Retail bakeries are reaching out to their communities in new and different manners, and in more cases than one these efforts involve a digital or online component.
Online sales picked up more steam during the pandemic, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. More than 40% of retail bakers expect retail, wholesale and catering sales to be up by end of 2022, with over half expecting increased online sales, according to Cypress Research in an industry study with Sosland Publishing. Two-thirds of retail bakers’ 2022 gross sales are through retail with one-third of sales generated through wholesale, catering, and online.
For Manresa Bread, owner Avery Ruzicka has dealt with the challenge of a fast-rising operation that quickly earned a reputation throughout northern California and beyond for excellence. Manresa Bread recently launched a new retail space with the opening of a Westside bakery at 330 Ingalls St. At 300 square feet, the petit bakery features laminated pastries, signature breads, and grab-and-go items. The Santa Cruz location is open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., or until sold out.
“We are nestled in the community, and people are just excited for their favorites,” Ruzicka said. “We’re not molecular gastronomy. We feature something that really tickles the tongue. It is a very exciting time for us. Our team is really strong.”
The new outpost accepts walk-ups, same-day pick-up orders via Toast, daily menu pre-orders (with a $40 minimum purchase and four-days notice), and holiday pre-order pick-ups through Tock.
Mitchie Curran of Mitchies Munchies, a cake and sugar arts specialist in Las Vegas, emphasized that consumers shopping online – a growing segment for the bakery business – have a short attention span. So, it’s important that retail bakers make their messaging count. “We have 3-7 seconds to capture a user’s attention online,” Curran said.
Butterbottoms is an online platform that offers bakeries a chance to sell products throughout the country – similar to Goldbelly, just bakery specific. Jenna Ptacek, the woman who launched the website, expresses great optimism about the future.
She has gathered some of the strongest and most influential minds in the restaurant and baking world and plans to persistently and aggressively grow butterbottoms. Her professional knowledge of information technology and vast network acquired throughout the years is the first step in a long journey of bringing butterbottoms to customers’ front door.
Her educational background is in business and engineering, having attended both Harvard and Arizona State University. Aspiring butterbottoms came about as a love of baking and testing new recipes and items. Jenna always dreamed of owning her own business and during the pandemic, she decided to start implementing all the pieces to make butterbottoms happen on a grand level.
Her goal is to continually bring fresh baked goods to your home which leads to an overall healthy and happy experience. The pandemic has taught us all about patience and fortitude. Take these lessons learned combined with her passion for baking, restaurants, a general love for food and the experience to match, butterbottoms sets its eyes on a big and bright future ahead.
Here are some of her significant ideas for growth online.
“Some quick tips to improve sales on your website would be to include quality photos of your products, have a clean website design, have a user-friendly interface, and incorporate a simple checkout and shipping process,” she says.
As for digital marketing strategies, research and understand which social media platforms your customers are using. Create marketing campaigns with targeted messages that appeal to your customers
“Work with an ecommerce platform like butterbottoms that partners with bakers to market their goods and helps them ship directly to consumers (butterbottoms offers this service at no charge to a bakery),” she says.
“Bakeries can market and sell their products through various websites, which can make tracking orders complicated. There are various online shipping tools designed to help bakers streamline and automate their fulfillment processes.”
Data analytics tools are powerful and can provide useful insights into consumer behavior. Data analytics can tell you detailed buying patterns of your customers so you can better meet ever-changing consumer demands.
“One of the prevailing trends in the bakery marketplace is the demand for shipping and home delivery options, which can present some challenges to a bakery,” Ptacek says. “There are resources available online to help manage the complexities associated with online ordering and shipping. At butterbottoms, we provide guidance and resources to help bakers ship and deliver their products to their customers effectively.”
The movement to buy local and support independent establishments carries over into the bakery marketplace, she adds. Many independent bakeries focus on developing quality goods, and butterbottoms helps introduce these local bakers to a wider audience.
Special events and holidays prove to be particularly beneficial opportunities to reach out to customers online.
For Thanksgiving 2022, the iconic dessert brand Milk Bar promoted DoorDash Nationwide Shipping to ship their rule-breaking desserts on DoorDash. They encouraged customers to sit back while the treats ship directly to their door.
Consumers navigate to DoorDash on their mobile device or desktop and search for “Milk Bar” Then they choose cookies from the store page and proceed with checkout. Upon checkout, they have the option to send Milk Bar treats as a gift to a friend or loved one.
Milk Bar will prepare, package and ship the sweets. Customers receive an email confirming their order once it’s been shipped (along with tracking details) and another once it’s delivered. Tracking is also available via the “Orders” tab of their DoorDash account.
Buddy Valastro and Carlo’s Bakery are helping customers provide exquisite desserts for their holiday gatherings courtesy of a special promotion.
Available exclusively through DoorDash for a limited time, customers can get a sweet deal of $50 off on the following two treats:
For the first time, Carlo’s Bakery is introducing the Gingerbread Cake. Serving 10-12 people, this 7-inch round cake is sandwiched between layers of cream cheese frosting topped off with mini gingerbread cookies.
