As a chef, I was always trained to think seasonally and locally in my food shopping and menu choices and I think the best bakeries take the same approach.
Historically, focusing on regional ingredients and being in tune with the seasons was a function of necessity. Before the days of global transportation networks and Peruvian asparagus at every grocery store in the country in the middle of January, menus were dictated by what was available and affordable.
Are blueberries more prevalent and available in Michigan in June? Absolutely without question they are cheaper and better tasting. But in a time when high quality frozen blueberries are available at any time of the year, keeping things seasonal and regionally appropriate at the bakery level is more of a business decision based on inspiring customer appetites and keeping employees engaged on a daily basis as much as it is a commitment to preserving the integrity of the local blueberry.
Now of course I am an absolute proponent of purchasing locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, but I am also suggesting that focusing your offerings on the season and on your local clientele is paramount to bakery business success. We are constantly thinking seasonally when we are developing new products and marketing plans.
Sure, we have our everyday core products like Honey Whole Wheat Bread, Dakota Bread, and our famous whole grain cookies that seem to sell well just about any time and anywhere. These are flagship products folks buy all the time. They are our “bread and butter.”
While our customers are shopping for their staples, they smell the irresistible loaves of pumpkin chocolate chip bread hot out of the oven on a November morning and they buy one to take home, buy two for the office break room, and think how wonderful it would be to order some for pickup on Saturday afternoon to take to church coffee hour. When those first cold winds start to blow and the leaves being to change in the fall we all start thinking of pumpkins, apples, and walnuts.
When the first hints of summer hit, berries, peaches and rhubarb appear on our bakery menus in breads, tea cakes, muffins, and scones, and breads like Bacon Cheddar Beer seem to be a summer grilling and Father’s day staple.
As small business owners, we have to make a commitment to keeping our menus fresh and exciting for our customers. This includes not only breads and sweets but sandwich specials as well. Part of the beauty of the Freedom Franchise model that Great Harvest is based upon is the freedom to choose and adapt your menu based on your market and the season during which you open.
Our job at the franchise office is to provide choices. We have a marketing calendar with monthly promotions that capitalize on seasons and holidays. What I do in researching and developing new products is provide those choices for bakery owners. We (usually) develop a product based on a need and then it has a likely fit into a season or it becomes an everyday product. We have consultants here in the office that work with new and existing bakery owners to custom craft their menus to best suit their markets needs and still align with the overall mission of Great Harvest. The most successful bakeries embrace the idea of a menu rooted in the classics, yet adaptable to the time, place, and season.
What are some of your favorite seasonal whole grain products?