The Rise of ‘Micro-Patisseries’ and Specialty Bakeries

By Brian Harris

boulange-bakery

I’m convinced that for every person who wants a kale smoothie, there’s someone else who wants a cinnamon sticky bun.

It’s easy to look at the cupcake trend and say it was a bust. The chain that quickly comes to mind is Crumbs, which closed several dozen of its locations in 2014. In fact, this article chronicles the closings of popular chain bakeries like Mrs. Fields and Krispy Kreme.

You’ll notice that all of these chains have one thing in common, though; they all offered one type of item. As Technomic’s Darren Tristano famously said, “A cupcake shop today can’t survive on just cupcakes.”

So, who can be successful in this bakery business? I didn’t have to look far to find the answer. In fact, all I had to do was walk a mile away from this office to Pinkie’s Bakery in San Francisco.

Founder Cheryl Burr is diversifying her product offerings. She’s taken over a 1,200-sq.-ft. kitchen to double the bakery’s wholesale clients from 20 to 40 accounts. Pinkie’s original SoMa location will produce American classics like muffins and bread, while the new Bernal Heights location will look to expand into croissants and French boulangerie-type pastries.

Speaking of boulangerie, La Boulange is preparing for a renaissance. Starbucks bought the beloved San Francisco bakery chain in 2012 for $100 million. After founder Pascal Rigo helped the Starbucks roll out new recipes across its chain, Starbucks suddenly announced in August that  it would close La Boulange standalone bakeries in the Bay Area, while keeping the brand name for bakery products.

Meanwhile, Rigo said he will reopen six of the stores in San Francisco under the banner of La Boulangerie de San Francisco. Everyone loves a comeback, but the bakery faces one big challenge: increased competition.

Burr of Pinkie’s is aware of this challenge. “When we opened in 2010, there was us and La Boulange, but now there is Craftsman and Wolves, Flour & Co. a huge upsurgence of ‘micro-patisseries,” she said.

Simplified Operation + Steady Growth = Sweet Success

If you’re in the bakery business, this idea of micro-patisseries is a trend worth noting. Just from the examples in my own neighborhood, I see smaller bakery chains that are more in touch with their customer base and better at localizing their offerings. How can larger coffee chains enhance their offerings while still having that small-shop atmosphere?

It will take a talented staff, exceptional management and superior communication for quality control and inventory. No matter how you slice it, these are the fundamentals of a successful foodservice operation that brings in the bread.

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