Archive for the ‘Bakery Tour’ Category

New Year 2017!

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

It’s a new year, and quite a new one for those who live in the United States.

We started the new year off with a bakery tour at the Danish Pastry House near Boston and Tufts University. We arrived early, while they were setting up, and thoroughly examined the pastry cases.

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I was quite surprised to see these tarts dusted with gold glitter.

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We placed our order

with a box for home.

We took our coffee and a Kringle brioche to the seating area.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Visiting retail bakeries is a pleasant way to do market research and develop ideas for new products.

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Pied Piper Pies, Bakery Tour

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Pied Piper Pies is located in Highland Falls, a quaint town in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley. All the delicious pies in this recently opened shop are made from scratch using Suzanne Carroll Quillen’s home recipes for fillings and crust.

The eatery has two strong advantages: a corner location and an energetic owner.

Meet Suzanne - owner of Pied Piper Pies.

Day two!

Front counter display.

Daily menu.

Chicken pot pies!

Snickers pies!

Ginny and I tried several delicious pies. We'll be back to try more!

Suzanne began as a home-based business, selling her pies at area farmers’ markets and festivals.

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Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Bittersweet Bake Shoppe, Bakery Tour

Friday, January 8th, 2016

 

Bittersweet is a cute little storefront with a very small dark interior.

Bittersweet Bake Shoppe is a tiny bakery located in a rural suburb, an hour northwest of Boston. It’s at the top of a small, steep hill, off a busy intersection. It’s an odd corner and unless you’re familiar with the area, it’s easy to miss this bakery. Passing motorists (think: potential customers) might never look up the hill to see the sign which is lost in a maze of other faded signs. I missed it twice and I was looking for it. I said that to the counter girl who replied oh yeah, people say that all the time.

Bittersweet is a cute little storefront with a very small dark interior. The location is workable for a custom cake business that needs a commercial kitchen and already has a strong following. Customers would drive there as a destination business, to pick up their order. But a retail business at this location is tricky, since there’s no foot traffic.

With a retail location, it’s important to have a well-stocked display with fresh products. When customer count is low, it’s still important to keep an assortment of fresh products on display. The owner has been there for approximately ten years so she’s apparently worked out the kinks. (I wanted bread, as seen in the website photo; but bread is only made to order.) It doesn’t appear to be a busy thriving business, but it seems to work for her.

There were two small cases with small trays lined up across the shelf, each tray with a small selection of cookies, bars, muffins or misc candies. Every tray was wrapped to keep the products fresher. Excellent! But a large platter of stacked butter crunch toffee had softened and each layer had melted into the one below. Everything was labelled but most had no prices, which always annoys me. Customers have the right to know what an item costs, without forcing them to ask about every product on display.

Excellent and fresh: I bought a carrot muffin, pineapple bran muffin, baklava, and fig bar.

Two Christmas Pudding Cakes sat on top of the display case and one had mold surrounding the dried fruit. As I was checking out I told the sales clerk who insisted it was really the green holiday cherries that fool people, but I insisted she look. Yup, it was mold. She pulled both of the cakes.

After visiting many small bakeries over the years, especially during normally slow times (such as after Christmas) I’ve come to expect stale, dry, and inedible products. But not here. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried the items. Both muffins were soft and flavorful; the baklava had a unique delicious flavor; and the fig bar was fresh.

This location made me think of newbie home bakers with no business experience who are desperate to move to a retail location and would think this was a fabulous spot. Again, it would work for someone with an existing cake business, not for someone dependent on income generated from retail walk-in traffic.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you’re looking for a storefront, a business plan will help identify the amount of retail traffic to expect.

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Bakery Tour, Clear Flour Bread

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

Yesterday was overcast and chilly, a harbinger of things to come. We bundled up and headed to Clear Flour Bread in Brookline, MA, a residential neighborhood near Boston. We hated the traffic, but had heard too many great things about this bakery to stay away.

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We bought the cute flower loaf, a cinnamon oat bread, and several pastries.

Production area is directly behind the very small retail space.

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Customer service was exceptional.

Home-Based Baking at it’s Best! Visit bakeries often. Market research is the best part of owning a baking business. You never know what can inspire you!

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Bakery Tour: Importance of Customer Service

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

On a chilly fall morning, we set off for two bakeries in West Concord, MA.

First stop, Nashoba Brook Bakery. There was a huge construction area in front of Nashoba so the shop and parking lot were not visible from the street. I parked several blocks away and had to ask directions; it surprised me there was no sign to direct customers to the front door. Although a good share of their business is wholesale, a sign would have been a nice gesture for their retail business.

Hidden entrance to Nashoba Brook Bakery.

Inside the entrance is a large window where customers can look down on the production area.

