Everyone loves a bakery. The smells. The flavours. Bakeries, and particularly the so-called boutique bakeries, are one of the fastest growing industries of the past few years. Love to bake? Want to have your own business? Ready to get your hands dirty (or at least covered in flour)? Then a bakery may be the ticket.
Running a successful bakery is hard work, though. You cant just bake a cake and then sell it. There are rules and regulations. You need to register and obtain a business license. And on top of that, youll need to be inspected on a regular basis.
Pick Your Niche
There are many types of bakeries out there these days. Some are still the jack-of-all-trades, selling a wide variety of baked goods, while others specialize in a particular niche. Some are gluten-free, some are vegan, some are organic, while others make only one or two items (such as cupcake boutiques, for example. Do some investigating and see what if anything is already represented in your city or area. Check out the competition...what do they sell? Could you compete with them on those items in terms of quality and price? If not, consider something else. Are there already six cupcake boutiques in your immediate area? That market would appear to be too crowded already. Investigate, explore, research, and then make an educated decision about your particular focus. But make sure its something youre passionate about or enjoy. If you hate baking with only vegan ingredients, no matter how tempting it may be from a financial viewpoint, youll ultimately end up unhappy or even hating your new business.
Have a (Business) Plan
A bakery is a business first and foremost. You need to have a well-written and considered business plan in place. It should include finances (long-term potential), market analysis, and goals, objectives, tactics, and strategies for the next 3-5 years. Revisit and evaluate those goals periodically, and tweak as necessary.
Keep Meticulous Sales Records
Obviously, as with any business, you need to keep good financial records for your own bookkeeping and tax purposes. But you need to also keep track of everything you sell, especially in the early days. Be precise, detailed and specific. Dont simply record that you sold 5 donuts...record that it was two chocolate dip, one honey dip, and two old-fashioned. This way, you have a running record of what is selling, and more importantly, what is NOT selling. Bakeries lose money on unsold merchandise. Keep a running record so you can evaluate product supply and demand. If you know exactly (or within an acceptable range) how many you sell of each item in a typical day, you can bake accordingly. Whats your biggest seller? What item constantly sits on display until its old and stale?
Mix It Up
Most successful bakeries have several seasonal items that only appear during certain times of year. They might revolve around the seasons themselves, or the big holidays (Halloween, Christmas, Easter, national days, and so on). Its a textbook example of supply and demand at work...your customers will look forward to getting their special items each year, coming back again and again. You should have at least a few seasonal items in your rotation.
As a business making and selling food, you will be subject to state, provincial, or municipal food safety and health inspections. The results of these inspections are usually available online for anyone who is interested, so make sure your kitchen, counter, and eating area are immaculately clean. Check out the inspection requirements, and not only meet, but exceed them. A passing grade is good, but a (near) perfect score is something to aim for. Most places require you to post the results of your most recent inspection somewhere onsite. Work hard to get the best possible score.
- Restaurant and Food Services Inspection in Canada
- Food Standards Agency (UK)
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- Many states in the US have their own state-level inspection agency. Check online for detailed information.
Depending on where you are, the number of required inspections per year can vary from once annually to 3-4 times. Keep a clean and safe bakery at all times, and it shouldnt matter. Be sure and contact your local inspection agency before opening your bakery to the public. You need that inspection. You need that (well above) passing grade. Fail, and they have the power to shut you down. You may need to get special certification(s), and/or implement certain practices, too. Do your homework.
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Many people love to bake, but that doesnt automatically mean you should open a bakery. Its hard work, long hours (especially if youre the one getting up in the middle of the night to do the actual baking), and a great risk (as with opening any business). And some people grow to hate something they loved as a hobby or pastime when they turn it into a business. That said, the possibility of success is slightly better than average because of the demand...even small communities can support a bakery or two because of the universal appeal. A dash of entrepreneurial spirit, and a healthy dose of baking know-how, and it could be the recipe for your dream job.