Six Big Tips for Bakery Expansion

Carlo’s Bakery, Hoboken, N.J.

We at cheer all the bakery expansion that seems to be happening lately. Creative Cakes, Tinley Park, Ill. added a café portion to its bakery about a year ago. Carlo’s Bakery of Cake Boss fame just reopened a rehabbed original location in Hoboken, N.J. a few months ago. Dave’s Killer Bread, Portland, Ore., has expanded production capacity to distribute its breads nationwide by the end of this year.

Kurt Stricker, owner of Pedigree Ovens, Harvard, Ill., has gone through several bakery expansions throughout his career with wholesale and retail bakeries. He offers these tips for bakery expansion:

1. Start with your own vision. “People spend a lot of money on designs set up by other people,” Stricker said. Consultants are fine to use, but you need to envision how things happen in your bakery first. Think about your entire production process, storage space, packaging area, freezers/refrigeration, etc. A clear vision and good plan are necessary to get the most from any extra help, like contractors, consultants and architects.

2. Food safety should be top priority. Understand food safety regulations, and design any new space to meet those standards. Structure your bakery to eliminate the chances of cross contamination, for example, by storing raw ingredients away from finished products. For wholesale bakeries, Stricker also recommends investing in warehouse tracability software to track ingredients, production and final product.

3. Count on future growth. If you’re going through an expansion project, your bakery production has likely already reached capacity. Don’t purchase equipment to only meet current needs. Assume your business will grow more with the expansion, so purchase versatile equipment that can grow with you. A quote from Henry Ford – “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it.”

4. Design flexibility in your processes. Your top producing product right now may not be so in a few years. Plan equipment, packaging and space to be versatile enough to change as new product demands arise.

5. Expect the unexpected. As much as you plan and budget for design improvements, construction costs, equipment investments, potential bakery down time during constructions, etc., expect that not everything will go according to plan. Give yourself some cushion in the budget for unforeseen costs.

6. Complete the project. You may think parts of the new space, like a storage room, don’t need as much attention to detail as the others, and that you can get to those improvements at a later time. However, once production gets going again, and you’ve moved into the space, it becomes much harder and more expensive to go back and finish what you started.

Carlo’s Bakery, Hoboken, NJ