Bakery cafes flourish in a troubled economy
One unexpected result of the weak economy is the emergence of bakery cafes as go-to places for eating out on a budget. The industry grew by 12 percent to more than $4.5 billion in 2008, the latest year for which there are figures.
The press release I got about this came from Technomic, a national food service industry consulting firm, so it was talking about chains. I would have to buy its report to find out what the top 25 bakery cafe chains are, which isn't going to happen (I'm not that interested); but three top performers are Panera, Au Bon Pain and Einstein Bagels. ...
Doesn't that last surprise you? I simply don't put it in the same category as the other two, even though I know Einstein has sandwiches made from its bagels, and has added a few salads and soup to the menu. I still don't think of it as a bakery cafe. It's a bagel shop.
On a local level, bakery cafes do seem to be doing well. Certainly a new Atwater's is opening every time I turn around (I hear there's a new one in Catonsville), and Bonaparte in Fells Point always seems busy. Stone Mill Bakery has expanded big time. And dont forget Mr. HowChow's recent review of Bon Fresco.
I was trying to figure out why bakery cafes as opposed to cafes or bistros would be flourishing. The only answer I could come up with is that in a recession you need great bread to keep from blowing your brains out.
“The consumer trade-down from full-service to limited-service formats that solidified through 2008 and into 2009 allowed fast-casual bakery cafes to truly shine,” says Darren Tristano, [executive vice president] at Technomic.“The appeal of moderately priced, high-quality menu offerings served in contemporary ambiance, as well as consumer perception of value for this format, has more than likely strengthened over the past year.”
Does anyone really talk like that?
(Amy Davis/Sun photographer)