Friday, March 26, 2004


I've been keeping an eye on the news, rumours of sugar taxes and fat taxes, of people suing companies because they have no personal self-control.

How will we deal with the possibility of people suing us because they became fat while eating too many sweets?

Do you think humor would deflect it some? "Wise" sayings posted in unexpected places that say things like: "Eat right. Exercise. Die anyway." or "All things in moderation." or other such things?

I'm going to browse the web and see if I can't find suitable food quotes, especially bakery-related ones, maybe cartoons, too. A few weeks ago the librarian gave us some Atkins Diet related cartoons. Maybe we can find other funny diet cartoons.

We've always been advocates of personal responsibility, we alone are responsible for what we choose to buy, eat, wear, drink, drive, and so on. To place the blame for being overweight on vendors of food is an abdication of personal responsibility. It's saying "I cannot control myself, therefore I demand you control me for my own good. If you don't control me and force me to be good, eat right, and live a long, healthy, safe life, then I will sue any and everybody I can so I can at least die rich."

What's with that?

When did people stop taking responsibility for their own actions? Why do they feel businesses owe them because they chose to eat too much, drink too much, and forego exercising? Why do they think a purveyor of sweets is responsible for their extra 100 pounds of body fat? Did that sweetshop force them to buy the candy, ripping dollars out of their wallets and filling their helpless mouths with Gobstoppers and Sugar Blasters?

Our bakery will be selling food that is high in calories and pleasing to the eye as well as the tongue.

Are we going to drag people off the streets and force them to not only buy Lemon Spice Cakes with Creme Fraiche and strawberries, and a triple Cinnamon Leche Latte, but consume it on the spot, and then buy an extra for the road?

Nope. We expect our customers to know what their diets are - because we certainly won't know what restrictions they've placed on themselves, or had placed on due to health problems or allergies, and what they can and cannot eat.

Our delicacies will be labeled with nutritional data so they can choose wisely. If they have a peanut allergy, for example, we will label what foods contain peanuts. If they choose to buy a goodie with peanuts in it, it will not be because we forced it on them, but because they chose to buy it.

They can choose to splurge on that luscious Blueberry Fudge Fairy Cheesecake, or select the equally yummy Blueberry Gallette with a dollop of non-dairy fat-free sour cream.

I'll never eat the non-dairy fat-free anything, but that's my choice, and if I carry a few extra pounds for it, that's my choice.

We should be free to sell delicious, quality baked goodies without the fear of being sued because a customer is carrying a few pounds more than they want.

Yes, I know diet and exercise are not totally effective in weight loss. Believe me, I know. If you're interested in reading some good, solid data on weight loss, what works and what doesn't, and possibilities that may help, try Adiposity 101. There's some good information there. They even explore the theory that dieting itself may cause excessive weight gain.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Not Much Progress 

Not much progress was made on the Cracked Cauldron over the weekend. Manager and I discussed a few trivial details about location and signage, a bit on interior decoration and such.

We perfected the recipe for the pepperoni knots and created a luscious lemon spice cake.

That's really all we did.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Bad Advertising 

Does it help, in advertising, to know what you don't want?

I know we don't want advertisiements that bash our competitors. I happen to like the owners of most of them, and their products are decent. Not ours, you know, but still good (OK, except for BreadWinners, with the rotten strawberries in their bread).

I hope our ads won't be seen as obnoxious - like a lot of the furniture and liquidation clearinghouses whose sales people scream at the top of their voices to make theri sales pitch.

I really, really want our ads to be as memorable and delightful as the Skittles commercials. I don't eat Skittles because I don't like the way they taste, but I am very favorable towards them because of the commercials.

Hmmmm, perhaps the commercials are a failure because I am not lured to consume their product?

I used to design billboard ads, and won several awards for a couple of them. Wonder if I still have the ability? It was, after all, 30 years ago.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

More Advertising 

Ack. Whatever we do, I hope our ads are never as annoying as some of the pseudo-Irish spewings that have been on the radio the last few days. Scotland the Brave, even if it is played on helium, is not Irish. And those truly fakey accents that keep slipping into Okie tones just grate on the nerve.

