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Plans to start a bakery; what next?

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Mebake's picture
Mebake

Plans to start a bakery; what next?

Hi, fellow and dear TFL'ers

The thoughts and plans of starting a bakery in Dubai have been broiling in my mind for over a year now. As many of you already know, I began taking pastry classes some few months back as I believe that knowing how to make bread alone just won’t cut it. So, I took the classes and collected my certificate and now I think that the natural choice here is to seek an internship / apprenticeship in some bakery.

There are of course many hurdles in the way of doing so. Laws in the United Arab Emirates, specifically those pertaining to labor and food safety, are quite strict and will not allow for internships at food producing factories / outlets, unless you seek a job placement. Due to financial commitments, I can’t quit my current job to work for a bakery / patisserie / hotel / café.. and expect to be paid even remotely similar to what I earn now. Additionally, there isn’t cottage food law here, so if you plan to bake and sell commercially, you’ll have to obtain a commercial trade license like other food businesses. I’m seeking a partner to share part of the expenses, and the passion; I’ve found one so far.

I talked to a bakery owner who declined to offer an internship, but pointed me in the direction of another bakery owned by his niece in another city where the regulations are not as stringent. I paid a visit to the bakery, and noticed that although they produce some pastries (oriental and French), in addition to pita breads, their business model isn't what I’d aspire to.

The question is, am I right in thinking that an internship /apprenticeship at a bakery is a prerequisite to starting a bakery business?  I’m passionate enough about baking, especially Artisan bread, and I’m willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

I’d be happy to know what you guys think, based on your experiences. Any ideas are welcome.

Many thanks,

Khalid

 

 

Comments

arlo's picture
arlo

I agree with your thoughts of stepping in the door of a bakery to figure out the next move. As you know, I have been working in bakeries for about six years now and have been to many in my short time in this profession. I think I still have a few blog post on some of the bakeries on TFL... I tell everyone, EVERYONE, that I take away the good and the bad from each bakery I work at so that one day I will know exactly what I want from my operation. But I do as I am directed and take my notes along the way. Because for the time being, my name is in the middle of the pay-check, not the bottom. And "Arlo's Bakery" is still a few years away. Now, that isn't to say that you need to work in the industry before opening a place -hell, I worked for a few owners whose first bakery job was their own!  Some people can run a business.

I just feel that it enables you to see what is ahead, and different ways to achieve what you hope to obtain from your operation. For instance; I thought I knew the best ways to shape breads, turns out I learned a great method just a month ago from the new bakery I am the Head-Baker of. Never saw that coming.

Now, I am blessed to be young and have been able to move across the US to experience small bakeries, to managing and supervising a million-some dollar operation. Every step along the way I have paid my dues and realized that if it wasn't for these jobs, I don't know how I could ever start a place. The finances, the scheduling, ordering, hiring, firing, development, and of course, the ten-plus hour days I have come to accept each day of my life as a matter-of-fact. It seems like in your situation you have described that taking a few years to work in bakeries isn't an option. With that being noted, I would at least highly recommend working in a good sized production bakery for a small duration of time. In that time, do your absolute best to learn how and why they do what they do. Learn the flow of the shifts, ordering, and how they handle adversity when it arises.

Baking great bread is one part of the process, operating a production is another part. I have faith in you, I have seen your post and passion in detail. Step into a bakery and see what happens!

I look forward to future.

-Arlo

MANNA's picture
MANNA

Whats the new method of shaping bread you discovered? I have 3.2 kilos of dough rising right now that I could practice on tomorrow.

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Hey thanks for chiming in, Arlo!

Good suggestions there.  I'll consider working in a good bakery for short while. 

Nice of you to drop by. 

Arlo's bakery isn't far fetched for you either. 

Khalid

golgi70's picture
golgi70

Arlo articulated it pretty well.  But I'll second the notion to find a job in a retail/production bakery.  Offer your services for free if you must just to get in the door and see it in full stride.  Even if you do this 1 day a week for a while you'll start to get an idea. Maybe if you prepared for it then you could take a long vacation from your current job and spend that vacation working at the bakery ("full time") and really see the day-to-day and the flow of things.  

Cheers

Josh

golgi70's picture
golgi70

In the meantime you could begin drafting a business plan.  Figure out what it is you will be offering.  the tools you will need and their costs.  The space you'll need to rent and costs including energy.  Start seeking wholesale suppliers of ingredients and figure out those costs.  Etc... 

