Whether it's the start of football season or Christmas, king cakes are popular throughout the year at Randazzo's Italian Bakery and Cafe in Covington, LA.

With the busy holiday season starting its approach, make sure you’re ready by preparing the staples and coming up with a few new products and new twists on the classics. The fall and winter seasons present ample opportunity for sales in the retail bakery, but a shop must prepare itself for onslaught to take advantage of this potentially lucrative time of year.

What sells?

If you don’t already know, figure out which of your products typically sell the most during which part of the year and be ready. Before the traditional fall holidays, it’s football that kicks off the season in Randazzo’s part of the country. “Actually, we’re doing several hundred king cakes for the start of football season,” says Joel Randazzo Forjet, owner and sales manager of Nonna Randazzo’s Italian Bakery and Cafe in Covington, LA. “The Saints are big here and all of our wholesale accounts have orders in for king cakes, so production is in full swing.

Once football season is underway, the holiday season begins. At Nonna Randazzo’s, sales begin to ramp up right before Thanksgiving. “We say Thanksgiving is kind of the practice run because it’s a little more limited,” Forjet says. “It’s a larger volume of bread and pies, but not so much our cakes and finger foods.”

Typically the seasons dictate which products sell the best, but availability plays a role as well. Knowing your customers and what they want puts you in a position to offer more of the products that sell better, thus setting you up for the largest amount of sales possible. “Pecan pie is our biggest, then I would say apple and we actually have a huge demand for mincemeat. I’m assuming because they can’t find it anywhere else,” Forjet says.

No matter the reason, Forjet knows what sells and when. This allows Randazzo’s time to prepare for producing the products needed to keep the sales streaming throughout this busy time of the year, but desserts are not the only big seller. Randazzo’s does a lot of bread and pastry sales too. Her family’s own butterette — a flaky pull apart dinner roll — and patty shells also sell big during Thanksgiving. And then there’s Christmas.    

“Christmas is crazy. If it’s in our price book, if it’s on our menu, customers are ordering it,” Forjet says. However like every part of the year, certain products demand higher production. “Christmas is going to be our petit fours and then our chocolate doberge cake,” Forjet says. “Then a typical red velvet, that’s a big seller, our Italian cream and our yule log.”

Do something different

A bakery always needs to produce its staples, but often times coming up with a new twist on a classic generates interest among shoppers who might get bored with the same thing year after year. For the fall holidays, Randazzo’s takes one of its staple items, the king cake, and puts a fall holiday spin on it. It works for them and sells well during the season. “We do a pumpkin cream cheese king cake instead of just the average king cake,” Forjet says.

Randazzo’s shapes staple items to coincide with the seasonal holidays to perk up sales. Jack o’ lantern, turkey and Christmas tree shaped cookies all do well for the holidays. Customers like candy cane and wreathe shaped king cakes, but recently, Randazzo’s has created a product that’s a hit with its loyal shoppers.

“For a couple of years now, we’ve been packaging undecorated cookies and selling decorating kits,” Forjet says. “We’ll put a dozen undecorated, un-iced cookies and four or five different icings and sprinkles in a kit. They’re big sellers.”