It’s never been a better time to open an online pastry shop. That’s a bold statement considering how unfortunate 2020 was for restaurants – except those with a strong online presence, which are thriving.
Just look at the numbers: Online food delivery services grew at a 20% rate in 2020 alone. And the growth is only going to continue. Projections for the next 4 years are for online food delivery services to grow an additional 5% each and every year.
Why not consider, then, leaving aside the trouble and expenses of a physical door for your bakery or pastry shop and use a website and a food delivery service instead?
In this article we’ll cover the basics of starting an online pastry shop to give you an idea of everything you might need to consider to make that dream a reality.
But first, consider that running a pastry business is no easy task. It isn’t for amateurs or hobbyists. If you’re serious about improving your technical skills in the pastry arts and balancing that with business and entrepreneurship, it might make sense to consider a formal pastry arts education. Business is complex, and it helps to follow in the footsteps of those who have already gone down the path you want to follow.
We’ll come back to the education part in a minute. For now, let’s talk about your menu, your business plan, building a website, and what might make your idea a success.
Develop Your Menu
There is no pastry shop without pastries! The first thing you need to do to build an online pastry shop is decide what you’ll serve.
The essential question is: What will make you stand out from the other online pastry shops? Will your cookies be the biggest in town? Will your cupcakes have unique flavor combinations? Will your creations be staid and traditional, or flamboyant and provocative?
You want people not only buying what you create, you want them to brag about it to their friends.
And here’s a tip: Focus on just one type of pastry and bake it well! Following this practice can make your shop the place to order cupcakes online or the website for macarons.
And by the way: Menu design and management is an entire course in the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts Baking and Pastry curriculum, including price analysis and making use of available resources.
Write Your Business Plan
Maybe you’ve got amazing pastries—but will you make money? If not, all you’ve done is build yourself an expensive hobby.
That’s why you’ve got to write a business plan. This is an overview of your business and why it operates. If you had to describe your business and how it operates to someone, this document would tell them everything they need to know.
As you write your plan, you’ll get to know your market, your competition, and your consumers’ habits. Escoffier’s students complete and present a business plan as part of the Building Your Own Business course.
Knowledge of your competition helps you carve out your own style and creative niche to differentiate your offering from everyone else’s. Are you serving hungry college students late at night, or church-goers on a Sunday morning?
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You have to know your customer base and understand what motivates them to buy. Then just serve them pastries and baked goods that are so amazing, they won’t be able to stop talking about you.
Set Up Your Kitchen
The next thing to consider when building an online pastry shop is where you will bake your products.
Some pastry chefs prefer to use their kitchens at home. The risk of using your home kitchen is not having enough space or the necessary tools. Also, many jurisdictions won’t even allow operating a food business from your own home for health code reasons. Be sure to check with your local business licensing authorities before charging ahead.
Another option is to rent a ghost kitchen. In the age of food delivery, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, ghost kitchens have become extremely popular. Now chefs can rent out commercial kitchens without having a restaurant attached to them.
“I explored renting out a [ghost] kitchen that provided 100% delivery and curbside. So, we’re basically using a ghost kitchen model to run the food truck now.”
Nahika Hillery, Culinary Arts Graduate & Owner of Kreyòl Korner Caribbean Cuisine
This is the perfect opportunity for online pastry shop owners to bake their products in a professional kitchen without shelling out the money for a storefront bakery.
Get a Website
Since you’re building an online pastry shop, it’s time to consider the digital aspect of managing an online business. From branding to marketing to actually conducting business, it’s essential to become familiar with online resources and platforms. Other than baking, you’ll be doing almost everything digitally.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything on your own. You will probably have to outsource some help to get the best results for your business.
Build a Website (or Have Someone Build It For You!)
If you’re an online pastry shop, you obviously need a website. And unless you’re a really techie person, you’ll probably need someone to help you with that part.
You’ll probably be using an integrated e-commerce platform such as WooCommerce or Shopify. If you don’t know what those are, no need to worry…that’s why you’ll need an expert to help you with that part. You bake, they build your site, and you’re on your way.
And don’t forget about marketing. A website is useless if nobody knows it’s there. Fortunately, there are plenty of inexpensive and accessible marketing options such as promoting on social media, where you can build a base of raving fans who can share your amazing pastries with their friends.
Deliver Amazing Pastries
Now that you have the fundamentals of your online pastry shop figured out, it’s time to think about how it will operate.
You’ll need to create processes and routines, so your business runs smoothly. What are the steps from the moment when you first receive an order to the minute it leaves your kitchen in a nicely packaged box?
How will you get your pastries from the kitchen and into your customers’ hands? This is the moment to decide whether you will use a shipping service and mail out your orders, or use instant delivery services such as Uber Eats, DoorDash, or GrubHub.
The Next Step Towards Your Pastry Business
Getting from where you are now to online pastry entrepreneur may seem daunting at the moment, but it doesn’t have to be. Plenty of others before you have plodded the path from dreaming about owning their own pastry business to making it a reality.
The hard way is to try to figure everything out on your own.
The other way—that’s admittedly not easy, but perhaps smarter— is to follow the mentorship of Pastry Chef Instructors. These are leaders in the field who have seen and experienced it all. They don’t allow mediocrity…they hold you to a higher standard. They’re there not to give up on you, even when you think about giving up on yourself.
“The knowledge from Escoffier has given me the skills and confidence not only in my baking, but to take my baking and creations to the next level.”
Trista Besecker, Online Pastry Arts Graduate
Now it’s your turn. Escoffier’s online baking and pastry programs are designed to help you explore the art of baking while also learning entrepreneurship skills to start and manage a business. Get a plan for your future by requesting information on our Pastry Arts school today.
If you found this Pastry Arts and Food Entrepreneurship article interesting, try reading these next:
- 8 Skills That Every Baker Should Have
- How Culinary School Can Help You Write and Implement a Business Plan
- How Ghost Restaurants and Ghost Kitchens Lower Startup Risks
This article was originally published on November 22, 2019, and has been updated.