Bakeries Diversify: Keeping Themselves in the Dough
Phillip Kuoch describes himself as a planner, but there’s no way he could have predicted the pandemic trajectory of Goldeluck’s, his Melbourne bakery. “The last 12 months have been a crazy time for us,” he says.
His workforce has doubled from 15 to 30 staff members and online revenue increased 1,448 percent, reaching a 2020 total of $1.5 million.
Kuoch did it by focusing on online ordering and delivery, turning traditional suburban retail stores into e-commerce hubs that now service the whole of Australia.
“When we started hearing about lockdowns, I made sure our website was ready because I knew people would still have birthdays and anniversaries, there would still be gifting, and that would be an opportunity for us,” he says. Pre-COVID, Goldeluck’s did around five deliveries a day. “During lockdown we did a delivery every 51 seconds,” says Kuoch. “It transformed our business.”
Kuoch engaged a public relations agency and started advertising to promote the new delivery arm. “That was our biggest gamble,” he says. “We tripled social media advertising and invested in influencer marketing, picking foodie influencers, especially those interested in desserts.” They also targeted radio stations, giving them donuts and other sweet treats and running on-air giveaways.
Initially, Goldeluck’s repurposed staff members to do delivery, but when Melbourne’s second lockdown rolled around, Kuoch went national, using StarTrack as courier. Packaging was finessed to deal with longer travel times. “There is so much advancement in packaging to keep products fresh,” says Kuoch. “We can shrink-wrap many baked goods, which extends the shelf life.”
Now Australia has ‘reopened’, the retail side of the business has improved and Kuoch would like to open more stores. “But 2020 has definitely changed the conversation for us,” he says. “It made us think beyond our stores, integrate e-commerce, and reach customers beyond our local area,” he says. “I am really proud of that.”
Wedding cake makers have had a difficult year. North Queensland baker Debra Magatelli lost all her work when the pandemic struck. “I baked cookies for Mother’s Day and hand-delivered baked goods, but it didn’t take off,” she says.
When weddings started to return, COVID-safe plans meant that cakes couldn’t be displayed for guests to admire and couples to be photographed alongside. “I thought it was really unfair that a bride and groom would spend $400-plus on a cake and the guests couldn’t even see it,” says Magatelli. “Brides started cancelling their orders because what was the point?”
Magatelli started making a replica cake out of styrofoam, iced and decorated to match the first. “They could have that one on display all night long and you’d have the eating cake in the kitchen, cut and boxed for guests,” she says. She only charged $15 extra for the styrofoam version. “The situation wasn’t their fault and if I didn’t do it, I often wouldn’t have got the job at all,” she says. Townsville’s wedding season is about to kick off again and eased restrictions mean styrofoam cakes aren’t currently necessary, but if things change, Magatelli is ready to pivot again.
Made to Order Online
Kylie Ferguson owns Flourish Sourdough Bakery in the NSW town of Corowa, on the Murray River. The micro-bakery serviced farmer’s markets before COVID shut them down. With nowhere to sell their products, Ferguson latched onto Cookaborough, an online ordering and logistics platform.
“Within 24 hours they had us ready to take orders for Easter hot cross buns,” she says. “We were really concerned about people losing touch with our product, because when that happens, people generally end up going elsewhere.”
Flourish launched a COVID rhythm of weekly menus, sent via email and delivered to homes. “We did it every week, including targeting towns and communities we hadn’t reached before.”
As markets reopened, Flourish pulled back on online ordering. “If we increase capacity, we might start it up again,” says Ferguson. “It’s been brilliant though, helping us develop the business further than we expected. People further afield know us now. I am sure that if we didn’t have online ordering through COVID, we would not have a business now.”
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