Archive for April, 2014

Your Target Market

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

A profitable business sells products that are targeting a market segment. You don’t have to please everyone in order to make money doing what you love. But you should know your customer.

Who is your target market? If you’re not sure, put the spatula down, stop what you’re doing, and think about this.

Do your products attract the upscale shopper who is not concerned with price?

These fresh fruit tarts are beautiful and delicious, but costly.

Do you sell mainly at the farmers’ markets where shoppers want fresh, seasonal, and local products?

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The cornbread pictured below, for sale at a farmers’ market, was $10 for a smallish unattractive slab of unevenly baked organic goodness. The vendor, who clearly understood her clientele and their desire for organic products, sold out immediately.

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Are your customers predominately price conscious? Are they only interested in cost, buying the cheapest baked goods available?

Large loaves of sweetbreads are only $3 each.

Then use the cheapest ingredients available and bake only fast items so you’re not spending too much of your valuable time. If that’s your target customer, bake for them. But don’t get involved in high labor products. Stop making items that are not worth your time.

Most important: Track your products to see what sells. I read an article in the recent Bake magazine about popular French baguettes. In talking about low volume production, the article stated, “Sweet Lorraine’s makes only about one dozen baguettes a week” because “the baguette business hasn’t caught on yet.” This retail bakery has been in business for 18 months. I’m not quite sure why a business would continue making a short shelf life product with low sales volume. Maybe it’s time to move on to other, more profitable products.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! It’s your choice to either bake what customers want, or bake what you want and hopefully educate them. This technique, however, used at the bakery mentioned above, often does not work.

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Pricing Your Products for Profit

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Last week I revisited a large farmers’ market and saw a couple of my favorite vendors.

Sweetie Pies Bakery is owned by a retired master baker! Love his baked goods!!

Sweet Jimmy’s, a sweetheart of a vendor.

Too bad, I saw many of the same violations.

Products not covered.

Products not covered and LOOK at the male salesclerk with his hand on his head. He wore no gloves and kept running his hand through his hair.

Meat products sitting for hours without refrigeration.

Many products in violation of permit rules.

But I saw something else that greatly disturbed me. A couple of longtime baked goods vendors who had always been on the cheap side, had dropped their prices even lower. In the past I’d always wondered if it was worth it to work for such little money, but this time I was sure they were barely breaking even.

Only one dollar per loaf?

The longtime vendor at the table above looked so glum. He had a “family sized” brownie, a large eight by five inch piece was two dollars. Two dollars! He was paying people to buy his goods. He looked so sad as he stared straight ahead, I couldn’t bring myself to take another photo.

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One vendor sold large cookies for fifty cents each, small fruit pies were two dollars, nine inch pies were eight, and her medium carrot loaf was also two dollars.

There were a few new cheap bakery vendors who were too new to realize that business would be tough. If you have to price your products so low to make any sales, you should consider finding a minimum wage job. Why take on the responsibilities of being a business owner when you can have fewer responsibilities? It would be easier to work a job even at minimum wage, than run a business and make nothing.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! This has been a tough love kind of post. Have you priced fairly so that you are making money?

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Flea Market Sales, FAQ

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Many new food entrepreneurs plan on selling their foods at local farmers’ markets.

But they often ask about flea markets, too. “Are these venues a good place to sell food?”

Well… that depends…

Sloppy vendor selling "artisan" bread.

Would your products do well next to this vendor?

For the most part, people who go to flea markets are looking for cheap prices. Shoppers who go to farmers’ markets are looking for food. If you are interested in selling at a weekly flea market, you might draw regular customers so you can build a following. But these types of venues have a certain reputation, so it depends upon several variables such as the kind of crowd the flea market draws, the weather, and how often the flea market is open.

The photos below are from a market located in an upscale area. It’s a busy, 350 vendor flea market with indoor and outdoor booths. Sometimes it was hard to know what food product they were selling. Some food displays were an afterthought, tagged on to a table selling a variety of items. And mixing food vendors in with clothing, toys, electrical parts and all-around junk, made the food less appetizing. The one exception was the dog treat table. They seemed to do quite well. But remember, they sold dog food, not people food.

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Super messy vendor...

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I wonder how many people actually buy spices.

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Dog products seem to sell fairly well.

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Pickle sales were the busiest of all the vendors. But this niche business is on its way to saturation.

If you are contemplating flea market sales, I suggest you visit the one(s) you’re interested in. Wander around, stay for several hours, and keep an eye on the food vendor tables. Are they making sales or are people just taking samples as they pass by? Are the shoppers in your target market? Will your products fit the typical kind of crowd for this market? Are the prices fair for the vendor to make a profit or are they priced low just to make sales? If you want to give it a try, that’s fine. Just be aware of the possible outcomes.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Craft fairs, too, are not the best venue for baked goods. These kinds of fairs usually allow unlicensed hobby/businesses to sell products that are priced so low it’s impossible to compete.

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Shortcut Strudel

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Last night we had a class for making strudel.

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Fillings were either sweet or savory.

This fruit mixture contained dark raisins, golden raisins, and apricots.

This strudel had a Mexican-style savory filling with refried beans and shreddded cheese. It was fabulous!

