Retail bakeries across the country are learning valuable tools to adapt to managing their business successfully during challenging times.

Karen Bornarth, executive director, The Bread Bakers Guild of America, and Marissa Velie, certification and education director for the Retail Bakers of America, are coordinating with other leaders in the retail bakery world on a new education program that aims to lift the industry to greater success. The two groups decided to partner on a 2023 quarterly panel discussion called “Beyond the Bench.”

The first free (via Zoom) session on “Training and Employee Development” took place on Jan. 25. The session featured a discussion on best practices in training and employee development.

The keynote speakers were industry professionals who have built and currently manage productive and motivated teams and successful bakeries:

  • Joanne Chang, co-owner and pastry chef, Flour Bakery and Myers + Chang
  • Dianna Daoheung, co-founder and head baker, Black Seed Bagels
  • Laurie Williams-Fleury, production manager, Tomcat Bakery

“We have 9 bakeries in Boston,” Chang said during the Jan. 25 online session. “When I opened, we had a small team and chef. On opening day, the reality hit me that I went from 1 boss to 12 bosses. The staff was actually my boss. I needed to do everything I can to support them. My management style stems from that lesson. I learned servant leadership before I knew there was a term for it. We are there to help them grow and get better. The stronger they are, the stronger we are.”

To this day, Chang walks into the doorway of any of her bakeries and makes sure she knows everybody’s name and looks them in the eye and says, good morning. It is really important. Makes you feel that I matter.”

Daoheung, co-founder and head baker, Black Seed Bagels, said her management style has grown from the earliest days of the business when all her friends were employees.

“Now we have 150 employees. You can’t be all things to all people,” she says. “Empowering them to be leaders to their team is vital, and continuing to be a mentor to those who want to stay with Black Seed. I don’t want them to be a complete reflection of me. How can I view that characteristic in you?”

Black Seed Bagels opened in 2014 in Soho, New York City, and just opened its 10th location. The new 700 square foot shop offers Black Seed’s unique bagels, which utilize a hybrid of NYC and Montreal baking techniques.

The company operates as a hub and spoke model. Not all locations do baking onsite.

For Tomcat Bakery’s Williams-Fleury, who started in the garment industry, says she learned through the fashion industry that, “People are the greatest asset. I am not your boss. I am your facilitator.”

She explains that it is critical for managers to create that open door, give them guidance and feedback that is timely, and always look to build several levels through the company.

At Black Seed, Daoheung said training is vital to growing your bakery business.

“When it’s one location, I did all the training. Now we are using new technology like Opus Training. I started a video library. Baking is such a visual art. It really is all about using technology and using the tools that are out there.”

Chang agrees.

“You have to codify what you are doing. Now we have iPhones. We started an Instagram channel with our pastry team pre-pandemic. We need to start that back up. We have everything on videos and detailed recipe sheets The more you do this, the more you realize how you take more for granted than what you know.”