National Bakery Day, established just four years ago, is an opportunity to celebrate the independent retail bakeries that are part of the driving force behind their communities. That day has taken on new meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought hardships to each bakery and community.

On Friday, Sept. 17, we get the chance to enjoy all that these businesses bring to the table (both literally and figuratively). The sweet “holiday” is organized by the Retail Bakers of America, which provides resources for promoting National Bakery Day at its website.

The question is, what is the best way to promote this special day to potential visitors who may already be hesitant to visit your bakery during the age of social distancing?

You can start with measures that make your customers feel safe. Communication is key to letting consumers know they can still order their favorite treats safely at your bakery. Use creative signage to promote social distancing. For an example, look at the resources Dawn Foods provided last year for free to retail bakeries.

The company introduced fun and colorful resources to help bakeries keep customers at a safe social distance. The downloadable instore signage kit acts as reminders for those in your store. Floor decals feature cute sayings such as, “Donut worry, just stay six feet apart”, “Stay sweet, but mind your feet”, “Make like icing and spread out” and “Please leave a hole lot of space” along with images of donuts and cakes.

You can use this idea to create your own special signage. You’ll show customers that you’re keeping the safety and health of your employees and them in mind.

That leads to another important aspect of National Bakery Day, which is marketing. Customers need to know that it’s going on to be able to take advantage of the deals and special offerings you’ll provide. Social media is your best friend with this strategy. It’s free (or cheap if you choose to do promoted posts), easy and effective for reaching a large audience in your immediate area.

Leading cake decorating supplier DecoPac offers key tips for bakeries when it comes to social media. The first is to share your bakery’s unique personality. Giving customers a “peek behind the curtain” can make your bakery much more memorable and build loyalty. The second tip DecoPac shares is to stick to your posting strategy. Post on a regular basis, especially when it comes to the weeks leading up to National Bakery Day.

Social media is a two-way conversation, and the company suggests learning from your customers. When promoting National Bakery Day, pay attention to customer suggestions. Ask them for their own insights to help build your menu and discover promotional ideas for the day. It’s also important to use social media to drive sales. When offering seasonal promotions and limited-time offerings (LTOs), especially during National Bakery Day, don’t be afraid to sell.

Finally, DecoPac advises that you should have fun with it. Your followers see that, and it resonates with them. You build relationships, which can be advantageous during periods when you want to bring in more customers.

Special items for the big day

Speaking of limited-time offerings, one of the most effective ways to make National Bakery Day a huge success is to create a limited-edition product, such as a unique donut or cookie flavor, and feature it in the week leading up to Sept. 17.

In 2019, Flour Bakery + Café, the famed Boston bakery led by former James Beard Outstanding Baker Joanne Chang, showcased three ‘throwback’ products since National Bakery Day fell at the same time as its original location’s birthday. The products featured were low fat Dried Fruit Scones, Cornmeal Lime Cookies with Lime Glaze and Milky Way Tarts.

Additionally, the bakery continued its National Bakery Day tradition of selling mini cupcakes with homemade sprinkles. All the proceeds from these cupcakes benefitted Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, which connects kids to effective nutrition programs like school breakfast and summer meals through a network made up of private citizens, government officials, business leaders and others providing innovative hunger solutions in their communities.

You can use examples from recent years of LTOs as inspiration for your own menu additions. For Mother’s Day in 2020, Georgetown Cupcake in Washington, D.C., launched a limited-edition Baileys Brownie Fudge Cheesecake cupcake as part of the Baileys Mother’s Day Dozen available for nationwide shipping.

Georgetown Cupcake co-founder Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne created the winning cupcake – Baileys Brownie Fudge Cheesecake – made with a Baileys-infused cheesecake base swirled with chocolate cupcake batter and cookie crumb crust and topped with a signature swirl of Baileys-infused buttercream frosting and fudge lattice drizzle.

Proceeds from the Baileys Brownie Fudge Cheesecake cupcake sales were donated to the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation on top of Baileys’ initial donation of $75,000, which went directly to those in the hospitality industry as they faced uncertain times.

Use these ideas when developing your own LTOs. It’s all about finding what makes your bakery stand out.

National Bakery Day is an excellent opportunity to showcase what makes your business different from the rest. Whether through unique products that bring out your creative side, promotions that benefit your customers and your bakery at the same time or fun events that add to the celebratory nature of this one-of-a-kind day, you can give customers a taste of what they can expect if they choose to return in the days, weeks and months that follow.