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Before dawn, the lights in the Dillon, Montana training bakery glow through the darkness. It’s the culmination of 2 ½ weeks of training here at Great Harvest Franchising Headquarters. Bakery Boot Camp, the final week of training, gives new owners the opportunity to operate the Dillon storefront before they open their own stores.

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Sandwich School

Training begins with three days of Sandwich School. Bakery owners arrive in Dillon to learn how to make Great Harvest’s delicious, signature sandwiches. On day one, they dive in to classroom training, learning how to order ingredients, read recipes, and calculate pricing. Next, they throw on aprons and tackle prep for tomorrow’s sandwich making! Meats and cheeses are sliced, sauces and spreads are created. Vegetables wait until tomorrow because they are prepped fresh every day.

On days two and three of Sandwich School, “the store” is opened to Great Harvest employees, families and the community. Orders are taken, the pressure of a full lobby of waiting customers is felt, tasty sandwiches are made and customer service skills are practiced. Trainees receive feedback from Great Harvest employees via written surveys. This feedback helps them learn what they’re great at, and where to improve.

Bread Week

early_morning_bakery_WEB-013001-editedBread Week, the second training module, lasts a full week. The process of making our great tasting, no artificial preservatives added bread and sweets is learned here. This is the foundation of the business they will enjoy in a few short months. On the first day of Bread Week, the trainers go through the baking process and make the bread. On days two through five, bread making is entirely up to the trainees.

I arrive early on day four to observe the trainees in Bread Week. They’ve been given a reprieve and start the bread making process at 5:00 a.m., instead of the usual 4:00 a.m. schedule most bakeries adhere to. I love the vibrant energy in the bakery. Jack Johnson music blasts on the audio system and I’m told that some days it takes more lively music to get the energy where it needs to be.

Baking sweets comes first. There is constant chatter between the bakers…trainers and trainees alike, as dough is mixed for a variety of sweet creations that will come out of the oven first. They talk about baking. I imagine the comradery of bakers all across the country in Great Harvest Bread Companies as they partake of the early morning ritual. I’m sure there is nothing else like mixing dough and talking about life and baking in the wee hours of the morning.

Other sounds waft in and out of the picture. The clanking of dishes in the sink, the clack, clack, thump of the Hobart Mixer, the thwack of the spoon (which looks more like a paddle than a spoon) against the edge of a 35 gallon bowl; a timer buzzes.

I check back in at 8:00 a.m. to wonderful smells of cinnamon and ginger. Muffins and scones are cooling on racks and trays of cookies circulate in the oven. Loaves of fresh milled wheat bread rise, waiting to be baked. Trainees wear shirts and trousers smudged with flour. After the baking is finished, the trainees taste the fruits of their labor. They decipher the changes needed in production to ensure quality products are baked every day.

Bakery Boot Camp

sandwich_station_WEBBakery Boot Camp arrives. The first two days are held in the training room in Dillon. Here, trainees learn other aspects of being a successful small business owner. For example, they prepare marketing materials, learn how to price product, schedule employees and reconcile daily sales.

During days three through five they run the Dillon bakery as if it were their own. Scheduled for different shifts each day, they learn the skills for operating a bakery. Real life, hands on training. One day an ingredient was omitted from three batches of bread. Trainees learned how painful it is to have to throw out the bread and tell customers that their favorite bread isn’t available that day. This lesson is better learned in training, than in their own store.

Walking from the street into the warmth of the bakery, I can tell who baked that morning, with a dusting of flour still on their clothes. I purchase a few delicious items and greet the trainees, thinking, “This is how it will be when they open their stores. Regular customers will come in, exchanging pleasantries.” I suppose there’s some degree of romanticism when anyone prepares for a new challenge. In Bakery Boot Camp trainees learn the realities of this business. It’s hard to be in the bakery at 4:00 a.m., to be on their feet all day handling a million things. It’s being in the trenches together that gets them through. That bond creates friendships as they embark on the journey to own a Great Harvest Bread Co.

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Learn more about our training for new Great Harvest bakery franchise owners here.

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Hello, I’m Kay Roach and I’ve been working at Great Harvest Franchising since July 2012. I enjoy my job, the people I work with and our delicious products. It is very gratifying to help people achieve the dream of owning their own business. Everyday people in the franchise office work hard to support our franchisees in their success. We partner with franchisees as they embark on creating great food in a fun environment.