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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Nontraditional Davis kitchens and bakeries find their niche

Some food providers have adapted to a new delivery-based model amid the pandemic

Several Davis food businesses have recently found success despite the COVID-19 pandemic by pivoting to a delivery or pick-up business model, such as Foodies, a former catering business. 

Foodies co-owner Sarun Kao explained how the pandemic has impacted its business model.

“We had about 25 weddings planned in San Francisco, and all 25 were canceled from last year,” Kao said. “Some of them have rescheduled to this year, but that’s a lot of revenue lost. We’ve had to alter our business a bit to adapt to the pandemic.”  

After taking a break to regroup, Foodies adapted, according to Kao.  

“We were working out of the Odd Fellows Lodge—it’s a fraternal order,” Kao said.  “The Davis chapter, they normally meet every Thursday, and we normally provide the food for them. It got so busy on Thursday that we went to Wednesday and Thursday for food, and we expanded to Friday for a more premium option.” 

Pannier is another business that makes use of the Odd Fellows Lodge commercial kitchen has a “cloud kitchen” format, so it does not have a traditional restaurant space, according to Pannier co-owner Cynthia Raub.  

“We operate a cloud kitchen,” Raub said. “A cloud kitchen is a newer food business model that does not have a retail or front-facing customer experience, so our presence is primarily online. Cloud kitchens have a delivery focus.”

Pannier has been very successful, according to their website, which states that their capacity is 160 orders a week, which they often sell out of within a few minutes. However, the business has taken some time to reach this level of popularity, Raub explained.   

“When we first started our business about a year ago, it would take the entire weekend to sell out of our capacity,” Raub said. “At that time a year ago, our capacity was about 70% of what we do now.”  

Raub explained that cloud kitchens can more easily adapt to a low-waste business model, citing Pannier’s zero food waste system.  

“The cloud kitchen concept allows us to take our orders in advance,” Raub said. “So we know how much product to buy for the week to fulfill our orders. We get the orders on Saturday, so we know how many of a certain dish that we have to make for Tuesday and then for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”

Zoe Mitchell, co-owner of Bran & Ash, a new subscription microbakery, made a similar point describing the more precise delivery format.  

“Because we’re operating as a cottage bakery, we don’t have a storefront, so baking each day and relying on people to come in and pick up stuff wasn’t really an option,” Mitchell said. “We wanted to do something where we could set out a certain number and people could order them so we had a few days to prep, so we were making exactly how much we were selling.”

This business model has fewer overhead costs as well, according to Bran & Ash co-owner Casey Hardi, who stated that it’s “easier to predict our needs and keep our inventory small and our production precise.”  

Unlike Pannier, Bran & Ash is a community-supported bakery, according to Mitchell.  

“Right now, we’re operating on a weekly subscription basis,” Mitchell said. “Each week, we put up a box with a piece of sourdough and a few pastries, and we have a subscription so subscribers get the box automatically. We have a couple extras on the website and people can order them. And then we do all of our deliveries and pick up on one day of the week, and then bake the rest of the week to fulfill the box orders.”

Mitchell recounted how Bran & Ash has also experienced a recent uptick in orders.  

“We started in November officially—we’d been planning it since April, but the bakery opened in November,” Mitchell said. “The first few months were pretty slow-going, but the holidays picked up, and then about two weeks ago or a week ago we were in the [Davis] Enterprise and over the last month it’s increased exponentially.”

Written by: Rachel Shey — city@theaggie.org

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