The tone of our advertising campaign hasn't been set yet. We're still exploring several different avenues.

One thing we are doing is creating some contact cards to give to people, telling them this is just the preliminary information until we have located our site.

Speaking of locations, another one in a prime area has opened, and the price and remodeling costs are modest. The location is fantastic for us, easy to get to, lots of adequate parking, an area we can set up for outdoor enjoyment, a pretty facade (well, it will be pretty once it's repainted and flowers put in the planters outside it), and it has large windows to let people drool over the goods. It's in a walk location (you don't know how rare that is in Oklahoma - I've seen people get in their cars and drive to the other end of the parking lot to visit a shop in the same strip mall), and in a high traffic, easy-access driving area. It's 2 minutes from downtown, 5 minutes from the State Capitol, 3 minutes from a major hospital, just off 2 major highways with simple ramps off and on again, making it accessible to people who live farther away.

So, that gives us, what 7 locations that are excellent, another 5 that are acceptable, and 2 fringe locations. We'll run demographics on all of them, compare renovation expenses, and monthly maintainence costs, anad make our selections based on that.

Now, as for those ads...something friendly, welcoming, and just a little intriguing, I think.

How we'll accomplish that is something we still have to work out.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


We've been looking at coffee wholesalers, trying to decide on the coffees we will carry at Cracked Cauldron. We'll want roasted beans to grind as needed. The sheer variety of coffee beans is amazing.

Once we've chosen the beans, serving the coffee itself will be no problem. Whether it's cappucino, espresso, latte, flavored, or plain, making the coffee is easy enough.

Ditto for the teas.

We'll have a lovely variety of teas, green black, herbal, floral, fruity.

And the cocoas, too, will be simple.

But coffee offers a huge variety of beans - free traded, many different countries, and so forth.

Monday, March 15, 2004


We discussed advertising campaigns, and how we were going to market the Cracked Cauldron. We are going to depend somewhat on some free advertising, but for the most part, a substantial chunk of the opening expenses will be advance advertising.

Actually, a portion of the advertising will be done at the upcoming OU Medieval Faire, with brochures and cards being distributed.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Daily Needs 

OK, we calculated how much of stuff we'd have to sell to break even, and it looks doable.

That's 18300 loaves of bread or 22448 eclairs or 11022 Baker Breakfasts, or 7246 lunches or 6478 dinners a month. 610 loaves of bread a day, or 748 eclairs, or 376 Breakfasts, or 241 lunches, or 215 dinners.

I reckon if we make 150 loaves of bread (that's about 12 loaves each of our daily breads, and 10 each of a few specialty breads, plus assorted rolls), then 3 dozen of about 20 different pastries and tartlettes, 5 gallons of 6 different soups, and I didn't even calculate beverage, pie, or cake sales. we can double that break even dollar amount. I can bake that much alone with the right equipment.

With Manager there, and BJ both baking, and hiring a few coffee monkeys, well, it looks like as high as the numbers are, we can do it.

So it will cost us $660,000.00 a year to break even, Panera's bread makes over $1,800,00.00 a year. Starbuck's makes considerably less and still makes more than we need to break even.

Daunting as it is to need $660,000.00 a year to meet expenses, it's good to know we can probably double that - and this is including what we'll be expending for the free meals we'll give to the homeless people via the coupons.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

To Do List: 

Pre-advertising flyers at OU MedFaire

Get a cell phone for pre-opening business.

Determine how much of the equipment can be leased or bought on payment plans - and how much that will cost per month.

Contact a realtor for commercial properties and begin the search for the right place. We have one location we really, really like, and three alternative locations - each has at least 3-4 properties for lease or sale.

Determine if leasing or buying is the right option.

Apply for loans and grants, see what other financial options are available to us.

Purchase office computer.

Set up business accounting software and begin financial accounting.

Rent the building.

Get insurance.

Get a business phone and answering service.

Set up the web page.

