Starting this week (Jan. 5 to be exact) Smittybread Bakery will no longer offer sandwiches, soups or sides. We will instead focus on our core business of breads and pastries, which have been the mainstay of Smittybread Bakery from the beginning.
This change, in addition to helping us provide the best breads and pastries possible, will have several other positive effects. For one, it reduce wait times and congestion in our lobby, a key consideration as COVID continues to spread rapidly through our community.
It will also free up time for me, as owner and sole manager of the business, to make sure I’m doing everything I can to make sure the bakery succeeds. And I believe success lies in turning our full attention to satisfying the majority of our customers who rely on Smittybread for sourdough bread, baguettes, croissants, pretzels, morning buns, Italian bread, granola and more.
Additionally, the change will free up space in the bakery for more efficient production of those core products, allowing us to possibly expand our reach to other areas of the community.
This is a major change for Smittybread, and it comes as we continue to struggle, as have so many other businesses, to cope with the the challenges triggered by the COVID pandemic. But COVID isn’t the only reason for the change. Two other considerations are financial and personal.
Financially, the sandwich side of the bakery has always been a concern due to the relatively high cost of inputs, such as really good deli meats and cheeses. In fact, after reviewing the numbers closely over the holiday break I came to the not-so-startling conclusion that sandwiches and soups have been at best a break-even proposition for some time. This was a disappointing fact considering how much energy, time, space and money it takes to provide prepared food.
Yet I was reluctant to let the sandwich line go, in part because it has been part of my business plan since Day 1. (The night before our first day of business five years ago I stayed up all night shopping for last-minute items such as peanut butter and pickles to make sure we would be ready for our first deli customers. It was the first and, gladly, only all-nighter I’ve pulled since opening the bakery).
Another reason I hesitated to make this change is the number of loyal customers who regularly come to us for breakfast or lunch. Deli customers are always a welcome sight on days when bread and pastry sales are slow. And, as one who eats out regularly, I understand how difficult it is to find quality prepared food on the local scene.
Fortunately for us over the past two years bread and pastry sales have grown enough to more than keep us busy. Perhaps the stress and change in buying patterns brought about by the pandemic steered customers in our direction as they sought out healthier food options, smaller crowds, and familiar faces.
I can only hope that bread and pastry sales will remain strong and that the additional space we have for production will make for more efficient production and less stress for employees and myself. I also hope that, with the management burden of running the deli off my shoulders, I will have more time to spend on product development, marketing, customer service and, most importantly, family.
By the way, we are not laying off any employees to make this change. We are reassigning current staff to other jobs, and natural attrition will take care of the rest in the short term. Over the next few months, if this decision is the right one, we will likely employ even more people to keep up with bread and pastry demand. Wish us luck!