Learnings from COVID-19 pandemic: To build a stronger bakery business

COVID-19 pandemic has been an unforeseen event of unprecedented scale and proportion. A few foresighted bakery business owners would have been in a better position to deal with the challenging business circumstances, however, a vast majority will have to experience and learn from this the hard way.
Sudden closure of operations and lack of revenue creates a panic situation which may lead bakery business owners to take hasty decisions having a long-standing impact on their business. Additionally, recovery from the current pandemic situation can be slow and painful. Bakers mostly plan and work towards tackling immediate challenges dealing with their customers and products, however tough times demand one to look beyond the regular situations and deal with difficult questions that need to be answered in order to thrive. It is clear that to survive and navigate successfully through the current crisis and come out stronger in the post-pandemic period, bakers will need to understand the impact of the current crisis on their business and then plan and prepare accordingly.

  • Change quickly as times demand
    Some situations like the hygiene requirements created by the current pandemic situation require prompt and immediate actions. Being a part of the food industry, this will be the single most demanding and significant change that the industry will need to accept and adapt. As a baker, you can start with immediate contact points and potential contamination sources like staff entry and exit and customer contact points. Every aspect of your business needs to be investigated from environments, packaging, interactions etc. Ensure that your customers are able to see a change in the way you operate and make them realize that hygiene is your priority, and you are ensuring their safety by making sure that all products are made, stocked and sold in hygienic environments without any scope of contamination.
  • Plan your manpower well
    If you are not already operating in shifts or teams ensure that you do. Having multiple teams available will ensure better operability. Cross-train your staff in multiple roles and think of rotating roles so that you can ensure operations even during a shortage of staff. Avoid downsizing staff however if you need to, ensure you do so only with non-essential or secondary roles. Skilled technicians or bakers may not have a lot of work if demand is less but they are well trained in your operations and getting rid of them might put you in a difficult situation when you need to quickly scale up.
  • Make your presence felt in your community
    In times of need, ensure that you are able to lend your helping hand. If you empathize and support people of your community, they are sure to notice you and value you during other times. Think of simple gestures that can work for your business like donating unsold production to the underprivileged or a small percentage of production to feed the poor. You can also start an initiative in your community and ask your customers to support it. People are looking for avenues to support others and you can provide a channel for the same.
  • Optimize your working methods
    It is obvious to cut down costs during times of economic depression which will follow post Covid-19 however the obvious cost-cutting methods may not always be effective. Explore other avenues to understand how you can do this for your business. Look at options like operating for limited hours or avoiding the production of low demand products to save on inventory. If you can look closely at your operations, you are sure to find avenues to reduce costs.
  • Explore new business models
    So far traditional delivery and production model would have worked however as time changes bakers need to adapt to the new operating models and change their business practices accordingly. Since customers will avoid travelling to store in the post COVID-19 world, bakers need to strongly implement digital and store-to-door practices effectively to sustain their businesses. There are various levels of this implementation like taking advantage of the store-to-door shipping operators like Swiggy and Zomato to having your products listed on third-party e-commerce service providers to have your own website. Even contracting with nearby townships or societies may work effectively. Similarly, bakers can look towards the franchisee model or tying up with local retailers to expand the business and increase reach.
  • Look at innovating products for meeting new demands
    Food consumption trends are greatly impacted by circumstances and their change can be sudden. Bakers need to take note of this and cautiously plan their product portfolio or look at new product innovations. Health risk situations like COVID-19 will make consumers focus more towards food safety, hygiene and healthy foods. Foresightedness towards where the market will move will certainly ensure that you can prosper by building upon situation-specific opportunities. Market the health and wellness aspects of your products and launch products that will build on these to meet new demands.
  • Build customer loyalty
    This may be hard but for some time stop focussing on net worth and focus on building your business worth instead. Business open and close but brands can go a long way. Ask customers for their expectations of how you can serve them better. Strive to provide better customer experience. Understand your customer's situation and be proactive in providing a solution like for example at times when disposable income is low offer better pricing to customers rather than increasing your costs or offer additional perks that will ensure you customers keep coming to you and turn into your loyalist. Customers may come and go but loyal customers will keep coming back.
  • Invest in your business
    The post-COVID-19 world will not be the same as the past and if you get back to your old ways you will certainly lose the race. While tough situations create many challenges, there are also new opportunities that arise. Those who grab the opportunity first will inevitably lead. Capitalising on opportunities require funds and hence for the next couple of years focus on reinvesting your profits fully into your continuously updating your business. Invest in updating infrastructure, production methods, delivery methods, operating conditions, staff development, product innovation and packaging. A situation like this may arise again anytime and you need to be ahead of your game if you look at surviving and future.
It is important that we learn, evaluate and adapt or change the way we are doing things in order to ensure the survival of our business in the time to come.

SwissBake® is working in the direction of helping bakers resume their bakery operations quickly and easily by providing them access to high quality bakery ingredients at their fingertips. For more information on how SwissBake® can help you in your bakery business, contact us on +91 744 733 1888.