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.

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