Great Harvest franchisee finds some success with clickbait
Great Harvest franchisee Pablo Teodoro delivers a pallet of bread to a food bank after his clickbait social media post grabbed attention in the community.
Blending charity and business, one Great Harvest Bread Company operator turned the pandemic into an opportunity to drive sales and help out as best he could.
As scores of restaurant, bakery and retail franchisees have become de facto charity workers, many are operating at a loss just to help support their communities and keep their workers on payroll. But for some, sales simply can’t wait.
Pablo Teodoro was one of the latter. When news of the rolling shutdowns and potential for a disastrous economic downturn reached his small-town operation in Warrenton, Virginia, in mid-March, he was already beat down.
“I expected by today to position ourselves for permanent closure. I didn’t see any opportunity. We had a lot of businesses like mine that had a rough winter and accrued a lot of debt,” said Teodoro. “I was seeing I was not going to make payroll much longer. I was basically thinking about what the process was for filing bankruptcy. I had begun to think of that.”
He said the future is still uncertain, but reconnecting with the community not only covered payroll, but pushed company sales to new heights.
It all started with a simple Facebook post, though Teodoro said it may have been a little more provocative than his typical company posts.
“I did some silly things. Usually, clickbait journalism makes me mad, I will intentionally not click on a supposed news stories that say, ‘everything was going well until this happened.’ I won’t click on it,” said Teodoro. “But I engaged in that, I used all capital letters.”
He said he simply reminded his social media followers that the location baked bread to order, something the company has done seven days a week for the last 10 years.
“I put this post up, it’s funny, it’s all caps and says, ‘We decided to bake to order tomorrow.’ It’s almost funny—decided? That’s what we do. But it sounded like we had struggled in a board room and figured out this is what we had to do,” said Teodoro. “The crazy thing is, the telephone started ringing about 10 minutes after we put the post up and did not stop until 7 p.m. We closed at 6 p.m., but it didn’t stop until 7 p.m.”
In all, he got 57 bake-to-order requests that day—a lot for the small-town bakery. The post led to another chance encounter when a community leader asked if Teodoro could help the local food bank. She asked if he could bake bread for the food bank if she gave him $500—again that’s the business.
“I said I’d absolutely do that,” said Teodoro. “I said I wanted to be up front with you and say we give bread to the food bank every day, our older bread.
However, because of the bread shortages, there isn’t much to give them right now.”
He explained that with her money, they could provide the food bank fresh bread in whatever quantity and variety it wanted.
“She said, ‘You know what, let’s make it $700,’” said Teodoro, who turned that into another heartwarming Facebook post, saying with food bank donations, his Great Harvest would tack on 20 percent to bread orders for the community. In one day he raised $1,500, and through the week he raised more than $6,000.
Since then, he’s baked nearly $4,000 worth of bread a week for food banks while keeping his staff employed and the bills paid.
Even the mayor of Warrenton held a fundraiser, and someone on his staff called Teodoro offering up another round of donations.
“She said they did a fundraiser and raised about $750 and we’d love the mayor to come over and present it to you on Friday. So, the town employees raised that and they want to present it,” said Teodoro. “For a little franchise my size, $750 is about half of what it takes to operate or break even for the day. That goes a long way to keep us open for one more day.”
He said he could even stand to hire more people for the excess orders flowing through the system, and of course suddenly becoming an essential part of the community response to the COVID-19 health crisis means helping out while keeping the lights on.
“It’s become more of a need than a want. It’s exciting for us to be a provider of something that is important to people,” said Teodoro. “And I’m working my ass off.”