There isn't much that can't be done online anymore, and that includes earning a diploma in the professional pastry arts.
As our online pastry students know, flavor and texture profiles, techniques, ingredient sourcing, storage and a variety of other baking elements can be taught via the web. Virtual courses that include video instructions, images, PDFs and other digital materials can act as the basis of course information. Meanwhile, online communications including video conferencing and email make it easy to collaborate with culinary arts professors.
But why stop there? If you can earn a culinary diploma online, we see no reason why you can't also apply those skills through the web. Starting an online bakery is certainly a very different type of undertaking than launching a classic, brick-and-mortar pastry shop. However, bakers can and have done it with great success, and you can too.
Home bakery, or ghost restaurant?
Technically, there are a few ways to think of an online bakery, and they all generally promise lower overhead than a traditional bakery with a front of house. With a home bakery, you make everything in your house and then ship it, or deliver it, out to customers.
Another option to is to rent a small space to use as your kitchen and base of operations. Unlike a traditional bakery with displays and foot traffic, it would be closed off to the public. This concept – which is called a ghost restaurant – has become increasingly popular over the years. Much like a home-bakery setup, you would take orders and accept payment online, and then deliver the goods straight to the customer's house.
In theory, you could also start as a home bakery and scale up as business improves by moving into a bigger space. There is only so much room in your home kitchen, after all. As you begin taking more orders, you may want to consider moving into a space that can sustain heftier equipment.
The of course there's the fourth option: Start a small shop and use the internet as a way to scale your bakery.
What you'll need
First, you'll need a vision for your bakery. What types of baked goods will you make? Keep in mind that some pastries keep better than others, which could be important for delivery and shipping purposes.
You also need to establish the size of your market. Confections such as truffles, chocolates and cookies, for instance, travel better than a three-tiered cake. This doesn't mean you can't ship more delicate baked goods. But keep in mind that it's more expensive, especially if you require temperature-controlled shipping. For the majority of startup online bakeries, it may make sense to stick to a local or regional market, depending on the types of pastries you carry, and then expand after you have that local presence.
For a home bakery or ghost bakery, you'll also need an online presence to be an online bakery. That means having a website that summarizes your shop's mission, its story and what makes it unique – and also promoting that site on social media pages for your business. You should also provide your menu, information about how to order and an FAQ page that mentions your delivery zone and shipping timelines.
As for actually taking orders, you could use an online marketplace like Goldbelly.com as a customer portal. For more local deliveries, GrubHub, DoorDash and Uber Eats are all viable options. You could also have your own customer portal on your site, but that will require more maintenance and setup on your part.
At a much more basic level, you'll need to register your bakery the secretary of state's office to make it a legal business entity, and brush up on state, local and federal regulations governing the sales of food.
There's a lot more ground to cover regarding starting a bakery – online or brick-and-mortar – than can fit in one article. But you can learn a lot more about both the creative and business sides of running an online pastry shop through our online pastry arts program.