By Max Jenvey of Oxxygen Marketing Partnership, a strategic management agency that works on brand development within the bakery, foodservice and convenience retail sectors

Time is everyone’s most valuable asset, so how do today’s successful in-store and high street bakers manage to achieve their targets? Answer: by giving customers what they want, when they want it, in the right location and, of course, at the right price.

Consumers are more time-crunched than ever, with 65% of food-to-go shoppers looking for a quick takeaway option (him! Food-to-go Report 2009). So it is important to make your bakery or café the easiest choice for customers offering a variety of takeaway meal deal options, snack times and breakfast and ranging from a small section that offers self-select loaves and baguettes, to muffins and sweet treats and on up to full counter service and a range of ready-to-eat hot options, such as slices, turnovers and paninis.

Forecourts successfully follow this model and drive around 40% of their revenues through food and beverages. So what can independent bakers and retailers learn from this? The answer is to manage four key areas of your business your 4Ms: man, machine, method and money:

l Man this is your most valuable asset. Look at skill sets, customer service, staff friendliness, training in hygiene, health and safety, quality control, suggestive selling, waste management, incentives and feedback.

l Machine your equipment is key. Carefully consider location, customers and product range, coffee machine, hot displays, hot and ambient counter-top merchandisers, ovens and grills and chilled units. And there is always help at hand food suppliers, such as Bako, BFP, Brakes and Delice de France etc, can advise you on the different equipment elements.

l Method this involves planning parts of the day, with the right offer in the right time and place. Remember to break down each part of your trading hours, based on customer flow and demand. People want to grab croissants and coffee in the morning, which need to be baked-off or supplied before 6am. Lunch is all about your sandwich range, sausage rolls, pasties and pizza slices. Consider soup, paninis and hot fillings.

l Money get the first three Ms right and watch the profits roll in! Understand the contribution from each product by range and category and do your sums. Identify your best/worst performers change that range, refresh your beverage offer, focus on value and quality and your customers will spend their money with you.