Each month we profile a family firm, charting its course through the generations. Here, we look at the Burns family, who have been at the helm of Burns the Bread for more than 30 years.
Founded by Bob Burns – current owner of the Burns bakery empire – three generations of the family are now pulling the reins at Burns the Bread, which has expanded into seven sites and a baking school over its 35-year history.
Bob’s daughter Terri works as managing director, while grandsons Casey and Max run the retail side and production management, respectively.
Bob started the business in 1983, having already worked in a bakery with his ex-wife Sandra and his parents in-law in Devon. He had his heart set on a traditional family bakery in a “prime” location, which “could become part of the local community”.
Then, in 1983, Bob and Sandra purchased what would become the first Burns the Bread site from its former owners, who were retiring. The Glastonbury shop had been operating as a bakery since 1800.
“Their most popular line was pasties, and we slightly changed those” said Bob. They named the bakes the Glastonbury Pasty, and they remain a best-seller to this day. The seven Burns sites now sell between 15,000 to 20,000 savouries a week in total.
Initially the business produced white, brown and granary bread. Things have changed since then, with some of the bakery’s most popular items including: multi-seeded bread and cornbread, plus sunflower seed, cranberry & walnut, gluten-free, French grain and spelt loaves. “We started doing spelt bread, before it was really fashionable, over 25 years ago,” said Bob. “We use spelt for pies, hot cross buns, Easter biscuits and cakes.”
He attributes his keen eye for trends partly to working with Bako over the past 25 years, where he has held the roles of director and chairman. And, in 2012, Bob was named Baker of the Year at British Baker’s Baking Industry Awards.
In 1995, Burns the Bread opened its second site on Street High Street, and five more sites have opened up over the past 13 years. Locations include an old café premises in Wells, Cary Castle, the abbey car park in Glastonbury, and Somerton. In 2016, the business opened a ‘School of Baking’.
The expansion has been fuelled by a need to accommodate staff aspirations: “ you have to give people opportunities to advance, especially when you’ve trained them yourself”.
The business has also raised thousands of pounds for the local hospice and, two years ago, Bob was awarded an MBE for his services to charity and the community.
L-R: Terri, Bob and Casey
1983 – Bob and Sandra Burns set up their first bakery, Burns the Bread, in Glastonbury
1995 – The business expands with a second site
2010 – Third site taken over from existing bakers at Castle Cary
2012 – Bob is named Baker of the Year at British Baker’s Baking Industry Awards
2013 – Sixth site launched in car park at Glastonbury Abbey
2016 – Burns the Bread ‘School of Baking’ opens
2016 – Bob Burns awarded an MBE for services to the community of Somerset
2017 – Burns the Bread store opens at Somerton