So You Want To Start A Bakery

Have you ever passed a bakery and thought you had the skill and talent to open your own? You may have a few great recipes up your sleeve, but moist cupcakes and chewy cookies won’t be nearly enough to brave the road to bakery success. Your starting capital, location, and your choice to franchise or go it alone are only a few of the things you will need to settle on when considering how to start a bakery business.

Once these decisions are made, you’ll need to make sure you purchase the right baking equipment and supplies to outfit your business. Having them will enable you and your staff to create only the finest cakes, breads, and more.

Solo or Franchise?

The idea of opening a bakery from scratch can be terrifying to some. This is one reason why many people choose to open a franchise. While franchises do have their perks - like already having an established name, a fan base, and, in some cases, help with startup costs - they aren’t entirely hassle free.

Capital is the name of the game with any business, especially a franchise. To give you a better idea of what your bottom line may look like, consult the following chart that shows a few popular bakery franchises and their costs. Bear in mind that franchise fees are a one-time set up fee. Royalties are percentages that the franchisee pays every year. Some of these fees may be reduced after several years. The total invest estimates these fees as well as property purchases or leases and equipment:

FRANCHISE FRANCHISE FEE ROYALTY FEE TERM OF AGREEMENT TOTAL INVESTMENT
Great American Cookie Co. $30,000 6% Concurrent w/ Lease $138,000 to $680,000
Cinnabon $30,000 5% 10 to 20 Years $175,000 to $362,960
Great Harvest $3,000 to $30,000 4 to 7% 10 Years $107,000 to $476,350

Not franchising? You’ll still need quite a bit of capital to start your own bakery. Save your money, acquire investors, or investigate small business loans if you’d rather have an independent store.

Getting the Details Right

Just like any other retail business, location is the most important aspect when you're planning to open a bakery. The most successful bakery locations tend to be found on busy streets near restaurants, schools, and other businesses. Not only do these locations have busy car traffic, they tend to have high foot traffic volume as well.

Many are jumping on the bakery band wagon, so setting yourself apart from the competition couldn’t be more important. Marketing your bakery will only help your cause. Be sure to hand out business cards and advertise, and you may even want to hand out a lot of samples of your best goods. Building a flavor-filled menu for your bakery can be challenging, but making unique baked goods will make your establishment more likely to succeed. Also, don’t be afraid of choosing a specialty such as cupcakes or artisanal breads, and be sure to keep those with food allergies and preferences in mind. There is a large market for vegan, nut-free, and gluten-free baked goods, so you may choose to launch a menu in one of these realms.

Another important factor in the decision-making process will be the type of bakery business you’ll want. An online bakery certainly has its advantages, in that you can save on the costs associated with having a building. With an online bakery, you can post your previous accomplishments and people can often place their orders there, or call if they have special requests or questions.

When most people dream of operating a bakery, however, they tend to think of a storefront with display cases filled with their most creative confections or rows upon rows of savory bread. Some people even dream of taking their storefront and turning into a full-fledged restaurant by offering sandwiches made with their own breads. If you choose a storefront or restaurant, this will include a whole host of new equipment considerations.

Equip the Back of the House

To bake, you must start out with the proper equipment.

Ovens

As a baker, the most important piece of equipment you'll need is an oven. Starting out with a smaller commercial oven is a great way to get your feet wet, but you'll most likely eventually need a full-size convection oven. These ovens are a great option for your bakery as they cook much quicker than standard ovens, enabling your bakery to complete orders more efficiently. However, convection ovens aren't recommended for all cooking applications. Some batters, such as soufflés, will not hold up to the force of the air.

Baking up dozens of batches of cookies, however, is a snap with a convection oven, especially ones that rotate the racks so you don't have to. Convection ovens have either solid or glass doors and the doors may open dependently or independently. Independent doors have a lower initial price, but dependent doors offer single-handed operation. They can be stacked up to three ovens high, allowing you to expand your cooking space. You'll want to make sure that the oven you pick will be accessible to your staff.

You also may choose to purchase a deck oven, particularly if you're baking layered cakes and breads. These ovens can have up to four compartments that have upper and lower elements that can be controlled independently. Many also offer regulators on the sides to help distribute heat more evenly.

Another invaluable piece of equipment is a proofing oven, which proofs dough and bakes it in one convenient unit. If baking bread is on your agenda, you may wish to purchase a unit that has a steam injector. The steam provides a nice crust on loaves of bread.

