?? about bakeries

Discussion in 'Professional Pastry Chefs' started by w.debord, May 18, 2002.

  1. w.debord

    w.debord

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    The last couple weeks I've been working at a local bakery for a change of pace....I want to learn production from a bakeries perspective. Now I have a couple questions and there not knocks on quality just honest questions.

    First, this place buys in everything practically. Their a small time Mom & Pop shop, no one there has any real skills (no fine baking they don't even have chocolate in stock), everyone mixes, bakes, finishes products. From scratch so far I've only noticed cookies, buttercream and maybe danish but I'm not sure about that (I saw a bag that said danish dough). So my question is about costs.

    When I costed out my scratch cakes vs. mixes there was a huge difference. I understand the point is consistancy, but just how expense are these purchased products. Can you save money by buying in (labor$ is that the point?)?

    Another weird question is about weight. They only have 2- 20 qt mixers, one that can't mix anything tougher then whip cream. So I mentioned a large mixer would greatly cut down on work time. The answer I got was this is an old building and the flour wouldn't take a heavier mixer.....BUT they have a double convection next to their 6 burner stove. Surely the weight of those items isn't less then a mixer, right?

    Just trying to make sense of somethings that don't add up to me....
     
  2. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Oops, just proof read my post. It's the floor that won't take the weight....oops.floor
     
  3. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    Hi Wendy,

    You've raised a few questions that Ive always wanted answers to. Are those mixes really cheaper than from scratch? How much more can buying flour, sugar etc. in bulk cost ya?

    I personally think that the mixer shouldn't be a prob. Really just sounds like they aren't interested in spending more money on anything. And are comfortable to keep moseying along as they are. For example: We need a new mixer....the old one keeps electrocuting me...but all I hear is there is no room to put a new one. Aren't we gonna get rid of the old one??

    Jodi
     
  4. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Maybe you were a cook in a former life :D

    Seriously, the one reason that would compel me to use mixes is the idiot factor. Most of these mixes are designed to allow for up to 20% deviation in ingredient proportions. The other factor is the improvers they put into mixes which give it a longer shelf life.

    Kuan
     
  5. suzanne

    suzanne

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    Labor costs can be a HUGE factor. Not just in the staff time to measure/mix/etc., but also the pay differential between someone who can follow the very simple procedures of a mix versus someone who has some training, can follow a recipe, AND is able to make adjustments for humidity, temp, etc.

    Add to that the concerns about purchasing the right quantities of ingredients, and storing & rotating them properly to cut down on waste -- you can see that the way they're doing it makes more economic sense to them (even if it doesn't to you).
     
  6. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Hrm, reading between the lines, I'd say that the opinion here can be summed up as follows:

    Good help is hard to find.

    Kuan
     
  7. alexia

    alexia

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    Following up on the economic issues mentioned, I thought I'd stick my non-professional thoughts in here. Over the last several years a number of better bakeries (I think of them as the butter bakeries) have opened up in the more affluent corners of our metropolitan area (not NYC). I believe this reflects a growing sophistication about food and an increased concern on the part of many about the quality of what they eat. I think there's ever expanding space for bakeries that do it in the traditional way rather than emulate harried mothers who turn to mixes. I've seen this in other smaller cities, too.

    We have 3 bakeries in the "neighborhood": one that has been in business very successfully for 20+ years, the most recent has opened within the last year. They couldn't be more different.

    The older one is a "2-store-front" operating on the main street with one side selling a wide variety of baked goods, the other selling hand dipped ice cream (not home made). It's appears as if a substantial part, if not all, of their product is from mixes that are overly decorated. After my initial tastings of many years ago I have never bought bakery goods there, travelling much farther for them.

    Within walking distance of them is a new bakery in a corner of a little cul-de-sac cluster of shops just off the business street. Fortunately, it has a young CIA-type graduate who grew up in the area. She makes incredible, real croissants and pastries made from the same dough, scones to die for (and from), and elegant, tasty tarts and cakes that are beautifully decorated. These are all clearly made from scratch with high quality materials. Because of this, the new business is successful despite the proximity of a well established bakery. (She has coffee & a few tables for those of us who just can't wait to get the goodies home.)

    It shows that there's room for both sorts of business. There are lots of people out there who are all too happy to eat mix-type cakes as long as they are suitably (over)decorated, but there's also a strong market for bakeries that focus on products made from scratch in quality materials. Just as you suggest that there are economic issues that lead to using mixes, I suggest that there are niches waiting for those professionals who want to establish bakeries using traditional techniques and high quality materials.

    As far as I can tell it's happening in many cities. One of my sons lives in a city of about 100, 000 people that has at least 3 good retail bakeries. Doesn't a potential customer base willing to absorb the possibly higher cost of producing higher quality baked goods present an opportunity for ambitious bakers wanting to start their own business?
     
  8. w.debord

    w.debord

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    This place has alot of problems, it's basicly all problems not alot is right. Right in the sense of profitable, good tasting., well managed.......

    They have good help (and seem over staffed & under managed to me), the situation is the handicap.

    They do enough business to need 2 full time people in the front thrus., fri. & sat.

    Their prices are too low and their labor is through the roof.

    I can see using some mixes and buckets of some items. Just over all isn't buying in everything got to cost a fortune? I don't know how to figure out a comparision between this type of bakery and a scratch place in costs........... specificly how to look at profitablity comparisions?

    The product they are selling the most quanity on are the decorated sugar cookies and cakes. So people are coming for custom vs. quality. So then if I had a scratch bakery how would I.........
     
  9. anneke

    anneke

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    Wendy, just curious: how did you come to pick that bakery over others?

