Since Brown Sugar Bakery opened its first location nearly 15 years ago, it’s grown into a Chicago institution, famous for its signature caramel cakes, cupcakes and other baked goods. Now with a second location at tourist destination Navy Pier, a James Beard nomination for outstanding baker, and a passion for entrepreneurship, owner Stephanie Hart has big plans for her bakery’s future. Key to that future: a supplier partnership that supports her business goals through innovative technology.
Brown Sugar Bakery is among a select group of bakeries beta testing Dawn Foods’ new Bakery Business Portal. Here, she shares how she anticipates the new app will help her overcome challenges and fuel her business’s growth.
Q: In your years of experience owning a bakery, how have consumers’ expectations for technology use evolved?
A: Consumers’ expectations have been so rapidly evolving that I think it’s a challenge for a lot of entrepreneurs, at least for those who might not be tech-savvy.
You’ve got to be on social media. You’ve got to be on all these review sites. You better be addressing online ordering, because your customers are asking for it. You need to be able to get your products to customers in several different ways. It’s a lot. But it’s exciting.
Q. How do you envision the Bakery Business Portal improving order placing?
A: Our phones get busy; it’s constant phone ringing. I’ve got four lines. Once we’ve begun using the app, I can tell customers, “Whether you need it right now or in a couple days, you can go online and place your order.” So that’ll be something we can market and encourage. I see that as an opportunity to focus more on the in-store customer.
It’s also an opportunity to tighten up. Using the app, the way we’ll get order information won’t be handwritten by 10 people. You know how easy it is not to double-check something when it’s handwritten? Also, tickets get lost. That’s just a reality. The customer hands the person behind the counter the piece of paper, and I don’t know how it happens, maybe the door opens and the wind blows. Those are problems, because the customer is going to come back to the store and not be satisfied.
It’ll also save us time confirming order details with customers. If a ticket gets misplaced and the person behind the counter is looking around for it, what does that look like for the customer?
Same thing with the kitchen. We’ll have a list generated automatically, not this handwritten list. Oftentimes, tickets and notes get moved. Lists generated through an order-placing platform don’t.
I see the Bakery Business Portal helping us eliminate issues and gain more control over the services we offer—namely the cake you pick up.
I’m also excited for the Portal to help us become more organized for planning. Anytime you offer a new service that’s tech-based, you can look at that and say, “OK, I have this process streamlined.” And the new interface will give us the opportunity to examine processes and say, “How are we doing things? And what’s next?”
Stephanie Hart, owner of Brown Sugar Bakery in Chicago
Q: How do you expect the Bakery Business Portal to affect sales?
A: Immediately, it’s going to increase sales because we’ll be capturing people who may not have otherwise ordered.
The next way I can see the Portal boosting my business is shipping capabilities. Shipping our products is a whole other revenue line, and this app will allow me to do it. You’ll be able to get your caramel cake across the country.
My second location is at Chicago’s Navy Pier, which is visited by 9 million people every year. Many of these people are tourists, and I can position my caramel cake as a Chicago dessert they can order and share with their family and friends when they go home. People carry my cakes home on the plane, so shipping is going to be a major opportunity for us.
Q: What other long-term opportunities do you see for online ordering and shipping?
A: Family gatherings. I cannot wait for Thanksgiving. Imagine at the holidays, when business is very busy, the ordering functionality of the app will take so much pressure off of me. Our customers order a month early for Thanksgiving. With the app, it’ll be streamlined; I’ll get organized data and know what I have to do.
Q: Are there any other Bakery Business Portal functionalities or features you’re excited about?
A: One of the reasons I was so excited about participating in the beta test for the Portal is Dawn will get a grasp on what our customers are ordering. That, combined with us placing our orders with Dawn online, means they can analyze my sales data and say, “Steph, we see you’re selling this, and in this market over here, this bakery is selling this and seeing similar success.” They can recommend new products that’ll help me increase my sales.