The bakery café segment, which accounts for $5 billion in annual sales and more than 3,600 units nationwide, has been able to successfully navigate the middle ground between quick- and full-service restaurants to outpace industry sales and unit growth for each of the past three years. Total bakery café units increased 4.2 percent, and bakery café sales increased 12 percent during those three years.

A new study by Technomic finds consumers fueling growth in this fast-casual sub-segment by visiting bakery cafés in larger numbers and by becoming frequent customers once they do visit. Seventy-one percent of consumers have now visited a bakery café, up from 43 percent in 2008, and nearly three quarters of those consumers say they visit bakery café concepts at least once a month.

“Bakery café chains continue gaining market share in a zero-growth environment,” says Technomic EVP Darren Tristano. “More consumers are visiting these restaurants and are gaining familiarity, but nearly one in three consumers surveyed still haven't been to a bakery café concept. Their most common reasons have to do with location and unfamiliarity. As more units open and as marketing efforts continue to boost awareness, there is little reason to think the segment will not continue to perform well.”

To help restaurant operators and others aligned with the foodservice industry more effectively identify opportunities for growth and competitive advantage, Technomic developed the Bakery Café Consumer Trend Report.

Interesting findings include:

·      Technomic data indicates room for more variety on bakery café breakfast menus. A third of consumers (34 percent) strongly agree that they would visit bakery cafés more often for breakfast if their menus offered a wider variety of breakfast items.

·      The service element seems to be particularly important to users of bakery cafés. Three in four consumers (75 percent) report that the quality of service is very important when deciding which bakery café to visit, and about two-thirds (66 percent) consider the speed of service to be very important. 

·      Wraps and sandwiches featuring artisanal breads are a primary focus of bakery café's menu positioning. A look at the most prevalent bread types for lunch and dinner sandwiches shows tortillas as the most-frequently mentioned sandwich bread, at 11.7 percent. Focaccia, positioned as a European-style artisan bread variety, ranks second (9.1 percent). Ciabatta, sourdough, and pumpernickel have all increased significantly on bakery café menus since 2008.

·      Panera Bread is the clear leader in the segment, and has further strengthened its position in the bakery café arena over the past few years. About seven in 10 consumers polled (69 percent) visit and purchase food from the chain at least occasionally, and among Panera's visitors, 69 percent go at least monthly.

The 2011 Bakery Café Consumer Trend Report examines bakery café purchasing behavior, attitudes, and preferences of more than 1,500 consumers. The report utilizes Technomic’s exclusive MenuMonitortrend-tracking tool to provide an in-depth look at bakery café menus by daypart and examines the performance of 15 leading bakery café chains.

Additionally, data from Technomic’s 2008 Bakery Café Consumer Trend Report is discussed throughout the report to provide a benchmark for many of the consumer trends discussed. Finally, report appendices feature detailed concept and menu profiles for 20 innovative and emerging bakery café concepts and full demographic profiles of consumers who visit and purchase food at 15 bakery café chains.

Fast Casual, Growth, News, Panera Bread