Once you’ve graduated from culinary academy, the sky’s the limit as far as career options. While some people opt to work to become a restaurant’s head chef, and others hit the road with their very own food trucks, many chefs decide that opening a bakery is the way to go.
Baking is huge in the U.S., as the industry employs some 706,000 people generating $102 billion in annual economic activity, according to the American Bakers Association. But before you start crafting cupcakes or whipping up wafers, it’s important to plan accordingly and know what lies ahead (and not just loads of tasty treats). Here are four helpful tips for starting your own bakery:
“The baking industry employs 706,000 people nationwide.”
1. Garner some experience
Tina Casaceli is a master pastry chef operating in New York City. Speaking with The Street, she said that all young chefs need ample experience before opening a bakery. Start your career by working for someone else, as this is the time to master skills like cake decorating and making the softest dough. Baking involves a lot of trial and error, and it’s a good idea to really comprehend the basics before going it on your own. But you’ll need other experience as well. Joining professional organizations, like the Retail Bakers of America, can help you understand the specifics that going into managing a bakery, including administrative tasks like taxes, promotions and marketing, and securing a supply chain.
2. Specialize your business
As of 2014, there were a total of 2,800 commercial bakeries in the U.S., according to SBDCNet. And that’s not counting the hundreds of mom-and-pop stores that dot America’s big cities and small towns. With that much competition, it’s no wonder that the Houston Chronicle suggested that bakeries choose a specialty. Are you going to serve only cookies, or would you be interested in assembling tasty wedding cakes? Will your bakery be entirely Kosher or emphasize gluten-free products? This decision will help set your business apart and drum up customers .
3. You’ll need plenty of dough
Like so many other endeavors in the food industry, bakeries aren’t cheap. Entrepreneur magazine explained that it’ll cost between $10,000 and $50,000 to start the average bakery. For that kind of money, you’ll need to consider a bank loan, and that can be a lengthy process in and of itself. There are other financial considerations as well, like rent, the terms of your lease, cost of supplies and marketing. To help with costs, NerdWallet suggested a few money-saving tips. For one, you should lease any equipment. It’s also important to know when you’ll break even to help control costs and establish financial goals. Ultimately, though, the best way to make money is to keep customers coming in, and that involves engaging people through word-of-mouth advertising and attending special events.
4. Location is vital
Though costs matter, Hcareers mentioned that the actual spacing of your future bakery is just as important. You want to choose a spot that can draw in the most people possible, and that means choosing the right neighborhood. The Houston Chronicle said that an area with a base of 1,000 to 2,000 families is optimal. You also need to think about the size of the bakery’s building, and whether it can accommodate ovens, storage space, counters, shelves, and tables and chairs. There are other considerations, like the need for a bathroom, and your local planning department usually has a list of requirements.