These strudel logs were wrapped around cinnamon sugar and chopped walnuts.

During break we talked about next semester's classes.

Hot from the oven and ready to pack for home.

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Sweet Fillings
Cinnamon sugar with chopped nuts
Sweet cheese filling – 1 pound cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla
Apple filling – chopped or sliced, per apple use 1 Tbsp flour, ¼ cup sugar, lemon juice
Canned fruit pie fillings – use fruit and discard some of the thickened gel
No sugar added fruit fillings – choice of raisins, apricots, dates, etc. Soak in water and drain.
Store bought jams are not heat stable – burn easily, and leak from dough. Use sparingly.

Savory Fillings
Casserole type dishes that can be spread with a spatula
Lasagna type ricotta cheese mixture
Sliced pieces of meat and/or cheese
Ground beef fillings, chili, BBQ mixtures, etc
Mashed potatoes become Knishes
Mexican-style using refried beans, cheese

Serving Suggestions
Sweet – glaze, string icing, or sift with powdered sugar
Savory – sprinkle with cheese, dip in sauce

Home-Based Baking at its Best! These strudels are fairly easy to roll out, adaptable to all types of fillings, and the dough keeps well in the fridge or freezer.

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How Hard is it to Make Hard Boiled Eggs?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

With Easter approaching I’ve been making lots of hard boiled eggs for products.

In our last class we made Greek Easter Bread and Easter Egg Nests each with a fully cooked and colored egg.

Then during a recent supermarket trip I saw hard boiled eggs in the dairy case. Really? How hard is it to make hard-boiled eggs?

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But then I remembered the places where I’d worked and how even the gourmet eateries used convenience foods. One “fine dining” restaurant had lasagna on the menu. When a customer ordered lasagna, they probably envisioned a beautiful steaming pan made fresh that day. But this restaurant purchased a large frozen slab of Stouffer’s with precut pieces. Zip, into the microwave, then plated and served with a fresh slice of lemon and parsley sprig.

Using convenience foods or fully cooked frozen meals is not something we would expect from a restaurant kitchen. Especially the nationally recognized hotel chain where I worked as a pastry chef. Although I was expected to produce massive quantities of all-scratch baked goods, the line cooks used many frozen fully prepared items.

From The (Faux) Pastry Chef Page 101

We were both still in [Chef’s] office and I was getting restless – I had cakes to bake. Not to be deterred, Chef then began a wistful little speech about how having real cooks and bakers were what set us apart from other restaurant kitchens.

Oh, please. I was the short person whose lower eye view enabled me to discover the canned mashed potatoes under the grill line. I was the baker who heaved aside boxes of frozen, fully baked Sara Lee Danish and Donuts, and the frozen pie shells the cooks used for Quiche Lorraine, all to extract my “fresh” fresh frozen fruits from the cold storage department. I was the woman who waited patiently for the use of an oven while the morning cook thawed and warmed items for the daily breakfast buffet: pancakes, waffles, and French toast – all of them delivered to our loading dock fully prepared and frozen.

And let me not forget the bucket of frozen hard boiled eggs, a true kitchen time saver. How hard was it to boil eggs? The previous week the cook was out of these frozen eggs and said, “Maybe I will give them donuts, instead.” Well, that’s a good substitute. The only thing those two have in common, is that both arrive in a box and are frozen.

But I didn’t speak. I had nothing else I could say to Chef Nico. I stood there and looked at this man. He was wasting my time.

And the real food he had talked about? Let me give you an example of how the Hotel Gold line cook scrambled eggs. First, delete any picture you might have of eggs being cracked onto a hot griddle. Next, delete that picture of whole fresh eggs anyplace on premise. We had our choice of egg containers, a shell not being one of them. There was either a waxed quart box, reminiscent of a quart milk container, called Easy Eggs. Or there was a huge and heavy two-gallon clear plastic and formless bag filled with pre-beaten stabilizer enhanced eggs called a bladder.

My first day of work, never having seen one of these bladders before, the first thing I did was squirt a gallon of color-enhanced eggs across the room, onto the flour bins and floor, and down my leg into my new sneakers. This was all in one shot. I was wet and yellow the rest of the day, except for my face, which was surely a pretty shade of pink.

My second day on the job, I was about to put some cakes into the oven when two huge steam table pans of jiggly opaque yellow jello caught my eye. Jello in the morning? Yellow jello, with steam rising from its depths? I was stumped as to what it could be. Then I saw Masud, our Algerian line cook, standing there with a butter knife. He was cutting the jiggly mass into small squares.

“Masud, I have never seen anything like that before. What is it?”

He looked at me quizzically, like I was possibly making a joke that had to do with American culture. He might have been right, I did like to joke around, except I really had no idea what that stuff was. I could not even guess.

“Scrambled eggs,” he replied as a matter of fact, pleased that he finally knew more than a pro baker.

I have no doubt that as the residents were scooping “scrambled eggs” onto their breakfast plates, they truly believed there was a cook in the hotel’s gourmet kitchen cracking fresh eggs into a frying pan.

Real restaurant food? Ignorance was breakfast bliss.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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