Begin advertising.

Complete interior design and work flow areas - including purchasing or leasing all equipment except counter computer.

Get inspections.

Be sure all forms are filed with appropriate agencies.

Stock ingredients.

Print employee and entertainer contracts and other necessary business forms.

Hire rest of employees.

Purchase counter computer.

Train employees.

Schedule entertainers.

Print menus and coupons.

Put coupons in paper.

Ramp up advertising.

Have pre-opening Press Party.




Tuesday, March 09, 2004

More Things We have Done 

We have a house with 5 years of steady payments behind it as collateral for more of the loan.

We have created our "recipe book" of recipes in baker notation of our specialties, plus regular recipes.

We have had many of our recipes analyzed for their nutritional content, so we can offer this information to our customers.

We have located a source for the furniture (tables and chairs) we need - and made a friend in the process.

We have collected many of the specialty baking pans anad cookie cutters and small equipment we'll need, but we still have a list of more to go.

We have contacted some local and regional bakers and restaurant organizations.

We are working on the bake schedule, and have prepared our holiday specials schedule.

We have scouted out the most effective forms of advertising for our business, and will begin implementing advance advertising in May.

We have located a hosting service, and are designing our interactive web page, which should be online by August for our opening in October.

We've researched pay scales, benefits, and laws concerning employees.

Once we have a location and the finances, we will begin the opening rush. That won't be until June at the very earliest.

Start Up Costs 

Well, daunting a task as it was, estimating start-up costs is almost over. Unless there's something else we forgot, starting the bakery will be substantially less than buying a bakery franchise. Can we say less than half the cost?

And our break-even point will be around $30,000.00 a month in sales. I think that's achievable.

Our biggest expenses, of course, will be the equipment - I think we'll need at least one four-plex deck oven (or maybe a dual deck oven - for the breads and larger items), a triple conveyor oven (for the smaller pastries and cookies), a dough roller (I know, this can be done by hand if necessary, but I think it will be less expensive in the long run to have the roller than it will be to pay wages for someone to roll the doughs out for pies and cookies), the walk-in fridge and freezer, the proofing racks, the coffee machines, the hot water dispenser for the teas, the counter refrigerator for the milks and creams, juices, and flavors, the soda dispensers, the cold case display cabinets (we'll need 2), the dry case display cabinets (we'll need 3), the tables and chairs for customers to sit (found great ones at a better than reasonable cost at a used equipment place...gorgeous ones we could never afford new), display/cooling racks for the breads, the cash register, the two computers (one for business in the back office, and one at the register for email, web, and IM orders, washer and dryer (for the aprons, oven mitts, and dishcloths, etc), the back-up generator (no way are we going to lose business or a day's work because of a power failure due to our frequent thunderstorms), dish washers, and the work tables and storage containers in back.

Except for the "little things": mugs, cups, saucers, plates, bowls, flatware, serving utensils, decorating tools, measuring devices, baking pans and sheets, knives, stockpots, knife sharpening, scissors, rolling pins, aprons, practically everything else is 'consumable supplies": flours, sugars, decorator colors, butter, milk, fruit, nuts, vegetables, cornstarch, baking powder and soda, the sodas and juices, coffees and teas, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, napkins, menus, and such.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Weekend Bakery Visits 

We went to only 2 local bakeries this past weekend.

One was a combination donut shop and special occassion cake decorating, with a single cold case of pastries. This is perhaps the best choice of product for them since they draw the bulk of their clientele from the nearby major hospital. They also offered a long list of sandwiches and most of their customers were getting their orders to go, or were hospital employees looking for somewhere other than the hospital to relax for a few moments.

We bought one of their small cheesecakes and a Devil Dog with coffee.

Their Devil Dog was perhaps the best we've had so far. The cheesecake was indeed a good one, too.

As much as I really want to place the Cracked Cauldron in the building across the street from them (because the building is perfect for the sort of bakery we envision), we won't because we like Brown's Bakery. Even if our customers won't overlap much, we still think it's wrong to open up practically next door. They have a loyal clientele that might see us as encroaching, even if we'll be offering different things at different hours.

