The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Mike Avery

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Mike Avery

Hi Mike--

I have a small bakeshop that I operate out of my home; it will be 2 years this month that I've been at it.  I sell very well at the Farmers' Markets, but then comes the winter, and although I have had it in stores, it becomes more of a hit-or-miss affair, and my income drops significantly.  I also have the issue of packaging; a few of my breads aren't easily packaged in anything other than what I use at the market.  I had thought about starting a bread club for over the winter: from my standpoint, I'd have guaranteed income and be able to offer over the winter months all of my breads, not just certain ones.  From my customers' standpoint, it would be guaranteed bread, and also, all the varieties would still be available (though not only at once, of course).  My thought was that you could decide one of two or three tiers in the club, dependent on your needs, and pick from a variety of 4 or 5 breads, so if you can't eat nuts, you're not stuck with Cranberry Walnut, or if you don't eat white bread, you don't get the White Country Boule.  I'd also try to offer incentives to being in the club, though I'm not sure yet what they would be.  This club would be in addition to the grocery store that my bread is also available in, since I think the grocery store also fills a need.  What are your thoughts on this idea?  How did you make yours work?  Any pitfalls I need to watch out for?


By the way, I had tried to mail this to you on your website, but there was a problem with the server.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Strange that the web site gave problems.  It's been pretty stable.  Still, as the year I paid for nears an end, I may look around a bit more.


Dislaimer #1 - I'm fighting a bug that is going around.  My thoughts are slow, like through molasses.  And my typing is worse than usual.


Disclaimer 2 - What worked for me, may not work for you.  What didn't work for me may well work for you.  So, be loose and try things. 

Anyway..... the bread club.  It can work very nicely. however, it depends on marketing and how much your customers want to help you by bringing in more business.  I don't think I got more than 3 or 4 referalls in the time I was running the bread club.  I offered a month of free bread if someone a customer referred stayed with us for 3 months.


I started with 3 or 4 breads and expanded as the cluyb expanded.  The way I ran it was like a book club.  If you send in your card, you get to say no book or this book instead of that book.  If you don't send in your card, you get the default bread.  It makes life easier for everyone.  A lot of customers were very happy just getting the default bread each week.  "I tried breads I never would have otherwise, and they're all so good!" was what a few people said.


You can see what I did at


As to marketing, what worked for a friend was to market to yuppoe dense high-rises.  He put door fliers on the doors.  "Just think, if you were in the bread club you could come home to a fresh loaf of great bread instead of a stupid flyer!"  And then put contact details on the flyer.  Some jurisdictions restrict door fliers.  There are two advantages to the yuppie filled high rise.  You can deliver to a lot of people with one stop.  With the price of gas, that's a BIG plus!  It was a plus when you just considered the cost of time.  Also the yuppies (or whatever they're called this year) have a desire for nice things, and even when their finances tighten, a loaf of bread is a very inexpensive luxury.


Big gotcha - some people wil drop out for one reason or another.  Work HARD to keep 'em in the club.   One woman was buying a house and her money was very tight.  Offer her a special extra light plan, so she gets bread once a month instead of 2 or 4 times.  Make it work for her.  It's easier to keep a customer than land a new one.


Marketing, marketing marketing... the 3 m's of business.  Look around for craft fairs and such where you can show, sample and sell your product.  Add some bread machine mixes to your product line for the event.  And give out fliers for your service.   Any chance you get, talk up your baked goods and your bread delivery service.


As to the number of breads to offer, it depends on your production situation.  Let's say you can make a batch of 22 loaves.  If you have an order for 44 loaves, you have to make two batches.  Does it really matter if it's two of the same, or two different breads?  So, offer variety when that becomes feasible.


Track what sells and what doesn't.  Don't be afraid to try selling breads that didn't sell under a different name.  We made Peter Reinhart's Struan bread and had no end of resistance.  "What's a struan?"  "How do you pronounce it?"  And people wouldn't even try the stuff.  And it is a very nice bread.  So, we started calling it "Caltic Harvest Bread."  And then it started selling.  Same bread.  We then added an "American Harvest Bread" to the lineup.... it seems people like the idea of a harvest bread, even if they haven't a clue what that means.  "Oh yes, we harvested this bread last night, it's still tree fresh!"  No, it wasn't quite that bad. 


Pricing is another can of worms.  You have a limited production capacity in comparison to the demand, and you need to maximize your profits.  So, it's a question of finding the threshold of pain for your customers.  Be careful about dropping prices - when a price is dropped people like to see it stay down.  Be careful about sales - once you start having sales, people will only buy when you have a sale, and what's on sale.  Best option for cost adjustments - put coupons out.  Pick a reason to issue them.  Your anniversary.  Christmas.  Mr. Spock's birthday.  The 35th anniversay of the release of Star Wars.  Put expiration dates on the coupons, and limit them "1 per customer per visit".  In this way, you can get an idea of where the ideal price point is for you and your customers. 

Hope this helps, it's time for me to take another antihistamine and take a cake out of the oven.








staff of life's picture
staff of life

Hi Mike-

Thanks for your input.  I already have a pretty good customer base.  I know some of them won't be interested in participating in the club, but if I can get enough, that will work.  Our market season is fairly long, March-Nov, with the proposal this year of having a monthly or bimonthly market during the winter.  (I can't exactly remember where I was going with that last statement; I think it was that the bread club would just have to cover a short portion of the year.)  Anyhow, I am currently taking out ads in a local paper that targets the market crowd--the demographics couldn't be better.  Because I live in a rural area, I would have a difficult time making deliveries to all my customers, but I believe our local CSAs use pick-up points to distribute their goods, and I could inquire as to their modus operandi.   I also have a few stores that have asked to carry my breads.  I've turned them down, but if they'd be interested in being a pick-up point, that might work.