Josh

Mebake's picture
Mebake

 I'll do just that. Seems like all TFL members are in favor of that. 

Thanks for the input ,Josh :)

Khalid

 

Mebake's picture
Mebake

I've ready prepared a feasibility study. Wholesale Ingredients and equipments are all accounted for. I haven't made a business plan though yet.

Thanks for the ideas Josh.

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

There's not much advice I can offer you, Khalid. But because my bakery is gaining more and more popularity, I can tell you what I would have done differently if I could.

Right now I'm having a few complications with production. It's one thing to produce a few breads at at time... but on much larger scale, you're going to stumble into problems, especially if you have little experience at such a work level. Having said that, I wish I had interned, volunteered, or worked at an independent artisanal bakery, even for a few days. However, I caught a lucky break because I'm able to consult with a certified Austrian baker and a former Dutch baker / bakery owner, face-to-face. Without their help, I'd be in big trouble. In addition to that, I have a business partner who's knowledgeable about the food and beverage industry. (It's handy to find partners who complement your skills.)

Another problem is that our bakery lacks money. Just when we think we have enough, unexpected issues demands more funding. However much money you think you need to operate your bakery, get a lot more. No matter how well prepared you are, there's likely to be something that you'll overlook.

Last advice is know your market well. They will dictate what products you'll offer, and truth be told you may be forced to produce something you don't like. And to make ends meet, you may have no choice.

Best of luck, Khalid. I know the feeling you're going through, but right now it's best to use one of your greatest virtues as a baker. Patience. Move at a pace that you're comfortable with, but don't be afraid to step out of your boundaries. Yes, it's a high risk, but you will have to put yourself in a position of extreme discomfort if you want to succeed.

Zita

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Thanks for the contribution, Zita

I can relate to what you're experiencing, as artisan bakeries are a rarity where we both live. I will study your suggestions.

Wishing you the best of luck with Backerie. I'm definitely sure you are more than capable of overcoming temporary inconveniences. Your passion to artisan bread is evident since the day you joined TFL.

Khalid

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Hi Khalid

looks like you may have to come for a holiday to Perth, im sure we could get you some bakery time and some bakery visits.

When i was in Dubai i didnt get to check out the bakery scene, i reckon you should take a sample of your bread and see if you cant sit and share with a baker or two, especially some of the smaller places. Dont forget your potential future clients either  small cafes and eating places, a sample here and there letting them know you are wanting to set up, you never know what might eventuate there may even be spare space and capacity available or possible partners.

We watch with great interest and moral support. i shall even book an airfare with Emirates for the opening.

Kindest Regards Derek

Mebake's picture
Mebake

That is very kind of you.

I'm studying the possibilities out here, and if need be , i would travel to Perth to learn as much as i can. 

Great suggestions there, especially sharing bread with bakers/ cafe owners. 

I'll surely share my progress here on TFL. I appreciate the moral support.

Khalid

lepainSamidien's picture
lepainSamidien

The products you've put out that I've seen posted here, Khalid, leave little doubt that your success in the world of boulangerie/patisserie is all but guaranteed! I am embarking on a very similar adventure myself, pursuing the baking life professionally; it's a little intimidating to have to make such a drastic change, but I can see that baking is something of a calling for you! You'd be doing your community a real solid.

Please keep us up to date with your adventure, and if you ever need people to come to Dubai to help shape some loaves or load some ovens, you know it's just a quick post away !!!

Bon courage !

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Thanks for the encouragement, Lepain. So kind of you.

I will keep everyone on TFL posted about my plans and progress towards achieving my goal. 

Khalid

 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Khalid, even though Josey Baker is located in San Francisco his entry into commercial hand-made bread reminds me somewhat of your's:

http://vimeo.com/77071595

Wild-Yeast

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Thanks for the Link, Wildyeast ! His journey is so inspiring.  Thanks to you, I'll watch josie baker's video over and over again to help fire me up when need be. 

Best regards,

Khalid

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Duplicate Post

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

1.  The Effects Of Scale

Most here share your passion for baking artisan breads but be mindful that our passions are for the most part based around a relaxed, no pressure environment at home where we can indulge our hobby(obsession?) at our leisure.  When you ramp up artisan bread making to a bakery production level it is no longer the same thing.  It's a business and a continual set of processes that have to be managed seamlessly in the right order, to the right timescales otherwise things start to go awry.

