Story by Maggie Glisan
KANSAS CITY, MO — Inflation, supply chain issues and a tight labor market have impacted how bakery cafes operate and innovate as they stage a post-pandemic comeback. According to Datassential, more than half of consumers believe the US will enter a recession in 2023, while 27% think the US is currently in one.
Ongoing labor shortages make finding operational efficiencies and leaning on technological solutions even more imperative. In fact, the Datassential report found that in 2022, restaurants already cut operating hours by an average of 6.4 hours per week compared to those pre-pandemic.
Rising food costs combined with inflation-fueled price sensitivity is also causing consumers to pull back on gratuitous spending.
In August 2022, a survey by Medallia found 49% of respondents cited price as a driver of household decisions compared to 29% last year. However, bakery cafes remain a relatively affordable dining option to those seeking affordable indulgences. Grabbing a breakfast sandwich or afternoon cookie feels like a special treat, but one that doesn’t break the bank.
Capitalizing on holidays and special occasions are one way bakery cafes can create buzz for limited-time-only offerings.
At Great Harvest, demand for holiday-themed treats has unlocked new potential for product innovation.
Of course, holiday offerings aren’t the only way for bakery cafes to stir interest around new products. Street-food flavors, sweet-and-spicy combos and botanicals are all having a moment and spurring new product innovation that bakeries should consider. At Moonachie, NJ-based Paris Baguette USA, items such as curry croquettes, matcha mochi donuts and whole red bean bread offer authentic global flavors in an accessible way. Meanwhile, savory pastries such as cheese boureka and spinach labneh pita at Cambridge, MA-based Tatte Bakery & Cafe afford customers with just the right dose of adventure.
Sweet and spicy combinations continue to intrigue, with hot honey showing a 53% increase in consumer interest in the last two years, according to Tastewise, and the botanical category — think floral flavors such as hibiscus, rosehip, and cherry blossom — has grown more than 31% in consumer interest during the same time span.
All of these trending flavors give bakery cafes the opportunity to deliver on classic and seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice, maple and apple while also experimenting with “newstalgia” twists, combining nostalgic foods with new trending tastes. Clever creations like spicy maple streusel muffins or orange rose shortbread cookies could give customers the perfect dose of new and different in a baked good they already know and love.
As foot traffic returns for bakery cafes across the country, these operators find classic fare paired a little production innovation will ensure the bakery cafe comeback continues.
This story has been adapted from the March | Q1 2023 Craft to Crumb mini-mag. Read the full story in the digital edition.