I visited this bakery five years ago and loved it. There are several display cases, self-service displays, and numerous tables and chairs.

During my last visit the counter clerk had been a bubbly gem who answered questions and dutifully promoted their products.

This morning, however, although it wasn’t very busy, service was quite different. Three counter clerks were chatting with each other about personal issues and ignored customers. I stood in front of the cases for five minutes and none of the clerks acknowledged me. I stood under the sign for customer service, but still nothing. I made eye contact with two of them but they chose to ignore me.

My granddaughter had picked out the family treats and still, no one came to greet us.

Eventually, I interrupted their conversation to ask for service. We got a box for home, a loaf of bread, and a Morning Glory muffin to share.

Our not-so-delicious muffin. It was very dry (either overbaked or day old) with a strong chemical taste from too much baking soda. We ate some, and threw away the rest.

Next, we walked down the quaint and lovely main street to Concord Teacakes.

Concord Teacakes

It was fairly quiet inside, with only two customers at the tables. But business seemed good with a slow steady stream of customers, mostly moms with young kids.

In the display cases there were only a few cakes that looked as if they’d been there a while.

But we saw a lot of attractive, colorful cupcakes in different sizes.

And many large decorated cookies throughout the store - on trays in the display cases and individually wrapped, set in baskets around the shop.

This store clearly knew their customer: children! Concord Teacakes is located in a small neighborhood community and clearly understands that children have a central role in purchasing baked goods. My grandaughter picked out an Elmo cupcake for after lunch, and we split a bagel while sitting at a table.

But the customer service was simply okay, nothing remarkable, no smiles, no friendliness. The clerks just moved on to the next customer.

Elmo was a ring that kids could keep long after the cupcake was gone. Nice!

Think about your own customer service. At both bakeries, the lack of good customer service really impacted our experience. Shoppers will remember how they were treated, long after they remember if they liked your products.

And do your market research. Who are your target customers? Concord Teacakes, located in a small family-oriented community, clearly understands that children have a central role in purchasing baked goods.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! We can learn a lot by visiting other bakeries. Do your market research and think about your customer service.

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Bakery Tour, La Cascia’s Bakery & Deli

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Congratulations, 35 years in business! Wonderful products, terrific customer service. I can see why they are still thriving.

I’m in love!! I visited La Cascia’s Bakery & Deli in Burlington, MA. This excellent bakery, located in a small shopping strip off a neighborhood road, has a deceptively unawesome storefront. But wow! A real Italian bakery with high standards for their products and their customer service.

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La Cascia's has a long refrigerated case

and a shorter dry case for butter cookies.

The display trays were clean, neat, and beckoning. Everything looked delicious.

Fresh breads and rolls are on shelves behind the counter.

Clockwise from bottom left: carrot cake, walnut sweetbun, blueberry pocket, lemon mini-pocket, almond paste cookies.

My only disappointment was not finding product signs or prices. But the sales clerks were cheerful, friendly, and knowledgable – the best customer service I’ve had in a long time.

If you live anywhere near this old-fashioned scratch bakery, please stop by. I highly (highly) recommend the almond cookie varieties.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Visiting bakeries for product ideas is part of your market research. Enjoy this aspect of running a business!

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Shelf Life, FAQ

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Uh, oh. My last bakery visit was disappointing. My purchases were less than acceptable. The culprit was shelf life: the taste and texture of old. They have now lost a customer. I will never return and never recommend this bakery.

Baked goods from my last bakery tour.

There are a few things that will hurt your business. At the top of the list is selling products past their shelf life. You don’t have to make everything fresh every day, since some products last longer than others. Biscotti and granola, for instance, can remain fresh for several months. Some muffins, however, will only last a day or two.

It’s important to know how long each of your products can remain fresh. This entails testing every recipe as part of your recipe and product development. Once you have determined the shelf life of each product, it’s important to act on this knowledge. Keep track of sales and which products are no longer fresh.

Apple and lemon bars, rear left, had soggy crusts and gummy fillings. Cupcake frosting had an unpleasant flavor from sitting too long in the display case. Raspberry on eclair was gummy, whipped cream was crusty, shell was soggy. Black and white cookie was soft, but also the same unpleasant old flavor.

This bakery used a color coding system. As you can see in the cookie below, a sticker was placed on the bottom of the paper cup.

Color coding is a common way to keep track of shelf life, but follow-through is necessary.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! It’s hard to lose money by not selling products, but in the long run it hurts more to lose business by chasing away customers.

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Sadly, Not the Best Bakery Tour

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

I rarely pass up an opportunity to visit bakeries. We can learn a lot from watching how others prepare food and how they deal with the public.

A few days after St. Patrick’s Day last month, we visited two bakeries. Both are multi-unit retail/wholesale businesses in the Boston MA area. Our first stop was Swiss Bakers.

