Visiting your favorite bakery for its signature item has become a game—and carb enthusiasts are more than happy to play it.
Purveyors of baked goods are using scarcity to draw in customers, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. That means it may be a design and not a flaw when that croissant or donut you’re coveting is already sold out by 10 a.m. on a Saturday.
“If it doesn’t sell out, we don’t make it anymore,” Mindy Segal, the founder of Mindy’s Bakery in Chicago, told the newspaper.
The strategy is in part meant to increase the perception of quality, Keith Wilcox, a marketing professor at Texas A&M University, told the WSJ. If you show up, and there are no more almond croissants available, you may wonder why the pastry is sold out—and come back earlier next time to see for yourself. It’s also a way for bakers to contend with the realities of this moment, including labor shortages and the rising costs of ingredients. Making fewer tarts means you don’t need as many hands or as much butter.
This play for business seems to be working: Sales at standalone bakeries reached more than $7.7 billion in 2022, up from $6.1 billion in 2018, according to data from the market-research firm Sundale Research cited in The Wall Street Journal. And anecdotally, bakery owners are seeing that overall bump reflected in their own shops. Nick Heavican, of Brooklyn’s Nick + Sons, said he’s had more consumer demand recently, enough to shorten the store’s operating hours. Before the pandemic, the bakery was open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Now it opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 1 p.m., or sometimes earlier if most pastries have already sold out.
“We see the same revenue with half the staff and half of the hours,” Heavican told the WSJ.
While some people are surely turned off by the constant “Sold out” signs, many more are happy to wake up early and wait in line to score a little breakfast treat. One New Yorker told the newspaper that she stopped by Nick + Sons for a pain au chocolat and ended up leaving with five other pastries, while another said that he skipped his morning workout to secure a triple chocolate croissant from Radio Bakery.
That’s prioritization we can definitely get behind.