Back by popular demand, the Sweet Potato Dream Cake is also available just in time for the final winter holidays. It starts with a sweet potato pie on the bottom, topped with a spiced sweet potato cake baked into a buttery crust and finished off with a sweet potato casserole covered in a crunchy pecan oat crumble and toasted marshmallows. In between the layers and surrounding all of the sweet potato goodness is a creamy brown sugar Swiss meringue cream cheese frosting and a buttery cinnamon oat pecan crumble.
Customers received $50 off their choice of these exclusive cakes from Carlo’s Bakery through Dec. 12 (or while supplies last) by using promo code SHIP50CARLOS at checkout.
DoorDash is offering 50 percent off shipped holiday favorites from a wide variety of bakeries and other companies, including Magnolia Bakery, Levain Bakery, Milk Bar and Baked by Melissa. Additionally, during DoorDash’s 12 Days of Deals, customers can take advantage of thousands of deals on food and retail.
In another project, LBX Food Robotics, a leader in hot food vending, and Buddy Valastro, celebrity chef and owner of Buddy Valastro Restaurants, have partnered to customize Bake Xpress hot food kiosks to serve foods from The Boss Cafe by Buddy Valastro restaurant, which opened in Las Vegas in April.
The first two machines are co-located at the LINQ Hotel + Experience with The Boss Cafe, which offers casual dining inspired by East Coast neighborhood delis. The custom-branded Bake Xpress machines currently bake a variety of bakery-style pizzas and are open 24 hours per day. Valastro debuted the Bake Xpress machines in August and highlighted their popularity among hotel and casino guests during a formal launch event for The Boss Cafe.
“Our customers crave our food outside of normal operating hours, so we had to get creative on how we could meet those demands in a 24/7 place like Vegas. Bake Xpress is the only solution that delivers the quality I require. The fact that we are selling out multiple times a day and setting sales records proves that our vision was spot on,” says Valastro, whose Las Vegas restaurants include Carlo’s Bake Shop, PizzaCake, Jersey Eats and Buddy V’s Ristorante in addition to The Boss Cafe. “We are the first restaurant to have this 24/7 robotic option, and it is another example of how we are leading the charge with the latest innovations in the food industry. We’re looking forward to continuing to expand to bring our amazing food to more people.”
The Boss Cafe serves fresh baked breads, Italian sandwiches, bakery-style pizza, a hand-crafted on-site fresh mozzarella bar and pastries. While The Boss Cafe Bake Xpress machines currently offer a selection of pizzas from the traditional restaurant’s menu, Valastro intends to expand the machines’ menus. Bake Xpress custom bakes each item within 60-190 seconds at the time of order in a smart oven that uses a precisely tuned combination of microwave, convection and infrared baking technologies to properly heat, brown and crisp each item and can also serve chilled foods like salads.
“We are thrilled to partner with one of the most prominent and innovative restauranteurs in the food industry today,” says Benoit Herve, founder and chief executive officer of LBX Food Robotics. “Buddy has very high and specific requirements for his foods and was not going to compromise quality for convenience. Bake Xpress’ unique baking capabilities were able to replicate the in-restaurant experience to Buddy’s exacting standards.”
In another creative new project, Pietisserie, the Oakland bakery on a mission to bring a “future memory of pie” to its customers by way of its unique, pure-butter crust pies, announced it joined with two of the most esteemed bakeries in the San Francisco Bay Area – Boichik Bagels and Manresa Bread – to create a baker's row for the holiday season.
From Dec. 17-24, the bakeries created the opportunity for Palo Alto consumers to enjoy fabulous pies, bagels, bread, and pastries, all at Town & Country Village, 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, Calif.
On the heels of Pietisserie’s currently operational San Ramon Holiday Shop, and following the launch of a successful shop launch at Town & Country Village in 2021, Pietisserie founder Jaynelle St. Jean is proud to be in the company of year-round acclaimed bakers this year in Palo Alto.
“Palo Alto proved itself to be a pie-loving town last year,” St. Jean said. “Now that Boichik and Manresa have set up shop, Town & Country is a real baking destination, with the quality and variety that come from makers who bring excellence to their very specific crafts.”
Pietisserie’s full menu of more than 15 standard 9-inch artisan crafted pies will be stocked at the pop-up including fan favorites such as pumpkin, chocolate and pecan, as well as new crowd pleasers such as grapefruit, double cherry, chocolate cream pretzel, and pear blueberry.
Local customers can reserve pies for pickup at Pietisserie.com from Town & Country Village, suite 109 (beyond Trader Joe's in the second row of shops, next to Bar Method) and for those outside of the Bay Area, Pietisserie is available nationwide via ShopLocale.com.
Boichik Bagels, known for bringing New York-style style bagels with thick, crunchy crusts to the West Coast in 2019, debuted its Palo Alto storefront (suite 115 next to CVS) with a soft opening in early November, selling thousands of bagels by mid-day. Boichik Bagels will offer customers a special new Mexican Spiced Chocolate Cream Cheese.