The other one was far more of a gift shop with sandwiches and coffee. Their bakery consisted of a few cookies, cinnamon rolls, and danishes.

We liked the gift shop, and spent money there, but that's not what we want. However, we did get some idea of how we wanted to arrange our "regulars" favorite coffee mugs. We were also appalled to discover that locally made jellies are selling for over $8.00 a small jar!

That was the thrifty souls in us. I'm sure once we open the bakery, $8.00 for a 6 ounce jar of jelly will seem like chump change to us.

Mostly, we've been visiting bakeries to find out prices and best selling items.

Because we will be a completely different sort of bakery than we've seen in 3 states so far, I'm pretty sure our best sellers will be different from theirs. Still, learning what the customers will pay for general things like cheesecakes ($30.00 for a whole cake), single layer simple decorated cakes ($12.00), slices of tortes - what they call tortes around here, nothing like the Viennese and German tortes we intend to offer ($3.00 a slice), and flavored coffees ($2.75 a small cup) will help us determine the final offerings and prices we will have.

We saw several of our ideas in action in a few different bakeries: the "help yourself" plain coffee with day old slices of bread and butter and jelly, the coffee bar and tea set up (but they didn't have juices or hot cocoas or flavored milks), and the set ups in the cold cases and dry cases for individual pastries and sweets, and only one bakery had a nice set-up for dispalying and selling the breads. Most of the ones that had bread had plain metal racks with the bread pre-wrapped. Ingrid's Bakery had the nicest bread display, and they've recently changed to be mostly a deli with just a few loaves of bread sold on the side. Each individual "set up" was successful.

We've come up with a behind the counter work flow that looks as if it will be quick and simple for the customers and easy for the employees to keep it stocked and clean.

Our desire to have an integrated design also looks like a winner - the 2 bakeries that had a decorating scheme seemed to have the happiest employees and customers - and from the time we spent in them, it looked as if the customers spent on average about $12.00 each, usually going back for more the longer they lingered. They were also the ones that had constantly full tables with a steady turnover of customers.

With the exception of the bakery that was also a bar, the rest of the bakeries had a slow trickle of customers that came in, got what they wanted and left, no lingering.

This gives us even more confidence that our bakery, unique to Oklahoma as it will be, will be sucessful.

On the down side, two of the locations we've been eyeing may have been leased. That's OK, we still have another 4 locations in mind in the same general area. And it's possible these places haven't been leased after all, just that the signs blew away in the high winds we had recently.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Taking Stock 

What have we done so far? In no particular order:

We have collected a variety of studies and surveys on the feasibility of a bakery in our city.

We have scouted out what we feel will be a suitable location - but don't yet have a price.

We have a good start on an Employee's Handbook.

We have most of the business proposal and a 1 year, and 5 year business plan written.

We have a name for the bakery.

We have collected the health department rules for food service.

We have Contacted a variety of equipment suppliers.

We have visited some mills and local produce farmers and ranchers with an eye towards having them as suppliers.

We've talked with the local farm extension and department of agriculture for more local producers and suggestions for the bakery, too.

We've visited and toured a variety of bakeries to see what our competition is like. We bought their products, too, to sample them and see what we could do better, and what we do differently.

We've test marketed most of our products and collected feedback on them.

We've contacted the local chamber of commerce.

We've collected some seed money from a friend.

We have several reputable and dependable employees lined up.

We have located a CPA to help us with taxes and finances relating to running the business.

We've spoken to the IRS about the best way to incorporate (subchapter S, so we can offer stock to the employees - that's how we'll tie in their pay raises, the better the bakery does, the better thier bank account will look).

We've checked out provisions for insurance.

We've checked out provisions for employee benefits.

We've determined hte optimal operating hours (this may be revised based on new data).

We've created an advertising campaign to let people know who and where we are and what we have to offer them.

We've contacted some performers to play in hte bakery.

We've scheduled in some groups for regular meetings.

We've contacted an artist to create our logo.