    Are there bakeries in your area that better reflect the kind of production that closer matches your quality standards?

    PS: Good for you for getting out there to learn!;)
     
  10. w.debord

    w.debord

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    How to answer your ?'s.

    At the moment I'm not looking at how to sharpen my skills I'm looking to learn what the guys on the other side of the street are doing. Trying to learn what I know the least about and have speculated about for years. Discovering my speculations were right and wrong.

    What are they doing well? What do customers buy/want from them?


    What's needed out there and how to fill that need in a profitable manor. I've been working in upscale wealthy areas, is the middle class the same?

    Why aren't there successful upscale bakeries on every corner? Why do the bucket bakeries last longer then the scratch?
     
  11. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    I bet most established retail bakeries which have been in business for umpteem years USED to do things the old fashioned way. Mixes are like the sewing machine. Increased production, less variance, and less skill required to turn out an acceptable product. I still think it's possible to turn out a great product using mixes. It's just that everyone has the same mixes. Just be glad you don't have a job at the local COSTCO decorating cakes :)

    BTW, I miss hearing the crust crackle when the bread is fresh out of the oven. What a feeling!

    Kuan
     
  12. panini

    panini

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    In this economy the bakery business has to combine labor with cogs to be run efficient. We used to plug in labor at a certain % across the board. But we must now calculate individual labor in relationship to each product. We no longer afford a benchman(scaling-filling-etc.), production finisher(flip pans-score breads etc.) . Replacing these positions comes from overlapping with skilled labor at a higher price. It is very hard to remain up-scale and profitable now a days. You must market yourself as a tradition with your customers like the old days. If they don't think of you as soon as the bakery thought comes to mind you will never succeed.
    The mixes become cost efficient when you factor labor and shrink.
    It cost me $770. to move a 60 qt mixer across towm because of the weight. Required a special lift on the truck.
     
  13. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    I'm not a food professional, just a foodie. However, it costs about $350 to move a 9 foot pool table across town and set up. So doesn't $770 sound a bit high for moving a large mixer?
     
  14. panini

    panini

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    I'm assuming a mixer is much more difficult to move then a pool table. It cannot be put on its side or anything. The movers had to be commercial equipment movers. It was so top heavy and all the weight is concentrated ina small area .They had to lift it
    onto the dolly with a hoist. I have moved pool tables before but I would not even attempt to move a large mixer. I thought the price was a bargin 4men4 hrs. insured and installed(hard wired)
     
  15. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    We've moved a mixer from one hotel to another before and it required an engine hoist to put it on a pallet, one of those pallet movers, 4 guys, a truck with a liftgate, and beers at the bar for the delivery guys after the job. I think it was 120 quart? We used to put 2 cases of potatoes in there for mashed potatoes. You can't even lift the bowl alone unless you're one of those guys competing in the World's strongest Man competition. It was quite an epic.

    Kuan
     
  16. isaac

    isaac

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    my two cents:

    on the mix issue... i cant stand the majority of box mix products out there.. speically the cake mixes. a restaurant that i apprentashipped at used box mixes.. fine for that place sence there was no real bakers there... the sad story.. even the cooks screwed up the box mix... he he ..

    anyway... when i was working in a hotel... we costed out maiking our own bread it and it was SOOOOOO much cheaper. you would think there would be some waste... bench flour into the garbage... NOPE.. we sifted it and put it back into the container.

    we made all of our cakes from scratch... you think there would be some waste from cutting the little hump off the top.. NOPE... we made brownies out of them.

    i know that box mixes are cheaper versus scratch cakes.... however... i think if you buy the ingredents for scratch cakes in bulk.. it will even out. example... the store by my house sells cake flour... 2 pounds for 3 bucks. that would really make scratch cakes expensive. however... a 50 pound bag is 9 bucks at a bulk grocery store. so i think there is potential for cost competing for the two products.

    you can also taste a big differance in box mix and scratch cakes.

    i do... however.. agree that one would need experianced labor to make it all happen.

    i dont know... that is just what i think
     
  17. shimmer

    shimmer

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    Where I work, we have boxed mixes on the shelf, in case we are suddenly without enough desserts and need something fast. Even then, they have never just followed the directions. It is always a glorified mix- added pudding, fruit, butter, etc, etc, etc.

    I have worked in commercial bakeries as a cake decorator. They all use the same distributor, the difference is always the actual labor as far as the intricacy of decoration, but for instance when I worked at a local grocery store they far preferred quantity (and believe me, gawdy, ugly cakes) over quality. I think I lasted there two weeks. The grocery store before that had snooty customers, so we had the dilemna of very high volume vs. very few workers and even less time. It is possible to create good quality in a short amount of time, if the workers are talented enough. I agree with Kwan, this is the root problem.

    Anyway, where I work now we are constantly getting samples of mixes from our distributors. We often try them out, just to see. People like the made-from-scratch stuff best, so we stick with that. They've had to hire extra pastry people, but that is because they want to maintain the quality (I"m also happy about it because I was one of those hired). The amount of ideas that are brought in and tried out is enormous. There are a few things we make every day (according to customer demand) but other than that, it is just the premise "We need to feed x amount of people." But my point is this- how many "new" things can you try that are mixes? There are only so many flavors. When you start with actual ingredients, from scratch, the sky is the limit. When you control the texture, the flavor, the mouth-feel, there are so many more possibilities. To be limited to mixes is to continue to stifle creativity.

    W. DeBord- I think we can all guess that you are not the type of person that could last very long in this type of mix/pre-made kind of situation. Hooray!!!:bounce:

    ~~Shimmer~~