An ethics-related question in dealing with unscrupulous competition

Joined Apr 7, 2010
Hello pastry friends,

I've opened a very small bakery in a very small town recently, and am doing quite well with it. I've been doing business under the same brand name out of outside kitchens over two years, and already had a bit of a following so things are going well.

I'm baking for wholesale accounts & special orders and prepping for special events and bakery stock all week, and then I'm open to the public on the weekends, Friday through Sunday. We're a tourist town and there's a university literally a few feet away, so the model is working well for me thus far. The other bakery in town has taken to essentially copying part of my formula and presenting it exclusively during my days of business and promising that everything is handcrafted from scratch using old world recipes. Most everything comes in on Sysco trucks and they don't actually make anything from scratch aside from cheesecake. basically, their advertising isn't carefully worded, as in, "baked fresh on site"-- they're just blatantly lying.

I'm getting a lot of feedback from both industry contemporaries and casual friends and other business owners that I should take an active stand and make an effort to contradict their advertising. 

Am I naive to think that the best course of action is to simply focus on my product and customer service and not worry about what the other bakery does? My plan of action, if you could even consider it one, was simply to keep my head down, keep plugging away, and worry about my integrity-- not that of the other bakery. 

In your experiences in the field, when competition swoops in to purposefully mislead people in order effectively compete, do you actively engage? or simply monitor what they're advertising and carry on with your own work? 

In the past, I've taken the "oh, just work hard and be honest" road, and at times, it's blown up in my face. How do you handle something like this? Do you start advertising the uniqueness of your product more heavily to discern it from competitors? Do people actually have success with subtle, passive aggressive challenges to competing business?

I don't really want to engage in battle that will inevitably turn into a war I don't want to fight. I just want to keep doing what I'm doing, and as long as customers continue to come in and are happy, I don't see any use in worrying TOO much about what the other guys do unless it were to reach a point where they actually point the finger at me/my business/my product in the public sphere and criticize it.

Am I right? Take the high road? Just work hard and trust in the quality of my product?

What do you think? What are your experiences with this?

Thanks, everyone, in advance for your feedback. 
Joined Jun 27, 2012
I wouldn't worry about it.

Small towns are the worst for gossip and if your friends are urging you to poke the bear they may not be the best choice of friends.

Maybe use the slogan "Still the Original" if you feel you have to do SOMETHING but stay away from the whole Sysco thing.

You have a really good gig going with the wholesale customers and faithful repeat business on the weekends.

Peeps who purchase bakery products on a frequent basis can tell the difference.

Just this other place undercutting your prices?

If so lol... they fall into the cheap cake lady category!



Kitchen Dork
Joined Jun 15, 2006
Small town. Drama. You don't want to go there, you really don't. If that other bakery is making false claims about their products, people will figure it out. You don't need to say a word. Let your stuff speak for itself because it speaks the loudest. Attacking the integrity of another establishment, even if it's well founded, only creates a lot of bad feelings and it's a lose-lose situation. The cream always rises to the top.
Joined Apr 7, 2010
@flipflopgirl they are definitely undercutting prices. but it hasn't had much of an impact on me, i'm still selling out.

i understand that now that we have two bakeries, one of us is doomed to become known as the lesser bakery. i understand that she doesn't want it to be her. i don't want it to be me, either. but i don't think she's going to win this fight by lying and not making quality product.

i'm glad to see i'm on the same page with everyone. i just.. i can't get into this stuff with people. it's middle school all over again, and there isn't enough money in the world that could get me to travel back to those corridors. 

thanks for the thoughtful input, everyone. i kind of knew i was right is choosing not to play along, but i really needed to hear it from some even-keeled industry alums.

thank you.

**addendum: as far as the people encouraging me to poke the bear? i think folks are just too eager to see someone challenge the other bakery owner because she's very.. prickly. and domineering. unfortunately, i'm not that somebody.
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
What flip-flop says....

The questions I get from customers  that really make the hair on the back of my neck stand up are:

Are you the owner?

How much rent do you pay?/How much money do you make?

What do you think about "X" down the road, does his stuff suck badly or what?

Like flip flop said, people want something to gossip about.  If someone can get a rise out of you, a statement that your stuff is superior, or that X down the road has rats doing the baking and mice unloading the suck-co truck, well then isn't a nice bit of news?  And if X responds and a war of sorts starts, then that's all the more interesting.

On the other hand, you could put up a sign outside of your place saying "No parking for Sysco trucks"........
Joined Jul 28, 2001
@Alisha Nicole  ,

You answered your own question in your OP. Personally I feel that you've wasted too much time on your competitor already. You are not even sure that she is

in competition with you. As you go along in business, you will find that competition is a good thing. It should be your motivation to keep a quality and consistent product. We have been in

our original space for more then 18 yrs. We've seen them come and go. We used to sell a fair amount of cupcakes a couple of yrs. ago, and then, they put a 6000 sq.ft. Sprinkles 

cupcakes in the same center. No one could understand why I was not concerned. Still have never tasted one. The result was that our cupcake production has probably quadrupled since

then. Two years ago, the slum lord landlord  next door to us (don't get me wrong, $ 51.00 sq. ft.) let a Gluten free bakery finish out and open 2 doors down from me. My landlord was furious.

I just chuckled and told him, I love competition, and I knew it would increase bakery traffic to our part of the center. Now, the first G. F. bakery has already gone out after a year and a new one has come in.

   It's good to keep up with the goings on around you, but I would not concern myself with them. The Sysco thing. There really is no way of combatting the truth in advertising about scratch baking.

There have been a couple of lawsuits in the past against grocery stores. Realistically it would cost more money than anyone has. It's governed by The Federal Trade Commission which

bumps it to the federal level. It would then have to become a class action lawsuit. It would also have to prove that these customers were hurt by the advertisement and incurred damages.

    Look at it this way, if you are a tourist town, then be thankful that the other bakery may drive more traffic to your area for baked goods and might increase your revenue.

I guess what I'm saying is " Embrace Competition" for your own benefit and sanity. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif
Joined Oct 11, 2014
What everyone else in this post has said is the way to go. Listen to those amazing instincts of yours because they are ALWAYS right! You have got this in that bag by the sounds of things and by letting people be free to think and choose for themselves, your handmade scratch product will, once again, ALWAYS win. Place all that wonderful energy that you have towards your products and service. The rest will sort itself out. 

Wishing you all the best, milady! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/peace.gif  
Joined Apr 7, 2015
so long as you are happy with what YOU are doing... don't give a rats ass what anyone else is doing.

you should be amused that they are selling crap.
Joined Mar 4, 2015
Everyone here seems to have the same opinion. Let your product speak for you.

It is hard enough to worry about one business. Competition is there to push one another to improve products, promote your brand, and keep your customers happy. 

if the other bakery can't do that... they may not be there much longer.
Joined Feb 18, 2007
Your product speaks the loudest about your business; focus on that and ignore the drama queen.  The other bakery is running scared and nothing you do or don't do will change that for the other owner.  Things will settle down in time, and I know, it's hard to wait it out (just like school!) but it will pass.  You know that internet meme going around with the "Not my circus. Not my monkeys." ?  She's the one with the circus ;)

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