage with your customers digitally (especially on their phones) through social media channels to help build stronger brand awareness and drive repeat business for your bakery.

“We do Facebook and Instagram, and it’s been an explosion,” says Fernando Duque, co-owner of Tierra Caliente, which operates nine panaderías in Houston. “We have one person in charge of our social media, and it requires a lot of attention. People are changing. It’s a big thing nowadays.”

On top of that, the digital transformation of your business, such as adding point-of-sales systems (POS) at your sales checkout stations, is equally important to enhancing productivity and profitability, in addition to increasing your competitiveness in the marketplace.

“This year, we will be fully integrated into a state-of-the-art POS that will give us the analytics to compete in a smart way,” says Judy Camarena, president of Arandas Franchises, a family-owned business that includes four retail bakeries in the Houston marketplace. “We are exceptionally proud of our POS system, which will be implemented in all four stores by year’s end.”

Social media is the gateway to building tremendous brand recognition. Kirk Michaelis, owner of El Bolillo Bakery, with three locations in Houston, did not recognize the power of social media until one of his daughters helped show him the way.

“Social media is a must,” Michaelis says today. “It’s a tool that can change your business’ life. It’s all about keeping your brand name out in the conversation.”

Michaelis has three daughters who perform in the country music group Michaelis, and from their experiences with a national record label, they learned how to connect with fans in a positive manner using social media such as Facebook and Instagram.

“My daughter did social media for her band, and when she came here to help us, she jumped on board and just blew it out of the water,” Michaelis says.

The bakery started on social media two years ago and already has 35,000 followers on Instagram.

El Bolillo’s culture of kindness and creativity came to light in 2017 during Hurricane Harvey. On that Friday, when the rain started pouring, the bakery was overrun with panicked patrons, forcing the bakery to close early so that everyone could get home to safety. On Saturday, the bakers decided to work overnight to make sure there would be bread on Sunday morning, without realizing that rain had started again, and they were trapped by high waters. After a few hours of phone calls to their worried families and to Michaelis, the team decided people were going to need food, and blessed with running electricity, they continued to bake for 48 hours straight, making thousands of pieces of bread and pastries.

Awestruck by the work of his team, Michaelis decided that they should box, bag and take the bread and pastries to first responders, police and shelters to help those in need. Their story went viral worldwide and for the next several weeks they were doing interviews explaining what gave them the inspiration to do such a selfless feat.

“After the hurricane, we were on the news around the world. That’s the power of social media,” Michaelis says. “We received calls from people in China, Australia and Italy. It was amazing.”

Over the next several weeks, El Bolillo Bakery worked overtime baking, donating and delivering thousands of pieces of breads and cakes daily to churches, shelters and first-responders around Houston, all while continuing to serve their own customers.

More recently, Michaelis took it upon himself to dress up as the Easter Bunny to hand out free cookies from El Bolillo to young patients at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. They posted the event on Instagram, and it was a huge hit for all.