And we still have so much left to do....

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Hi-Tech Bakery 

So, on the trip to Texas, we talked. What else can you do in a car hurtling down a highway at 70 miles an hour?

So, we talked. Bakery stuff.

One of the things I planned to do for myself while in Texas was look at new computers. Mine bit the dust months ago, and I was ready to replace it.

This brought us, naturally enough, to discussing things like recipes and inventory control and customer service at the bakery.

Because of our chosen location, we will be easily accessible to downtown and the state capitol. These people are almost always in a hurry. We haven't decided on a drive-through, so we considered other possible options. These options will determine, in part, how the bakery is operated. It's more than bread we have to think about.

One idea, which has a great deal of appeal because it will be neither expensive nor onerous to implement, is the concept of emailing or instant messaging in orders. Like phone-in orders (which we will also take), I'm sure we'll have a number of flakes abusing it. After a while, though, we'll be able to tell if the email is from a legitimate customer, especially repeat customers. Wouldn't it speed things up for people to place an order, get confirmation and know the price before they arrive, and have it waiting for them so all they have to do is get it and go?

This will probably work best for regulars - "hey, I'm low on bacon bread, bake me a loaf, willya? I'll get it on Tuesday."

One benefit from advance or standing orders like this is knowing in advance how much we'll have to bake.

That is going to be the hardest opening detail for us: inventory.

How many loaves of bread a day, how many cream puffs, how many napoleans, how many little doll cupcakes or individual angel food cakes? What will be popular, and what will be sinkers that need to drop so far off the menu they'll never be seen again?

Equipment, cash registers, employees, chairs and decor, these are the easy things.

Even getting adequate financing is easy, compared to the daunting task of how many loaves of bread?

Tuesday, March 02, 2004


A co-worker turns out to also raise cattle locally. It will be nice to be able to offer meat-based soups knowing the provenance of the meat. To say, "We know the cattle farmer, we've seen the cattle ranch, we've met the cattle," for the beef based soups will add that little something to the Cracked Cauldron, especially with the media hyping up Mad Cow disease.

Plus, to be able to actually know the history of the cattle, to be able to say it's supporting local cattle farmers just feels good.

We found the company that will likely be our accounting firm yesterday as well, so that's another hurdle towards opening almost completed.

Another co-worker has a wheat farm, they funnel into a local flour mill, so we will likley patronize them as well.

And they have a friend who raises pigs, so we can get our pork from a local source. All we need is local poultry, fish, and dairy sources, and we'll be in good from that perspective.

We'll need to import some of the cheeses we'll use in the baked goods, and possibly some fruits, and some of the less common flours.

There's a used restaurant supply and furniture shop down on 23rd, we'll take a look at them and see if they can supply some of our equipment needs. However, if the used equipment costs the same or almost the same as new, we'll opt for new. We found a Hobart floor mixer used (and it looked as if it had been used hard) for $8,000.00. New, the newer model of the same type is $10,000. Unless we can find a better used deal, we'll go for the new one.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Investigative Trip 

We travelled without mishap to the Dallas Fort Worth part of Texas to check out a few bakeries. Scouting the competition, as it were.

We started with the intention of visiting 5 bakeries: Zaguan's, LaDuni, Empire Baking Company, Breadwinners, and Breadworks.

Let's take them in order:

Zaguan's came the closest to what we expected a bakery to look like and be. It still was more than half restaruant. It was housed in 6,000 square feet, with 2,000 of that for customers: seating and the order counter. The decor was plain - solid tile floors, inexpensive tables and chairs, the usual dry bakery display cabinets,with one cold case, white walls, exposed cables and conduits in the ceiling with industrial ceiling fans. The counters were up high enough that short people were practically invisible. The baked items were scarce, only a few left of each, and by the time we arrived there at 10:00 AM, they were cleaning up the bakery part, done with baking for the day. Through the back doors, we could see holding trays stacked with baked goods, but they weren't out front. The counter help seemd more interested in cleaning than in taking our order (of course we had to sample things), a downer in an otherwise good bakery.

