Another GF Bakery/Cafe Closes! It always makes me very sad when I see a gluten free business close. A couple of years ago we saw Freedom Bakery in Severna Park, MD close it’s doors after 3 years. Magnolia Cafe in Byhalia, MS, closed in June, great food but in a town with only 3,000 people; they did not last long. Now we have Betsy’s Bakery in Harrisburg/Camp Hill, PA closing their doors after 3 years. They notified the public via their facebook page on 8/1; with their last day being 8/8. This got me thinking about why this happens and ultimately, if they have a great product, it is usually from the reduced number of customers that these specialty bakeries/cafes struggle to serve. If people don’t come in, they can’t pay their bills.
However, other factors can contribute to the demise; such as an inferior product and poor management. Most could weather the storm if they have a great product and the number of customers stayed constant. Betsy’s had a great product! We all know that gluten free and allergen free is more expensive. Why is it more expensive? It is supply and demand; business owners just can’t control that market factor which makes our cost of doing business much higher than regular restaurants or bakeries.
The next big hurdle is the labor or manpower that it takes to make everything from scratch. When I talk with other GF business owners, our biggest frustration is that some of our customers say that they want a product that won’t make them sick; which we deliver, and then they complain about the cost. I hear that from customers too. They pay more in the grocery store for GF/AF products, why would it be different in a restaurant?
Here is an example:
A customer goes to a local “coal fired” pizza place and gets a pre-made 10″ GF crust that is topped on site and they pay $11.95 for a 79 sq inch individual pizza and agree to the disclaimer that they cannot guarantee it to be GF when they place their order! Or the other place that makes square pizzas that are not guaranteed to be GF and pay $7.99 for 8″ pizza (64 sq inches) that is not guaranteed to be GF either. Our small pizza is 12×9, 108 sq inches for $16.99. Below is the price comparison per square inch:
-Coal Fired: 11.99 divided by 79″ = 15.1 cents per sq inch for 10″ round pizza; hope it is really GF!
-Square: 7.99 divided by 64″ = 12.4 cents per sq inch for 8″ square pizza and hope it is really GF!
-One Dish: 16.99 divided by 108″ = 15.7 per sq inch for 12×9 fresh pizza & know it is safe & have leftovers too!
Knowing the above, when people come in and complain about the price when ours is made fresh, in our dedicated GF & AF restaurant, vitamin enriched and less than 1 cent higher in cost than the coal fired place and 3.3 cents higher than the square pizza place, it is all I can do to control myself!
So, in summary, many reasons contribute to the closing of completely GF restaurants and bakeries and the biggest factor is the lack of customers compared to other mainstream restaurants/bakeries. The regular restaurants out there feed 95% of the population and we only feed 5%.
Often I hear this statement from some in the gluten and allergen free communities; “there is no place safe to eat”. I don’t see how they can make that statement when they are not supporting the one that is safe and is within 5, 10, 20 or 30 miles of them! Here is an example. Last week, we had customers in for the first time; who live 12 miles away and have known about us since we opened. Two of the family members are Celiac and they just got around to coming in here; three years after we opened! They were so nice and I am so glad that they came in; I always say “better late than never”. However, GF/Allergen Free restaurants really need your support when they first open and throughout the year. You don’t want to make the trip only to find out that they went out of business last week; something that I think will be happening in Harrisburg/Camp Hill for a while!
There is so much excitement in GF media when a chain starts offering GF menu items. Where is the excitement for the completely GF/AF place?
It is my hope that customers will realize this and support their local GF/AF free restaurants, who have risked it all in order to safely serve them. These restaurant owners are the ones who give it all, risk it all and lose it all if they are forced to close. So, if you live near a dedicated bakery or cafe that offers a great GF/AF product, please support them. If they close and have a great product, it is usually from not enough customers; especially if they have been in business for a while.