I love their mascot on top of the building!

This outside window was a nice touch for customers to view the production area.

There were numerous products to choose from. We ordered lunch and treats, plus a box for home.

As we ate lunch, we saw a steady stream of customers.

I bought a mini-swirl bun filled with hazelnut paste. It looked beautiful, but it was dry, hard, and inedible. Unfortunately, of the six purchases, half were long past their shelf life. I owned a bakery and café for many years and understand the difficulties in keeping products fresh. But selling old products is not a good way to capture new customers or keep current ones.

On our way home we stopped at The Danish Pastry House, another well-known Boston bakery. We’ve visited before and had enjoyed our purchases.

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This visit, we looked through the cases while a very quiet, sour-looking clerk came out from the back room and ignored us. We saw several St. Patrick’s Day cookies. Uh, oh, St. Patrick’s Day had been celebrated the previous week. When we saw the old pastries, we automatically looked at other items in the case, wondering how old those were, too. We left without making any purchases.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! It surprised me that we found more than day-old products in two well-known local bakeries. It’s important to know the shelf life of all your products. Selling old or stale products is not the reputation that a bakery strives to be known for.

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Iggy’s Bread – Bakery Tour & Market Research

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Checking out the display cases and asking questions.

If you’re in the food business, bakery tours are a pleasant way to do market research. There’s a lot to be learned from seeing what new products are being sold, how products are displayed, and tours are a great tool for staying up with current trends.

For bakery owners, these tours are a necessity.  If you like food, it’s fun exploration and gastronomic entertainment. Visiting bakeries is one of my favorite activities.

Everywhere I go, I make a point of visiting at least one bakery. On a recent Sunday morning in Boston MA, we went to Iggy’s Bread,  a large wholesale facility with a retail area in front.

Entrance to the retail area for Iggy's Bread.

We found cookies, pastries, tarts, sandwiches, pizza, buns, and granola. So much more than bread!

Everyone gets to choose.

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Iggy's sticky buns - the best breakfast pastry, ever!

We bought one each of everything that looked enticing.

Hungry now! We stopped outside to open boxes and dig in.

"Should we go back and get daddy a sticky bun, too?"

Suggestions for an easy and enjoyable bakery tour:
1. Buy one each of everything that looks interesting or different. Ask questions but be considerate of the clerk and other customers.
2. After you get home examine your purchases before digging in. (If you’re too hungry or have kids along, dig in immediately!)
3. Don’t plan on eating your regular lunch or dinner. Sometimes we must sacrifice a meal for market research.
4. You don’t have to eat an entire pastry. Just take a bite or nibble to savor the flavor and texture. Take notes.
5. If you have a lot of treats, wrap up any long shelf-life items. Eat them another day.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Save your receipts! Bakery tours are a legitimate business necessity.

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Holiday Weekend, Bakery Tour

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

I love bakeries and visit as often as possible. I love trying new treats! But mostly I love the market research aspect. Regardless of what kind of a baking business you have, there’s a lot to learn from going to a retail bakery. I encourage everyone to do bakery tours. Look at the products on the shelf, how they are displayed, watch what customers are buying, and think about the visual aspects that encourage purchases.

We visited family for the July Fourth weekend and headed to Boston. It was late in the afternoon on July 3rd when we stopped at Lyndell’s Bakery. The shelves were mostly empty, which meant they’d had a very busy day. From their website:

Lyndell’s Bakery has served freshly baked cakes, pastries, pies, and breads daily since 1887. Located in historic Ball Square, Lyndell’s is one of the oldest retail “scratch” bakeries in the country. Pies, breads, specialty cookies, and half moons are chosen as Boston’s Best every year and families have enjoyed our custom made cakes forever!

(Great info, I just don’t understand why the word SCRATCH is in quotes.)

Lyndell's Bakery

Eye-catching and enticing window displays.

Great customer service, always important!

We made our selections.

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We bought bread, brownies, cupcakes, and several varieties of Half Moon cookies (Black & Whites).

On our way home to the Hudson Valley, we stopped at sugar me sweet bakers,  the most darling microbakery I’ve ever seen. Owner Ginny Farris began as a home-based baker, selling her wholesale products to area retail stores. In New York, the cottage food law allows Home Processors to sell wholesale.

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We bought (clockwise from top) Ultimate Chocolate Chip cookies, Cinnamon Roll Bars, vanilla cupcake, mocha cupcake, Banana Walnut muffin,

and a chocolate naked cake.

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Ginny’s secrets to success? Fresh products that are exceptionally unique and tasty, and phenomenal customer service.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Visit bakeries, enjoy new taste treats, and consider your time a valuable step in market research. For more bakery tours…

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