I would advise any passionate home baker to spend AT LEAST 1 week working in a production bakery before thinking about starting up their own.  It's an entirely different prospect and the realities will strike home very quickly once you work in a bakery.  Then and only then imo decide whether your passions extend from creative home baking to full scale bakery production.

2.  Volume Is The Key

A few beautifully crafted artisan loaves will not cut the mustard in the business world.  Sure you'll make great loaves, and sure, you'll sell them, but you'll doubtless find it hugely difficult to make a decent profit from the venture.  I've spoken to, or emailed quite a few bakeries and the response to my questions regarding profits are often the same.  Margins are small, many are barely breaking even and some of those are resigned to the fact that they are doing all the hard work . . . .because it's a hobby and passion.

To make a real business out of bread making (imo) you have to achieve high volume of loaves which requires a lot of effort, a bakery big enough to cope with the volume needed and a market audience big enough to buy up that volume.  My local artisan bakery makes about 200-300 loaves per day and struggles.  It has not been able to survive on bread alone so makes a variety of cakes., muffins and the like and even then has now added a small cafe/coffee shop to bring more business and increase margins.   Contrasting this is one of Britains best bakeries (I won't name it)  where I was privileged to work voluntarily for a week.   They produce over 1000 artisan loaves per morning and about 1000 rolls and english muffins.  This is constant high production starting at 3am and working non-stop through to about 11am.  One baker mixes all the doughs, 3 or more bakers work the table, constantly scaling dough, pre-shaping, shaping, loading loaves into banettons or tins, and 2 bakers work the ovens.  The products are first rate, they supply regular customers daily as well as operating 2 shops.  They do very well as a business as a result.

3.  Bread Is Rarely Enough

Just like the houses in the average street there is a "ceiling limit" on how much something can be sold for.  You need to work out what that limit is in your target area/customer base.  With supermarkets churning out cheap (though disgusting) breads, you're up against a population that largely still needs educating on what real bread is and why it is important and who currently focus on price.  Trying to sell a lof for upwards of £3 may prove difficult.

Consequently, bread on it's own is rarely enough to support a viable business.  Cakes, buns, muffins and other sweet goods are usually needed and very often a cafe offering teas, coffees and light snacks is also needed.  This presents the need for a whole new set of skills for some amateur bakers as well as more staff.

4.  Competition

This weekend I took a drive out northward from my home to explore 3 different Farm Shops that I had never visited before.  It was worthwhile as 1 proved to be utterly excellent with a fantastic range of meats (all reared themselves) as well as good veg, fruit and a great cafe.  

As I wandered around all 3 of these farm shops I was staggered to see that they all sold artisan loaves and were doing so cheaply.  Pain De Campagnes were on sale for £1.80, malted loaves for £1.60 and so on.  I concluded that the farm shop were subsidising the bread on the basis that customers would likely be buying all sorts of other products (with higher margins) whilst they were there.   This diversification and subsidising would equate to unbeatable competition (imo) to any local artisan baker who was just concentrating on bread.   So to overcome such competition you need an "angle" of some sort.  A cafe, an idea, something that will set you apart.   I note here the growing trend of bakers opening "gourmet toast" outlets such as those in London and Nottingham.  The artisan bread is sold under the gimmick of having some toast selected from a wide range of interestiing breads together with different jams or other preserves and also with breakfasts.  Again, this is a catering business not a bakery, it's just that bread forms an integral part of that catering business.

 

After working in 2 very different artisan bakeries my view of operating such a business changed.  The idea was initially kind of attractive, romantic, idealistic, but the reality was a sweat shop of very mundane, boring and very repetitive processes.  The love and passion I have for making breads was totally lost in a production environment where speed and consistency are vital elements.   For me the world does not yet value the skills needed for making great bread and thus the margins are horribly low.  I would love for that to change, but in the face of the global recession and job losses, rising food prices, people are generally looking for cheap products.   In the end you have to decide if your passion for baking your own artisan breads will still be a passion when translated into a scaled up production environment.  To do that, imo, it is essential to work in a bakery to experience it first hand.

