Blissfully flaky croissants, cupcakes to share and cookies that boost school spirit — and sales. Here's how four onsite operators hit the sweet spot.
Hardly anyone will turn down a great looking cookie or cupcake. But once in a while, a dessert item will go on to become a legendary fan favorite.
The recipe for a bakery case star includes a delicious product, a dollop of fun and a sprinkle of clever marketing.
CASE STUDY: CAMEL COOKIES
The Star: The catering department at Connecticut College bakes 350 dozen Camel Cookies per year. In addition, the college's main dining services operation bakes them for special events.
These one-humped wonders are known all over campus. Camel Cookies are made with a typical butter cookie recipe, says Merrill Collins, director of events and catering.
Backstory: Legend has it that camel mascot originated when a coach was looking for an animal with the stamina and endurance to make it through an unforgiving desert. The Connecticut College Camels were born, and sometime after, the cookies were created, using camel-shaped cookie cutters.
Fans: “Just recently, the Student Government Association ordered a bunch of cookies and gave them as a thank-you to different people on campus,” Collins says, adding that the camels often make guest appearances for special dinners at the college president's house and at alumni events.
New twists: Finding a mini-camel cookie cutter presented a new opportunity. Animal-cracker sized camel cookies sprinkled on top of ice cream or sorbet are rocking the cute factor, big time, Collins says. The mini-camels have even been made into croutons.
Also, “sometimes we dip the regular sized cookies' feet in chocolate, and that looks like hooves.”
The school colors, blue and white, can be added in the form of frosting, sprinkles and M&M candies, and for a limited time, a Connecticut College school seal was added to the cookies, and looked like a blanket draped over the camel's back.
“They're always recognizable, but we can change them up enough so they're never boring,” Collins says, hinting at what may be the secret to the camel's runaway success.
CASE STUDY: TOP QUALITY CROISSANTS
The Star: Making croissants from scratch? Not sure it's worth the effort? The amazing results it achieved for one operation led it to commit to the process.
“Scratch baking is a lost art and it takes real ambition and talent to be successful in developing something from nothing,” says Julio Armenta, production chef, dining services, San Diego State University. He credits his team of bakers and pastry chefs who take the labor-intensive effort seriously.
From start to finish, the complex process takes about three days, from scaling and mixing the dough 12 hours before butter is incorporated, to folding the dough through a large industrial sheeter, resting the dough one hour between each fold, to adding chocolate or cheese or chocolate bacon or a ham and cheese combo.
Backstory: “Fourteen years ago, we had been ordering croissants for our c-stores and QSRs from an outside vendor, but we had real quality and consistency concerns with the product we were purchasing. A few times, there was no yeast and the dough wouldn't rise,” Armenta says. “We did a lot of research and found that we can produce croissants from scratch at a lower cost and a much higher level of quality. Pastry Chef Jessica Wylie and I fine tuned the recipe.” Within four years, Armenta says, the demand grew so much that a larger industrial sheeter had to be purchased.
Details: In Boston, you can be sure there is a Boston Creme Pie cupcake, and there is also a Red Velvet cupcake, a chocolate ganache and a basic vanilla cupcake with white frosting. What elevated the cupcakes to ‘bakery case favorite’ status at Boston College was the idea of a 4-pack, rather than individual cupcakes for sale.
Smart Packaging: “Single cupcakes weren't selling, and they weren't a good value if we made them portable, as the price goes up with the packaging. The four pack is a plastic clam shell package with four spots to hold the cupcakes,” says Michael Kann, associate director, food and beverage. “With our customers, portability is huge.”
Fans: “People are buying a couple of four packs and taking them back to their rooms to share with friends,” Kann says. Also, people at a table will get these to share with their lunch buddies.
CASE STUDY: MONSTER COOKIES
The Star: At least 240 of these cereal-bowl-sized cookies are sold each week at the Jazzman's Cafe and Bakery, a Sodexo concept, located on the ground floor of Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, GA. The cookies are baked in-house each day. “Chocolate chip is the absolute favorite and we have that every day,” says Caronda Barnes, brand marketing retail manager at the hospital. Also appearing regularly on the menu are peanut butter and oatmeal-raisin cookies. Around the holidays, cranberry-pistachio cookies tempt customers. At $1.89, the butter-based cookies are a great value, and they are placed at “kid level” so the little ones can be sure see the giant cookies.
“We tell people these are big enough to either share, or save half for later,” Barnes adds.
Fans: “The cafe is the first thing you see when you walk into the lobby/waiting area and the baking-cookie aroma draws customers in,” Barnes says. “People waiting for their family members to have surgery can get coffee and a cookie, and first thing in the morning, there is a line of doctors and nurses outside the cafe.”
Smart Marketing: Looking to perk up sales during the lull period between 3:30 and 4 p.m., Barnes says the cafe began a sample program featuring miniature cookies, brownies, turnovers and scones from the bakery. “We walked around with samples, and it went over so well, we now have a miniature line as part of the concept.”Cake Pops Mini Upside Down Pineapple Cakes Mixed Berry Crostata Pear Breakfast Cookies Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Wonton Napoleon Twix Mango Magic Bars Delicious Honey Caramel Sticky Buns Delicious Honey Caramel Sauce