My bakery isn’t completely selling out at the end of each day yet. What should I do?

Selling out every day is typically not a good strategy for a bakery. As painful as it is for bakers to accept, some waste is necessary.

If your goal is to completely sell out every product each day, it will be difficult to create a sustainable business. Waste is a necessary consequence of selling perishable products.

The Value of a Full Display Case

Even baked-from-scratch products maintain their quality for a couple of days, and sometimes longer. While selling everything may feel like a great success, it’s typically not a good business strategy. (While the scarcity mindset is real and limiting supply to create exclusivity can be a valid strategy, you need to have an amazing product to make that work over the long term.)

Always be aware that you are “training” your customers. If your display case is “picked over” by the end of the day, you’re training your customers to visit earlier in the day. This can create a downward cycle where you’ll need to start closing earlier and earlier because of the lack of customers around your closing time.

Customers will also buy higher quantities when the case is more full. People tend not to want to take the “last one” of anything. More selection increases sales — creating a positive growth cycle.

Reducing Waste by Selling Stale Products at a Discount?

Offering discounts for stale products trains your customers to think of your products as being stale and discounted — which is not true, of course. Unless you can repurpose products (stale bread -> croutons), it’s better to discard them when their quality degrades rather than to provide a subpar and/or discounted product to your customers.

Ideas for Reducing Waste

You’ll still want to minimize waste, so here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Use airtight containers so they stay fresh for Day 2. Make sure you have a system so the Day 2 items are sold before the Day 1 items.
  • Encourage more online orders to make your sales more predictable. You’ll typically increase your order size as well with pre-orders.
  • If you offer a LOT of flavors, consider reducing the variety a little — or perhaps making some flavors seasonal. People like variety, but too many choices can also lead to indecisiveness. Few options can also lead to less waste because demand is more predictable.
  • Track waste by product so you can adjust quantities if a product is frequently discarded.
  • Use an app like Sprk™ to help predict demand by day of the week, for special events and holidays, etc.

One Final Thought

It’s REALLY hard for bakers to throw away products they worked so hard to create. It’s personal for them (as it should be, if they are passionate about their craft). Train your bakers to understand that some waste is just a natural part of the business. If they understand the benefits to your business, it will make it a bit easier for them to do what’s necessary.

Next Up: How do I lower Cost of Goods Sold for my bakery/cafe?