Most artisan bakeries will have a constant influx of up and coming trainees fresh out of college or artisan baking schools who will work there for a short period of time on a placement and on a voluntary basis.   My advice is to email as many artisan bakeries as you can find and explain your passions, tell them what things you generally make yourself and offer to work with them for at least 1 week on a voluntary basis.   Most will happily take you on and thereby you will learn a great deal of things.  I emailed about 8 bakeries, and only 2 were unable to help on the basis of not having room for addition people.  All the others snapped my hand off.  I picked 2 and spent a week at each, one of those now occasionally calls me in to help if they are short staffed.  The other 4 are still available to me but I haven't taken them up as yet.  

As and when you do choose to spend time in a bakery I recommend you try to insist on doing a continuous period of at least 1 week.  Just working the odd day here and there will not provide the perspective needed.  Bakeries go through a regular cycle of weekly activity typically culminating in much more production towards a weekend or towards special market days.  So things change as the week progresses.  They might start making loaves in advance and retarding them overnight in fridges to be ready the next day and so on.   Getting a feel for a full week is an invaluable experience imo.

GL whatever you do

EP

Mebake's picture
Mebake

I understand the differences between leisurely home-baking and that of a full scale bakery production. I'm appreciative of the difficulties and challenges i must go through should i choose to turn my passion into a business. As you suggested, i will volunteer for a week as a pastry apprentice/ trainee and try to learn as much as I can. I love bread making, but I cannot volunteer as a bread baker as it is physically demanding. When I have my own bakery, I plan to hire workers to do the work in my stead, but I will train and supervise them.

True, bread alone isn't enough to sustain a bakery business so I plan to offer pastries too. I noticed that good bakeries / cafés in Dubai also offer Coffee and some meals to beef up their revenues, so a good barista skill is an added bonus. 

As far as competition goes, i know, it will not be easy and i should expect fierce competition from well established franchise businesses, as well as other semi- Artisan bakeries that mass produce relatively "good bread" for cheap. 

I can relate to what you're saying, as I've somewhat experienced it during the indoor Market events here in Dubai. Most people here won't appreciate the time, effort, skill, and quality ingredients that go into Artisan breads; they've not acquired the necessary taste nor the knowledge to believe in the advantages of long fermented, naturally leavened breads.  And yes, it can be a mundane repetitive task. However, if you have the proper passion and vision nothing will be mundane, and creativeness will ultimately prevail.

I’ll try to intern for a continuous week. That depends, though, whether the Bakery managers would accept interns to begin with.

Thanks, and best wishes

Khalid 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Khalid, have you considered the effects of repeatedly lifting loads in the 20kg to 50kg range every day?

Paul

Mebake's picture
Mebake

As i said above, i cannot intern as a baker. I know my limitations.

Khalid

sandydog's picture
sandydog

I second the comments made by Arlo, Zita and ElPanedero - None of us wish to deter you from following your passion and starting a bakery business, merely to point out that you do need to gain a fairly thorough understanding of all the demands (Physical, mental, dealing with staff and equipment that stops functioning at the most inconvenient times etc etc) made on your energy levels before you go down this route.

I find it very demanding work physically and it does not leave me with much energy for other parts of my life/relationships, which I consequently neglect/regret. Have you considered teaching people to make great bread? It is far easier, less demanding and just as lucrative, and you can control the flow of work much more easily than dealing with the demands of regular everyday customers. 

Yes, go work in a bakery for a while to see how it makes you feel, but you may consider, also, seeking out someone who had tried this and failed - They would be likely to give you a brutally honest version of how things were for them, whereas current bakers often make light of their difficulties (Sometimes just before they go out of business).

Of course, as has already been pointed out in some of the above posts, there are many reasons for success/failure and a lot of it boils down to how good you are at business as opposed to baking, as well as keeping your fingers crossed that an even better baker does not choose to open on your territory once you have established there is a genuine business demand in the locality. 

Good luck with whatever you decide - we all wish you well.

Brian

 

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Hi, Brian

I appreciate all suggestions. I'd rather have you guys hand me down the reality bluntly. 

As far as social and personal relationships, I know that to some extent, sacrifices will have to be made on my part. 

Although it is an interesting notion, I don't plan on tutoring now, as my priority now is to start a business in order to quit my current job. Once financially stable, i'll consider your suggestion. 