Mixers

More likely than not, your bakery will need at least one heavy duty commercial mixer that will hold up to constant use as you consider how to open a bakery. If you’re starting out small we suggest a cake mixer. If you’re planning on having a lot of business or if you’ll be supplying local restaurants with fresh baked goods, a larger floor mixer will likely be in order. If you'll be putting on a high volume of bread or bagels, you may find that a dough mixer will hold up better to dense dough and constant demand.

Refrigeration

No matter how large or small your operation will be, you'll need to invest in some refrigeration equipment. Reach-in refrigerators are ideal for most busy kitchens. They will have the capacity to keep just about everything you need cold until it's ready to use. You may also opt for worktop refrigerators that will give you workspace in addition to keeping your ingredients at safe temperatures. These are great for keeping certain ingredients more handy, like decorations, add-ins, and frostings. Blast chillers will be especially helpful in preparing cookie dough before baking by cooling the dough to allow it to be cut or shaped more easily. They can also be used to speed the chilling process for items like cheesecakes.

Tables and Racks

Bakers' tables will be necessary for rolling, kneading, and cutting dough. These are typically stainless steel stands that have either a stainless steel or wooden top. They often have shelves or drawers below for extra storage.

You'll need racks to allow dough to rise before baking and to hold products while they cool. These racks can hold dozens of full- or half-size baking sheets and may be stationary or have wheels to make them mobile. For extra protection against contaminants, and to keep dust off of your racks while you're not using them, you might consider a rack cover made of plastic or polyester. Some of these are even insulated for better proofing results.

Smallwares

It is with these smaller baking supplies that you'll create your individual mark with your business Other supplies you’ll certainly need include:

Storage

Fresh ingredients will make or break a bakery business. A number of options are available to help keep your products stored safely and efficiently, whether it be flour that will be stored long-term or fresh fruit that will have a very limited shelf life. Ingredient bins are available with capacities of more than 200 pounds that are ideal for storing dry ingredients like flour, sugar, and grains. Food boxes have matching lids that can be tightly secured to keep air, contaminants, and other undesirable elements from invading your ingredients. Dunnage racks will allow you to keep everything off the floor, which will help keep you in compliance with local health codes.

Carts

A number of carts will help you do a multitude of tasks both in the kitchen and out. If you'll be making elaborate, multi-tiered wedding or other specialty occasion cakes, a utility cart will help you move the cake without destroying it. These carts can also help you move heavy bags of flour, sugar, and meal.

Equip the Front of the House

Merchandise Display Cases

Bakery display cases will be a vital component to tempting your customers with your creations and keeping those creations fresh. They are available in refrigerated and non-refrigerated versions, so you may need more than one to fit your needs. Most of these are accessible from behind, but a few allow for easy customer access.

Furnishings

The aromas in a bakery don't have to be the only enticements into your establishment. Comfortable seating and attractive fixtures will help create an ambiance that will keep customers coming back. Offering up fresh coffee or other beverages to accompany their baked goods may lead them to stay a bit longer, which could generate more sales and profits. If you decide to pair up your baked goodies with a cup of joe, you'll need to make sure you have coffee makers and all the supplies that go with them. Other beverage options may require drink dispensers and ice makers.

Labor Needs

Let’s say you’re a master baker and are opting to handle all aspects of your business yourself. It may benefit you to have at least one extra set of hands at the ready in the event of emergencies such as overbooking.

If you’re opening a storefront, café, or restaurant, you’ll need to hire a team of people to make your bakery run smoothly. You’ll want to ensure that the people you hire are honest and dependable. You’ll also need to make sure you have the supplies they need to be successful parts of your team. Ultimately, if your team doesn’t care about you or your establishment, that attitude will transfer to your customers, and you’ll potentially lose business.

Maximize Your Potential

So, you have the location, you have the people, and you have most of the equipment. A few additional pieces and you could expand your offerings exponentially. With a commercial slicer, you could take your freshly-baked bread and pile it high with sliced meat, cheese, and vegetables. Even better, you could toast it on a panini press or grill it on a countertop griddle. Soup from a soup warmer also pairs well with warm, baked bread.

Licensing & Permits

As with any food business, there are licenses and permits your business will need, as well as insurance and employer tax identification numbers. The paperwork your business will need differs from among states and municipalities. Go to the Small Business Administration site to use their tool to help clarify, which permits and licenses you will need to begin your journey to bakery success in your specific area.