In recent weeks, I’ve been canvassing opinion on this key question. If you operate in-store bakeries, I am really interested to hear your thoughts on the challenges you face when addressing it.
In your experience, what proportion of your in-store bakery (ISB) sales come after 2pm? In many businesses, it’s as high as 50%. If you add to this the recent trend by savvy food-to-go operators to cater for the evening meal market, that’s a whole lot of post-lunchtime trade.
Even so, retailers often find that their operations are at odds with the original ISB ethos of baking little and often throughout the day.
One issue may be staffing. If you are engaged in scratch baking, you need trained bakers. It may well be that you only want to pay your bakers to come in first thing in the morning to make their products. In which case, the bakers will want to do their job, clean everything down and get off home as soon as they can.
Similar issues appear to affect setups that bake off. In theory, you need less well-trained staff to prepare bake-off products, so it shouldn’t be too hard to mandate a little-and-often approach.
Once again, this appears to be difficult to achieve. Is planning the issue here? Unless staff have a decent plan to work to, do they know what to bake, when? The tendency is still to make a batch of products in the morning, clean down and then any bakery plan can be ticked off as “done” for the day.
Either way, pity the poor customer who pops in for their favourite baked treat at 5pm when it was made at 7am. In a competitive market, freshness matters.
Whatever the type of ISB, perhaps another reason why afternoon bakes are shied away from is that they are seen as risky in terms of waste. After all, if you bake your goods in the morning, you have all day for them to sell. If you bake them at 4pm, you’ve only got until your shop shuts, however late that may be.
Again, though, this approach misses out on afternoon sales. This would seem to be a missed opportunity, especially as the consumer trend towards fresh food-to-go drives many retailers towards the in-store bakery model in the first place.
In your experience, why do retailers that operate ISBs continue to struggle with the afternoon (and now, increasingly, evening) trade? Drop me a line via email with your thoughts.
Jane Tyler is the managing director of BakePlan Software, the vice chair of the British Society of Baking and a regular speaker at food and technology industry events in the UK. You can follow her on Twitter at @Jane_RedBlack and on LinkedIn here.