The Best Advice For Bakery Startups
I’ve had fun thinking about writing this article for quite some time, because I think that readers will end up in two major camps. Camp number one is going to be home bakers or small food / bakery startups, while camp number two will be more established baking businesses (and probably most European readers).
At the outset, my guess is that camp number one might read this piece of advice and right if off as the musings of a baker / technologists who’s sipper on one too many wobbly pops. On the other hand, the moment I’ve actually offered this Magical Piece of Advice, the folks in camp number two will quickly abandon this article entirely because it’s advice they already follow, and probably critical to their operation. Also, those cat videos on YouTube aren’t going to watch themselves.
So without any delay, here is one of the best pieces of advice I can give to any bakery or food business startup:
Go buy a nice scale to weigh all of your ingredients, convert all your recipes to weight, and throw all your measuring cups and spoons in the trash.
Now, before you write me off as crazy and give me a big old facepalm, please read on.
Remember making cookies with grandma?
From the time you’re young, baking cookies at home with mom or grandma – you’ve been familiar with that lovely set of measuring cups and spoons. Maybe you even have that set from Tupperware, including the fondly loved 2/3 cup one that you melted on the stove that one time when you were making cream of wheat. At some time later in life, something happened and you decided you were going to try starting a bakery business (or maybe some other food business) using that Very Special Recipe™ of yours. You make several batches, you test it with friends, maybe sell at some markets or get a small commercial space that you lease by the hour or by the day. More orders are coming in, and all of a sudden you find yourself measuring 20 cups of flour into some bowl, without stopping to think about how much time that takes. It only gets worse from there when you’re dealing with liquids and start measuring 14 1/2 cups of milk, or 78.6 fluid ounces of canola oil. Or 7 1/8tsp of baking powder.
Measurement Converters: Converting Weight to Volume
One of the awesome features of Recipe Cost Calculator is something we call measurement converters. Basically, this feature lets you create a weight-to-volume ratio (or other kinds of ratios) so that if you purchase an ingredient by volume, you can create a converter for it that will let you use that ingredient by weight in a recipe. But this actually works both ways. You can also create a converter that let’s you take an ingredient you purchase by weight (for example, flour), and add a converter allowing you to use flour as a volume (e.g. cups) in your recipe.
Don’t Get it Backwards
But here’s the kicker – I never really wanted customers to create weight-to-volume conversions, rather my intent was that customers would create volume-to-weight conversions for volume-based ingredients (e.g. milk purchased by the gallon or the litre).
Once that was done, my hope was that customers would use these ingredients in their recipes by weight. The accuracy you will gain and the time you will save by building out your recipes using weight instead of volume can not be overstated.
The accuracy you will gain and the time you will save by building out your recipes using weight instead of volume can not be overstated.
Early on, especially when starting a business, this might seem laughable to some folks – but later on, when your batch weight is 30, 50 or 250 lbs – the idea of measuring out 189 cups of flour becomes ridiculous. In the early days of Kitchening & Co. I worked closely with our production team to convert all recipes that we developed into weight-based equivalents. They scaled-up easily and changing batch sizes was incredibly straight forward. Every recipe was measured in grams (another strong recommendation) and we used tiny gram scales for ingredients that only required a few grams per recipe (like liquid powders or colours). We had our costs dialed in precisely, without any risk of bad measurement conversions, or questions about whether the flour or sugar was packed too tight or too loose, or whether or not two “1 cup” measuring cups were actually the same size.
…when your batch weight is 30, 50 or 250 lbs – the idea of measuring out 189 cups of flour becomes ridiculous.
In summary, developing your recipes by weight will:
- Increase the accuracy and consistency of your recipes
- Result in the most accurate ingredient costs
- Reduce your overhead by saving time (weighing ingredients is generally much faster than measuring by volume)
Don’t waste any more time developing recipes or continuing to use volume-based recipes in any sort of business that is doing any type of food production or manufacturing. Switch to weight today – you’ll thank yourself later.