Many thanks for the well wished, Brian

Khalid

 

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Much depends on what you are used to in terms of the physical aspects. As an average person (not massively overweight) who spent the past 30 years sitting in a chair all day in an IT job, doing a week in a bakery fairly knackered me. In fact on a Mon - Sat stint I found that by Wed my lower back was in agony, not from any heavy lifting but purely because the job is 100% standing up and moving about on your feet. Lifting things obviously makes this worse (sacks of flour, trays of proofing loaves, etc).

The other thing was that in general there are no rigid role boundaries. It's very much a "team sport" and everyone mucks in at every stage to get things done. So even as a volunteer, there to learn better bread making, at times I was washing pots, carrying ingredients from store rooms, chopping potatoes/onions etc as well as doing all the nice things like working the table, scaling and shaping and scoring loaves.

As a test, try getting up in the morning and then do not sit down at any time for a continuous stretch of 4-5 hours.

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Well, my daily job is an office one that includes sitting for the most part. Been doing it for 12 years now, so i know that a stint in a bakery won't be easy.  I can tolerate standing for hours, if i move around often. I somehow managed to complete a 6 hour a day course in pastry on weekends, but i can see now that bakery work is far more demanding. 

Thanks for the tips, EP!

Khalid

 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Khalid, the Tartine Bakery is a darling of artisan bread in San Francisco.

I've included a URL to an article that will help understand how Chad Robertson and his wife Elizabeth Prueitt have been able to wrangle a niche within the highly competitive San Francisco food scene. 

http://www.modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/breaking-bread

Wild-Yeast

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Thanks for the link to the article, Susan

Chad Robertson's journey into bread making is a genuine story of success. Very inspiring.

Thanks!

Khalid

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Glad to be of help.

I think reading about similar circumstances can help illuminate the top level vision of the business plan. It's best to take a dream and see how it fits into a going business environment. Lots of discussion and brainstorming. Always remember that the bottom end of the business (which makes it run) is not what the customer experiences - ambiance and consistent delivery is their takeaway.  

Wild-Yeast

P.S. Wild-Yeast on TFL is not the same as the "Wild-Yeast" on Susan's site...,

Mebake's picture
Mebake

I thought you were Susan all along :) Never mind.

Thanks once again for the tips/ enlightment , it is much needed at this stage. 

All the best,

Khalid

BurntMyFingers's picture
BurntMyFingers

It is one many of us share, Khalid. I'm briefly in San Francisco and got to meet Josey Baker and try his bread (it's REALLY good). Although he obviously has a natural talent and has had a very fast rise to bread stardom (he baked his first loaf in 2010) it has been in stages. First he baked in a community kitchen and delivered individual loaves on a subscription arrangement, riding around on a bicycle with his bread in a box on the back. Then he sold from a rack in a popular pie shop. The current bakery/cafe was bankrolled, at least in part, by the owners of Blue Bottle coffee which is a high end local cafe chain.

So it's an "only in San Francisco" (or maybe Brooklyn) type of story with a lot of luck and community support along with the talent and dedication. But he started small, possibly while doing something else (I believe he was a musician), fulfilling a few individual bread orders, and that's something most of us can manage, hopefully.

Otis

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Ok, so that is what's starting to happen now. After the last crafts market, i received some inquiries on bread with some orders in the pipeline.

Thanks for chiming in, Otis. Very much appreciated.

Khalid

 

SweetMK's picture
SweetMK

The first thing you want to do is watch the movie "Moonstruck"

Slave over a coal-fired oven, move MANY bags of flour, loose a hand!!,,,,,

Whatever you do, do not "buy" a job, that is do not start a business earning only what you would earn at a job, where someone else is shouldering the investment.

Your investment has to pay off, or financially you are much better off keeping your money in your pocket.

I have done both, employee, and business owner (not baker), 

Both have advantages,,,,

Mebake's picture
Mebake

I get the analogy. I'll avoid falling prey to this dreaded scenario. Thanks for bringing this up, SweetMK. 

all the best,

Khalid

Bugzy's picture
Bugzy

Hi Khalid,

I am an avid follower of your thread. I guess we share common baking interests and both are on the same path. I also live in Dubai. Lets have a chat I am sure there are lots to talk about!

Regards,

Jamal

+971504576967