Bakeries may be a dime a dozen (every neighbourhood seems to have one, after all), but that doesn’t mean they’re all successful. In fact, we’ve been to our fair share of dives and hidden gems over the years, experiencing everything from so-so bread and non-existent customer service to desserts from the nicest bakers we’ve ever met that basically knocked our knickers off.

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Jean Parker and Rachel Smith enjoy coffee and dessert at Proof Bakeshop in Atlanta.

Odds are that if a bakery exists, it’s there for good reason: the bakers involved know their way around a confection oven. But skills are just the first building block to a successful storefront. Here, Canada’s own The Baker Sisters, Jean Parker and Rachel Smith, divulge their top 5 tips that any bakery owner simply kneads to know.

Nail the Environment

Some bakeries are sit-down affairs while others are more about the counter service. Whatever type of establishment you’re running, you want to do it with a warm and friendly face because that’s what’s going to keep people coming back for more.

Just look at those smiles behind the counter at Vancouver’s Purebread bakery:

“(Have) a warm smile right off the bat,” Jean says. “Be really welcoming, because people will want to stay. There should be no rush.”

While you’re at it, it might not be a bad idea to offer a good cup of coffee or a strong pot of tea. Complete with a freshly baked scone or biscotti, of course.

Display Your Goods

Everyone knows that you eat with your eyes first, so that makes playing up the visual aspects of a bakery an important pillar of success. According to the sisters, it’s not just important to display your goods for customers as soon as they walk in, but you also want to share a variety of goods that showcase your awesome selection.

“One of our first trips away, we went to the West Coast in Canada, to Purebread in Vancouver, and this bakery was amazing. You walked in and it was like a bounty of desserts,” Rachel recalls. “Your eyes bugged out from how much of a selection they had, and they were all on different plate sizes. They weren’t hidden under a counter. They were just like, ‘Look at this bounty.’”

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Purebread’s bakery display is a sweet sight to behold.
Photo Credit: Rachel Smith and Jean Parker

Foster Your Clientele

We’ve all heard how the customer is always right, but customer service should go beyond that approach. Making your clients feel welcomed and appreciated will only keep them coming back for more, and in the end, isn’t that the goal? That’s why the sisters feel it’s important to not only get to know the people who frequent your shop on a personal level, but to go that extra mile for them too. Rachel goes back to Purebread as another example of exemplary customer care following a day they happened to be closed to the public.

“Purebread stood at their front door and gave people sweeties for free to say, ‘I’m so sorry we’re closed today,’” she recalls. “At one point, they were giving gift cards.”

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One more delicious shot of Purebread’s deliciously over-the-top display.

Be a Community Cornerstone

If you want to become a community staple, giving back to that community is probably a good start. Attend community events and get to know the residents, but also donate to local charities and organizations to really stand apart from the other establishments in town.

“Give day-olds to the community, like shelters. That stands out to me,” Jean says. “There were a handful of bakeries that I knew, maybe a lot of them did that, and they become a community cornerstone.”

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Sugar in Charleston, South Carolina donates its day-old baked goods to community shelters.

Go for Gold

If you’ve nailed the other pillars of bakery excellence, there’s still one pretty big step to keep in mind—making sure you stand out from other bakeries with unique ingredients customers just can’t get elsewhere.

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Toronto’s Nugateau prides itself on using high quality products and no artificial flavourings.
Photo Credit: Rachel Smith and Jean Parker

Have fresh, quality ingredients like chocolate and vanilla,” Jean says. “A lot of the bakers were using Kentucky bourbon vanilla, Madagascar vanilla came up a lot. Himalayan salt.”

“New Zealand butter,” Rachel raves. “It’s like using these ingredients that are really rich and special and luxurious. New Zealand butter has more fat content than regular butter, so it really lends to a buttery sweetie.”

Now that’s a pastry we can get behind.

Beginning October 20th, watch Rachel and Jean indulge in some of North America’s most delicious baked goods every Friday at 10 E/P in back-to-back episodes of The Baker Sisters. Visit foodnetwork.ca/thebakersisters to get the recipes and find all the bakeries Rachel and Jean visit in the series.