A simple country bake

16 June, 2006
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Page 18 

Tony Phillips is past president of the NAMB and is (allegedly) retired from running Janes Pantry with 10 shops in Gloucestershire

Once again, I have had a brilliant idea, which will make all our fortunes! It came to me when I bought a new telephone with two handsets. All the parts were loose in the box and you had to put them together. This reminded me of cheap furniture – and some not so cheap – which comes in a box and for which you have to turn your home into a furniture factory or electronic assembly plant before it will work.
So why waste time baking bread? All we have to do is put the ingredients in a bag, display a few loaves in our shops and, when a customer orders a loaf, just hand him or her the bag with the ingredients and a 100-page book of instructions he or she will never understand.Think of all the time we’d save, not to mention labour. And we’d only need a small bakery as we’d only need to make a few products. Strange, isn’t it, how we so often miss the obvious? When all these great ideas come to fruition, we will all be rich.Many times I have thought we bakers, who are principally retailers, probably tie up far too much cash and time in our bakeries. Wouldn’t we do better spending more time improving our retail shops?When you look at our businesses, we really fall between two stools – producers and retailers. And the hard fact of life is that it is much easier to make the product than to sell it.We probably spend more time on the production side than we do on the retail side; how many bakers do you know who leave the shops to their wives or, as they get larger, hire a sales manager to deal with the shops? They tend to think they are bakers and spend their time with their head in the trough and their bottoms in the air.Yes, bakery is a wonderful craft and, in my experience, the people in it are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be just as nice spending more time on their core business of selling bakery products. More and more bakers are now buying in their savouries, frozen doughnuts, Danish and a whole multitude of lines and yet, quite rightly, still consider themselves bakers.When you think of it, most – if not all – of the most successful retailers do not make the goods they sell. They buy them in at the best price and quality they can find. Wal-Mart and Marks & Spencer, to name but two, appear to make a lot of money concentrating on the selling and they leave the hassle of production to others.Yet we, with our limited resources think we can be successful at both. As I have so often said, we must be geniuses to succeed as well as we do.The problem is that we all have a great deal of money tied up in the bakery. There is no such thing as a low-priced decent piece of equipment. And, once you have bought whatever it is, you find you have to spend even more because it makes so much that you need extra deep freeze space and more baskets to store the finished product in.Then there is the delivery problem; vans have to be kept clean and looking good. Yet van drivers appear to think you have given them a dodgem car, which just has to hit other vans or knock down walls, fences or anything standing. Then, with a look of total innocence, the van driver always tell you it happened while he or she was away from the van.



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