How Baker Tom used his loaf
An interview with Baker Tom
It took Tom Hazzledine (aka Baker Tom) over ten years to turn his business from a couple of bike-delivered, emergency loaves baked in his Mum’s kitchen into an award-winning, five-shops-and-two-cafés success story.
And then: the coronavirus.
Three quarters of his business was with the catering and hospitality trade which closed at a stroke, leaving the business with potentially just a quarter of its previous income. The situation’s severity obliged the business to think quickly, and also – as luck would have it – made them crystallise some previously theoretical conversations into concrete actions.
We’d been talking for a while about the ‘buy local online’ model. We thought this was probably going to be the way forward anyway, but as it turned out we had to adapt and get it up and running much more quickly than we’d planned.
In practice, this meant learning as they went, and rolling with the punches of inevitable, trial-and-error teething problems. They began by phone only, quickly had the website upgraded to process orders online, and then, within days, bread boxes were available for delivery. Vans began visiting (initially) remote villages without shops and, soon after, villages with shops too.
Tom says the shop-keepers, with whom they were in close contact, were supportive and – contrary to some early fears – noticed their own trade was actually boosted by the van’s visits.
Praise for his hard working team
Tom’s also quick to praise the hard work and flexibility of his team, who have risen to, and overcome, the challenges of recent weeks. This applies in particular to drivers accustomed to days involving 30 drops to familiar destinations.
The demise of the catering sector and the rise of the bespoke bread box meant drivers had to acclimatise to routes which are never the same two days running, and whose destinations are often the kind of home address in which Cornwall specialises: remote, unnamed properties down unmarked lanes off roads with neither name nor relation to postcode-dependent Satnavs. Hardly surprising, then, that drivers’ days have lately become a whole lot longer.
As for the future, while the idea of going online to buy local seems to Tom to have lasting merit and potential, he realises the current uncertainty mitigates against making hard-and-fast decisions about a landscape whose eventual shape won’t be coming into focus for some time yet.
For now, by working flat out for long hours, Tom and the team are able to guarantee next-day delivery of bespoke bread-boxes ordered by 2pm the previous day.
Are you a business who could feature in a Baker Tom’s box?
Each one is hand-stamped and, looking forward, Tom’s thinking about the possibility of adding complementary, non-bakery items to the boxes, especially if this means an opportunity for other producers – of, for example, jams, coffee, etc. – to start recovering from the loss of trade sales. If your business makes products which might fit this bill, why not get in touch with Unlocking Potential’s team who’ll relay ideas to Tom and his team?