Manresa, the bakery spinoff of the Michelin-starred Manresa restaurant founded by 2020 James Beard finalist Avery Ruzicka, will add to the mix Triple Chocolate & Candied Orange Panettone, an 8-in Breton-Style Kouign Amann, Babka and Challah loaves from suite 138 (facing Embarcadero). Additionally, it will accept pre-orders to be picked up 12/23 from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Founded in Oakland, Calif, in 2010, Pietisserie is a purveyor of artisan crafted pies that are playful, modern, and elegant. The company took form after founder Jaynelle St. Jean gave away slices from a "country window" staged at her mother's San Francisco home. At the time, she knew how to make just three pies. Then she uncovered a newfound calling: to share a future memory of pie.
Jaynelle St. Jean has developed a menu to satisfy her undying curiosity and craving for pie, merging taste with design, baked with fruits, nuts and veggies sourced from regional farmers at their peak.
Responding to market conditions
Another driving force in the push for automation and online business channels has to do with labor – or the lack of it. There is buzz about “semi-automating” to compensate for ongoing business challenges with the lack of employees.
Companion Baking’s new palletizing robot – affectionately called Bruce Banner (aka The Incredible Hulk) by the staff – enables this innovative St. Louis bakery the ability to achieve a higher level of production efficiency and equipment sophistication.
Companion’s latest projects have allowed them to carve out a unique niche as a mid-sized bread distributor with vast customization capabilities. Through semi-automation and tools such as Redzone, the baking company is able to produce around 150 different SKUs, five days a week, in an organized and efficient manner – all in a floor space of 42,000 square feet.
Each time dough is made, cut, or put in an oven, Redzone tracks timing and provides ways for the team to improve. In addition, it has served as a communication tool for employee onboarding and professional development. Since this realization, Companion has reduced its annual waste by over one million pounds in just two and a half years and is making strides to go to zero waste-to-landfill by 2025.
Further, shipping to 400-plus restaurants, grocery stores, and partners is no small feat. The green Companion robot assists with palletizing and heavy lifting, working around the clock so that labor can be dispersed to other areas of the bakery floor.
Changing consumer habits
Elizabeth Hassett, director of digital product experience, points out that Dawn is enhancing service on a wide range of fronts. Dawn’s online ordering platform has undergone several updates to create an easier and more seamless customer experience.
“Our goal is always to make our customers’ jobs easier. We want all customers to know the vast number of tools available in their arsenal through Dawn,” Hassett says. “We often provide social media toolkits for our customers, saving them time and helping to drive sales and brand awareness.
“At Dawn, we are constantly innovating, thinking one step ahead of what’s next for the industry, and always staying in lockstep with our customers. Our goal is to be their dedicated partner. As new resources and online tools – like Tik Tok – grow in the industry, Dawn will continue to guide our customers through these updates and help inspire bakery success.”
Some experts suggest that as many as 50% of customers will be using online purchasing within a few years – and Hassett said she believes the trend is definitely on an upswing.
“I believe the use of online purchasing will only increase,” she said. “Online ordering provides ease, convenience and speed for customers who are busy running their businesses, among other demanding industry challenges. Mostly everything else in our lives is done online, so it makes sense that purchasing ingredients would be done the same way.”
Technology and online tools change and adapt every day, she points out. Not every customer can have the latest updates and tools all at once. And trying to keep up with the constant changes can be overwhelming.
“Look at technology and online tools through the 80/20 lens – focus on 20% of the tools that will drive 80% of the profit and success for the business,” Hassett says. “This is especially important for smaller, local bakeries as they may not have the bandwidth to adapt to every new technology. Focusing on the tools that will drive the most impact for them can deliver more success with less stress.”
While customers are increasingly moving online and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, bakeries are still brick and mortar operations, points out Mike Clements, owner at BakeSmart.
“Based on what I continue to hear from our baker friends about the labor market, asking staff to bridge this disconnect between analog and digital is just not a reasonable option,” he says. “Automation, wherever and whenever possible looks to be the key to success in our evolving economy. Using software that allows your brick-and-mortar store to give real time inventory updates to your online store ensures that you’re not over-committing product and creating unhappy customers and stressed out staff, which can avoid a volatile situation!”
Push customers online. If you have an automated phone system, tell your customers to go to your website to place their orders. Put links in all of your social pointing customers to your online store. Reward those customers that use your online store by setting up a separate online order pickup queue in your bakery. Since those orders are already paid for, it doesn’t make sense to force them through your cash register queue.
“And for the love of all things cannoli, make your store hours of operation easy to find on your website,” Clements emphasizes.
If you sell to wholesale customers, get them used to ordering online as well. “I talk to bakery owners every week that are drowning in text messages, emails, voicemails,” he says. Empower them to manage their own orders and reclaim those labor costs spent chasing after that usually already discounted business.
Make customization a breeze. You do complicated things at your bakery, your customers like the custom options you offer, so it only makes sense to offer those customization options online, too.
“From designing a custom cake, to filling an assortment box with goodies, or building a custom sandwich order, your online bakery should be able to match (or come close to matching) the offerings inside the friendly confines of your store,” Clements says.