When it comes to House of Bread Bakery Cafe, Eric Breeze is a bit like the family elder. He owns the company’s longest-running franchise operation, and he’s quick to share stories and advice about the business. He has watched many bakeries and neighborhood cafes come and go since taking root in Reno, Nevada nearly 14 years ago.
Breeze says that superior products and excellent customer service are common-sense, minimum requirements for success. In this interview, he reveals three additional steps franchisees can take to increase longevity and stay relevant to customers.
1. Create an Interactive Environment
“Our bread is kept behind the counter on a rack. You have to interact with one of my employees to get the bread,” says Breeze. “My employees can make recommendations about accompanying breads specific to any meal. I hire bread sales people.”
Eric feels that a positive experience depends on having knowledgeable and approachable employees who know how to interact, rather than simply react. He states, “Customers come in with one thing on their mind: To get bread. Shame on us if we let them leave empty-handed. We even slice it in front of them. We have the chance to interact with them from start to finish.”
2. Spread Enthusiasm
During the bakery’s building process, Breeze got busy generating buzz. “I opened the doors every day,” he recalls. “I let people in and talked to them. I showed them where the oven was going to be, made a visible countdown showing number of days until we opened—you know, really involved them.”
Once the doors opened, Eric pressed for more attention. “In the first three days, we gave away everything for free. That was the best form of advertising I ever could have bought,” he says.
The freebies are still a popular way to get people excited and sell more. Breeze keeps bread on the counter and gives away an estimated 10 loaves a day in samples. Those are his advertising dollars, he says, and it reinforces his number one philosophy: “If you try it, you’ll buy it.”
3. Show Up, Be There
House of Bread Bakery Cafe’s oldest franchisee insists, “Go into business with the mindset, I am going to do whatever it takes.”
“Other than the baker, I’ve been the dishwasher, the janitor,” he says. “And if the driver doesn’t show up, I go out and do it. That’s part of the key to success in a business like ours.”
People seem to notice and respect his consistency. Eric says, “We have customers to this day come in who were here at the beginning. We’re a presence in our store on a regular business. It’s a driving force in the relationship building.”
Speaking of Relationships
“There’s a mutual understanding and respect with Sheila [McCann, owner],” says Breeze when reflecting on his years as a House of Bread Bakery Cafe franchise owner. “It’s been a good marriage. And we’re rolling in the dough.”