Kneaders Bakery and Café seeks rapid, methodical growth
Kneaders Bakery and Café has embodied the “stick to what you know” philosophy throughout its rapid yet methodical expansion. Now a 35-unit franchise, Gary and Colleen Worthington opened the first Kneaders in 1997. Their son, James Worthington, has progressed from dishwasher to CEO. Worthington promptly learned that – even for him - it would be the Kneaders way or the highway.
Though it sounds simple, the Kneaders way often warrants extra steps to ensure customer satisfaction. For example, instead of importing from a commissary, Kneaders stores bake bread from scratch on-site every day. This presents the challenge of estimating how much the store will need on a daily basis. However challenging it may be, Worthington, in a recent interview, deemed the Kneaders way the do-or-die scrutiny for both minor and momentous decisions.
The company has seen 375% sales growth over the past five years. It has expanded from its home base of Utah into other western states, such as Colorado and Arizona, among others. Part of its success, Worthington noted, stems from implementing online and mobile ordering systems last fall. The system allows for more convenient ordering, especially with larger tickets. Additional factors include its line of gift baskets, which are handpicked by Colleen, who still plays an active role in operating the franchise. Popular around the holidays, the assortments of bread, pastries and home décor are dressed to display various themes.
Another important facet is its catering business. Serving weddings to business meetings, catering comprises roughly 5-12% of each store’s revenue. Worthington noted that medical professionals are especially loyal catering customers. While its patrons pay a quality premium, Kneaders has had success riding the health-conscious trend in the macro dining market.
The Kneaders team is being inundated with franchisee requests but it has avoided succumbing to the siren song of growing as quickly as possible. Asked about the company’s franchisees, Worthington said operators come from “all walks of life.” There are no explicit criteria against which potential franchisees are assessed. “We look for someone who is going to stand up for [Kneaders], someone who is willing to lift the Kneaders brand,” Worthington stated. Many operators are also former employees who, like Worthington, have ascended the management ladder.
Worthington frequently alluded to his parents’ experience as operators of Subway stores prior to starting Kneaders as being influential in the concept’s success. “They know what it’s like to be on both sides of the [franchise system]. We place huge emphasis on understanding the franchisee,” Worthington informed. A former Kneaders operator himself, Worthington appreciates that all franchisees’ opinions are weighed, especially before big decisions. “When you make a decision, it’s going to affect all 35 teams, not just one,” Worthington noted. And for a family brand like Kneaders, such extensive collaboration is essential to ensuring smooth operations across all locations.
The Kneaders way will serve as the impetus for further growth for the franchise. Its summer Italian-themed promotion and increasing presence in Texas demonstrate that the company continues to develop and diversify, both ideologically and geographically.