LaDuni's was incredible, and not in a pleasant way. The first thing that struck us was that the only available parking was valet parking - $3.00 per car. For a bakery. The second thing that struck us was the fact that when we entered, it didn't look anything like a bakery, and much more like a really upscale restaurant. We didn't stay to evaluate it as a bakery because it clearly wasn't one. It might be a mighty fine restaurant, but it ranked as the worst "bakery" we visited.

Empire Baking Company and Breadworks both moved, and we couldn't find their new locations. No evaluation is available for them.

Breadwinners has a teensy tinsy bakery squashed into one corner of a busy restaurant. They are also not too careful of the quality for their baked goods - the strawberry cream cheese bread we purchased from them had rotten strawberries. And the service was incredibly slow. There was one person ahead of us in line, and it took over 30 minutes for us to reach the cash register and pay for our selections. There were a lot of employees, but most of them seemed more interested in standing behind the cold case joking with one another than with serving any customers. There were 9 people behind the counter, a hostess at the door to seat people, and 5 other employees that we saw. 15 empoyees to wait on a total of 12 customers, and we still had to wait half an hour to pay for a loaf of bread and a loaf of strawberry cream cheese bread which had rotten fruit in it (we couldn't tell the loaf was bad because there was no mold or obvious sign of it when we bought it), and a single cinnamon roll. Breadwinners stays in business because it is also a hot and trendy bar, and apparently the bulk of their business comes from the bar and restaurant side, and not the bakery side. I recommend they just forget about the bakery and concentrate on what they apparently do best - the bar.

Those five out of the way, we decided to drive around and just randomly visit any bakeries we spotted.

The first one we saw was The Red Oven. This came much closer to the types of bakeries I knew as a child: breads, cinnamon rolls, pastries, and such - updated for paranoid Americans. Everything was prewrapped. There were no piles of breads, no display counters with individual items. Cookies could only be bought by the package, same with rolls, and other small treats. They added on a full line of frozen dinners for singles or for families of 4. The decor was reminiscent of grocery store, and there was no seating. You went in, bought your goods and left. It was family run, and everything was made on packaged on the premises. Not the sort of bakery we wanted, but good for what they were. They looked popular, and they people inside were pleasant. One downer for us was the fact that practically everything had soy in it. I know soy is popular, but it limited what we could buy there.

The next bakery was The Corner Bakery. This is a franchise bakery very similar to Panera's Bread. The bulk of the business was dedicated to sandwiches and grilled meals. The bakery section was predominantly dessert with a few rolls and bagels for bread interest. The staff was extremely quick, pleasant and helpful - a welcome change from Breadwinners. The pastries we bought were acceptable, but we can do so much better. The lemon bar had only a hint of lemon, but the supporting undercrust was excellent. It could have used a lot more lemon, more powdered sugar on top, but the foundation was good. The cream cheese brownie had a decent brownie underneath, but the cheesecake was so bland it might as well not even have been there. It was dry and a little tough, and that may be because it sat out too long. It looked pretty. However, the little cherry gallete was very nice. We'd do it with more cherry and a touch of cinnamon, maybe offer some whipped cream to top it, but those are just individualizations. But, like verywhere else, it was first and foremost a restaurant, with a bakery added in almost as an afterthought.

The last bakery we visited was LaMadeleine's, another franchise. This one came the closest to what we were looking for, even down to the fireplace! The emphasis was mostly on coffees and pastries, with sandwiches and grilled meals. It was the first one we visited that made any attempt at real "bakery" style decor, and not restaurant style decor - there is a difference. The staff was pleasant and quick, handling the huge numbers of customers quickly. By the time we arrived (8:30 AM, Sunday), they'd already completed the day's baking. Their focus was on sandwiches, as it seemd most bakeries were doing in the area.

It was certainly an educational visit.

The Cracked Cauldron will certainly be something a little different, as our focus will be on the baking, with the food being soup, not sandwiches. We didn't find anything that was closer to what we were looking for, but we've only just started really looking.

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