Bakery manager Colin Hopper has baking in his blood he is the seventh generation of the family behind Hoppers Farmhouse Bakeries. Rather than go to work in the family business, however, he joined Safeway, aged 17, and has been with the firm, now owned by Morrisons, ever since.
Hopper is a regional trainer for Morrisons and the judges cited his impressive training and leadership skills as a major reason behind the bakery’s success. They described the 13-strong team as very supportive of each other, adding that Hopper "displayed all of the good qualities of a manager" and that he was well able "to coach and lead his team".
The ISB produces 127 kinds of bread, 90% of them from scratch. Tiger loaves are popular and Hopper says there is a big push on healthier ranges, such as spelt & rye and maize loaves. Turnover is up significantly year on year, while the Cake Shop which is run by another team, but under Hopper’s remit boasts an impressive 30% year-on-year increase. Hopper says these figures are mostly down to customer confidence in both product quality and availability. The last bake of the day is often as late as 7pm, with some specialist lines baked-off a few at a time to ensure freshness.
The judges agreed, adding that the store operation was of a very high standard, and that customers seemed "really comfortable" in the bakery.
"I joined Asda as a trainee baker in 2005," says Matt Brazier, bakery manager, "and I found my life’s vocation!" Brazier has been a manager since 2007 and joined Nuneaton two years later. He has 24 staff in his in-store bakery (ISB), including nine trained, and six skilled, bakers. Around 55% of products are baked from scratch, including French, bloomers, tins and soft rolls these are mixed, divided and proved in traditional plant then baked in deck and rack ovens. Hot cross buns are big sellers, as are tray-bakes and chocolate squares.
The department’s figures put it in the company’s top five, thanks to a big rise last year. Brazier says this is largely because the staff have risen to the challenge to beat other stores in the area.
"The Asda Chosen By You quality mark has given staff an opportunity to sell something really different," adds Brazier. "We’ve upped the quality of our displays and we only send out products we would buy ourselves."
Bakery manager Ben Olive has worked for Asda for eight years, joining as a college leaver and working across various departments. He joined the bakery in a management position two years ago, having learned his bakery craft in the Taunton store.Twenty-five staff work in the ISB, including six fully-trained bakers.
About 50% of the product range is produced from scratch, including the best-selling tiger breads and a seeded bloomer.
Sales have seen a healthy rise on last year in part, thinks Olive, due to a heavy focus on promotion. "We take every bit of available space to push the bakery," he says. "At Easter we had six tables at the front of store to showcase our hot cross buns and achieved sales of 4,500 in a week."
Staff incentives also help increase sales: "At Christmas each person picked a product and the one who sold most was rewarded that showed real results!"
Coldhams Lane, Cambridge
John Lamper has been with Sainsbury’s for just over 20 years, a bakery manager for 15, 13 of them in Coldhams Lane. As well as his on-the-job experience, Lamper says he has benefited hugely from on-site and bakery school training, a benefit he is keen to pass to others. With 15 members of staff, eight of whom are trained bakers, Lamper is an advocate of the Sainsbury’s Apprentice Scheme a 16-month programme which ensures staff understand all aspects of the ISB, from scratch baking to financial management. "It’s tough and they have to complete a big project at the end. One of our staff devised a scheme that increased doughnut sales by 20%; another added £600 a week to hot French bread."
The ISB has shown a 15% rise in scratch products in the past 12 months. Lamper says this is down to the focus on good customer service and availability, with a ’little and often’ approach.