Why Does It Take 12 Months To Open A Local, Retail Bakery?

Why Does It Take 12 Months To Open A Local, Retail Bakery?

Every business requires a series of steps to go from concept to opening day, but I am going to talk about the small business I know best – a local retail bakery.  

There are three major phases to opening a Great Harvest bakery: 

1.  Finding the right location. 
2.  Building the space to meet your needs. 
3.  Training to run and promote the business to ensure a strong opening. 

The last two run in tandem for us and are very programed.  Working backwards from your opening day, we approve the day for opening three weeks out from the date.  The decision is based upon a set of criteria we have developed over the years that we believe will give you the best shot at a grand opening. 


Prior to that you have to undergo all of your training and build your store.  Generally, building out the retail space takes two to three months including final design and permitting.  Training happens in there and generally takes three to four weeks.  Add all of that up and you get five months.  There is some variation in that schedule and the time frames move around, but it generally takes four to six months to get open once you start training and construction.


The wild card is the first step in the process.  Finding the right location is a very critical step in the development of a new business and you generally have less control over that than any other step in the process.  You are dealing with factors beyond your control, so you have to be flexible. 

The right location is a combination of cost and physical location.  The perfect location can be quite imperfect if it is too expensive and a good location can become excellent at the right cost.  As an aside, the “place everyone says you have to be” probably isn’t.  Popular and good are not the same thing.

There are three sub steps in the location process:

1.  Analyzing the market to determine your best choices.
2.  Negotiating a letter of intent to lease the space where you spell out all of the terms of the deal.  Who will pay what and how much?  How long you will have the space under control through a lease and option periods?  And, what you will be allowed to sell both in general and exclusive terms?
3.  Finally, you put those terms and the legal requirements into a lease

The lease normally takes a month, at least, to negotiate because lawyers are involved and there are multiple rounds of comments.  The letter of intent normally takes a month because this is where you are going back and forth on the actual terms in a haggle process.  So how long does it take to analyze the market and find the right location? 

This is where time is gained or lost in terms of how quickly you can open your new business.  Sometimes you get lucky and you find the right space in a very short period of time. When this happens, your bakery can beat the 12 month average.  In other cases, for many reasons, it takes quite a bit of time to decide on the right space.  I have seen this take as much as a year.  Market factors dictate this time frame, but it generally takes three to four months.  

Add all of that up and you have, on average, a year. 

All of these time frames are general averages.  As with any average, some real situations are less and some are more.  But to open a business right, it normally takes close to a year to get from start to finish. 


Want to learn more about the location hunting process for a Great Harvest franchise? Listen to this interview with Mike Ferretti:

Site Selection Interview

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