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Considering mid-life career change to opening a Pastry Shop. Would love input.

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I am a Marketing professional with 20+ years of experience in the food/bev industry, including Pillsbury, General Mills, and the wine industry. I have an MBA in Marketing and good general business management understanding. But, I have become weary of corporate politics and office life, and am considering changing my career path by opening a pastry shop. I have loved to bake virtually since I could walk, and would consider myself an accomplished home cook. I have a fondness for artisan pastry & breads, but no experience in foodservice other than waiting tables years ago. As I evaluate this potential career change, I'd love to get input from other Pastry Shop owners on the following:

 

1. Can I own a successful/profitable pastry shop by hiring out a pastry chef and front-of-house manager, and simply doing the overall business management myself? Or, is it too difficult to make a profit and run a strong business if the owner is not doing one or both of these roles themselves?  Where do you suggest I look to hire these key roles?

 

2. Do I need additional schooling in order to own a successful pastry shop, even if I hire out the roles mentioned above?  If so, which of these do you suggest and why:

 

*French Pastry School (Chicago)- Professional Pastry & Baking program, 24wks

*Kendall College- A.A.S. in Pastry & Baking, 5 quarters

*Kendall College- Hospitality Management (is this needed in order to own/run a successful pastry shop?)

*Le Cordon Bleu (Chicago)- A.A.S. in Pastry & Baking, 2yrs

*Other suggestions??? (do not want to relocate to attend school, so hoping to choose among options in Chicago)

 

3. Any suggestions on how to evaluate potential locations, both zip codes and specific sites? My target will be affluent suburban, but I am wondering if there is a good source for evaluating traffic, other retail sales, etc. that you suggest in considering possible location. 

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 5

Finally! Someone who wants open up a bakery that has marketing and sales experience!

 

I'd go for the Kendall 5 quarters, it's my opinion you don't need hospitality mngmt with your background. 

 

Do you need it?  Talk to some banking boys and see what they think, because you will be needing some kind of financing.  But again, I don't think you need it.

 

You do need to know how to bake though.  Either that, or your head baker is your partner.  A very dedicated partner. I've been sleeping with mine for over 25 years now.  I'm not saying you need to be in the kitchen every day at 5 am, but you need to know just as much, or even more about baking than your employees.  Because if you don't, you can't supervise effectively.  If you don't, employees can use this to "hold you hostage".

 

Location, location, location....

 

What if I told you that most--if not all--bakeries rely on wholesale for well over 80% of their sales?  Can you please verify this?

 

Yes, a good location is nice.  If you have excellent traffic flow and the typical customer spends $10.00, what kind of staffing and opening hours will you need to cover costs?  Of course, a good location = very high rent, not to mention tricky leases and even trickier landlords.  But you'll get to that soon enough.

 

Right now you need to spend some time and money sitting in other people's bakeries.  What sells, what doesn't?  How much is produced on site and how much is frozen? How much business is going out the backdoor (whlsale)?  How educated are the customers?  And most importantly, will the customer put his money where his mouth is?  

 

Hope this has got you thinking

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

foodpump, thank you so much for your input! I really appreciate it, as I have been contemplating pastry programs, and the next session at Kendall begins soon. May I ask why you suggest Kendall versus the French Pastry School? In your opinion, do successful bakeries need both bread and pastry to succeed, both retail and wholesale?

 

I have certainly spent my share of time in bakeries, but I do plan to reach out for a few successful owners among my favorite spots to see if they'd be willing to give me some input on getting started. Good suggestions!

post #4 of 5

Bread needs to be done in high volumes in order for it to be profitable, it also has a very short shelf life.  It's nice to have a few bread items available, but don't count on it to pay the rent.

 

Culinary schools....  Generally I tend to be very suspicious of culinary schools that put a lot of emphasis on advertising and recruitment.  I haven't seen much hype from Kendall....  Seriously though, culinary schools are like any other schools, they're like a piggy bank: You can only get out what you put into them. Right now I've got a practicum student from A.I. who doesn't know what puff-pastry is, still has it confused with choux paste....

 

I'd also suggest you check out the foodservice broadliner's catalouges.  Any bakery item you can imagine is available frozen rtu (ready to use); thaw proof, and bake; thaw and bake; or in a mix.  It's scary, but you have to know what you will be up against, and almost everybody uses the stuff.

 

Then check out the bakery equipment suppliers, not the restaurant suppliers.  Get an idea what equipment costs and what will be required to  use it.

 

Don't be surprised if bakery owners give you the cold shoulder once they figure out what you're doing, they won't like the competition.....

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 

Well, I actually know what puff pastry and choux paste are, so I guess I'm not as far behind as I expected! :) 

 

And, it's partly because all of the frozen/rtb stuff out there that I really long to bring some hand-made from fresh ingredients to the market. I am a purist at heart and think there are enough of us out there willing to pay for that, but I guess I haven't seen the financials yet. 

 

Thanks for sharing the % wholesale range too- it's helpful to know that. I really appreciate the info you shared and your perspective!  

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