Change is inevitable. We can adapt to it, or let it sink us. Patty’s Cakes & Desserts is a prime example of a business that is perfectly suited to change, and has thrived in the chaos of 2020 and early 2021 because of that.

Founded in 1985 by Patty Gomez, the Fullerton, California bakery has blossomed from a kitchen hobby into a widely successful brick-and-mortar business thanks to ingenuity and a creative and tasty menu of cakes and cupcakes. With the help of her son Philip Gomez, Patty opened her brick-and-mortar location in Fullerton in 2010 and expanded her offerings to include iced-to-order cupcakes and fresh-baked cookies and cake balls, as well as elegant multi-tiered cakes.

Patty’s Cakes & Desserts offers one of the most comprehensive cupcake menus in the country, with nearly 100 flavors available daily, each of which is iced-to-order. For many, this would be a logistics nightmare. But not for Patty’s Cakes & Desserts.

Because the bakery’s old storefront did not have a display case, it was forced to come up with a new solution. The decision to ice each cupcake to order not only allowed the bakery to offer more flavors than most, but make it more adaptable to consumer tastes.

“We figured, ‘Well, let’s just ice them when people want them’ and that became our thing,” says Philip Gomez. “People expect it from us. It allows us to offer 91 flavors every day in mini and large cupcakes. People can choose whatever they like and it makes things quite easy. Our kitchen is an easier flow and our customers (orders) are easy, so it’s a win-win.”

It also allowed them to weather the storm of COVID-19 when the pandemic first hit, despite residing in the most ravaged state in the country.

A new fleet arrives

The bakery launched its own fleet of in-house delivery vehicles in 2020.Source: Patty

Before the pandemic, Patty’s Cakes & Desserts had a third-party company handling its delivery. The bakery experience issues with the unreliability of the company’s drivers. Once the pandemic arrived in full force, the bakery faced a surge of delivery orders as customers looked for a new way to get its products.

“We previously relied on a third-party delivery company, but with the uncertainty of California’s gig-economy and our desire to provide top-notch customer service, I knew I had to act quickly and create a direct-to-consumer solution to maintain the increase in business,” Gomez says.

The delivery company it had been using went out of business, giving Patty’s Cakes & Desserts the opportunity to look for a more convenient method of handling hundreds of deliveries per month.

“At that point we’d grown to where it (delivery) was 15 percent of our business, and there’s no way I’m going to let 15 percent of my business stop flowing,” Gomez says.

The bakery signed up with a software company that gave it an interface to manage its deliveries. The drivers get an app and the bakery’s orders are assigned to them, they see it on their phone and run their routes. Once Philip figured out the costs and the management of that service, he says it was a no-brainer.

“Delivery’s not going anywhere, this pandemic’s not going anywhere. It’s actually more cost effective to do this internally than to outsource it. We got it rolling and switched over before the deadline.”

Additionally, the bakery made an adjustment a few years prior to the pandemic that helped in its transition to delivery. Gomez had found that restaurant software had its limitations for bakeries. Because many bakeries tend to be more like retail than restaurants, the bakery moved to an e-commerce platform. That allowed it to grow its delivery orders from 5 percent of all business to 15 percent.

Patty Gomez and her son Philip are the co-owners of Patty

This makes ordering more convenient for both the bakery and its customers. Staff is not spending time on the phone taking orders and customers can place orders at any time.

“If you want delivery, you have to go through our website,” Gomez says. “It’s going to be paid for ahead of time, they’re able to customize their order, they get the email confirmation and know exactly what they ordered, they put in the person’s information and their address so they know it’s done correctly. It puts the load off our staff and puts it on the customer, but the customer likes that. It’s empowered the customer and empowered our staff.”

In May of 2020, the bakery launched its own delivery fleet and fully integrated ordering system, providing customers with up-to-the-minute notifications on the status of their deliveries. Bringing the delivery component in-house allowed Patty’s Cakes & Desserts to expand its delivery radius from 12 to 23 miles and increase revenue, all while passing along added savings and peace of mind to customers.

As a result of these moves, the bakery has experienced a 350% increase in delivery orders. Gomez says that before the switch, Patty’s Cakes & Desserts would receive around 100 orders per month. On the 23rd of December alone, it received 63 deliveries.

Not only has this been beneficial to the business in general during the pandemic, but more specifically it has been eye-opening during the colder weather months when sales tend to dip.

Moving forward, Gomez sees the delivery trend holding steady or possibly increasing even after society returns to relative normalcy. With the convenience of online ordering and the efficiency of delivery through its fleet, Patty’s Cakes & Desserts has a much broader reach. Instead of opening a second location to service a wider audience, the bakery is able to open up new areas through its deliveries.

Delivery of food items has become common and available thanks to third party delivery companies like DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, Postmates and more. Consumers’ minds have been opened to the possibilities of getting food and other items in more convenient ways.

Gomez likens this service to the effect Uber and Lyft have had on transportation. Instead of dealing with the hassle of calling a cab and waiting for it to arrive, you can have a driver there to pick you up in a matter of minutes (or even seconds in some cases). This convenience has led to a rise in third party transportation, and similarly, the ease of food delivery has made it a habitual activity for many.