Sometimes the best ideas are born out of something totally unexpected. Jay Patey never intended to become a baker. He had no piece of paper and little experience baking, but that hasn’t stopped him. Fast forward a few years and Pigeon Whole Bakers are fast becoming a household name in Tasmania, with Jay and Emma Patey at the helm. We recently visited Jay, Emma and the team to check out their brand-new, state-of-the-art baking facility, learn a little about business and, of course, dig our chops into some mouth-watering morning buns. So, what does it take to run a successful bakery? Read on to find out.
SQ: How did Pigeon Whole Bakers start?
J: I’ve always been in the hospitality industry. I was the front-of-house guy, the restaurant manager, and the hotel manager. When I moved to Hobart, I had a restaurant in partnership with another chef. It eventually came to an end, but it gave us a foot in the door to set up our own cafe. Pigeon Hole Cafe was a 50sqm site that served paninis and food, and most importantly, we baked our own bread.
SQ: Wait, so you were a cafe first?
J: Yes! Whilst I was at the cafe I was trying to figure out what I really wanted to do in business. We’re often told we have to keep reinventing ourselves — and we discovered our niche of making bread. It spiraled from there, we went from baking 8 to 300 loaves a day while I was working in the cafe and baking bread at night.
We moved into a new site and the team has grown to 62 staff. Starting out I think I had to wear all the hats that are required to lay the base of a great business. Nowadays my responsibilities are leading and directing the team and not so much on the tools. However, I remain in touch with the entire team on a daily basis to offer guidance and support. It’s been a very organic growth path, we have become known for our bread, pastries, and coffee.
SQ: How did it feel to start your own business? Was there anything that made you nervous or equally excited?
J: Like starting most things it can be scary and honestly it still is, however, the love of what you do can blindside you while simultaneously motivating you to go far beyond the scary stuff. At the end that is really just stuff you can’t really control.
SQ: Favourite thing you bake?
J: I have so many favourites however the sourdough loaves and the morning bun hit the spot for me.
SQ: You’ve just moved into your new facility and are planning on opening a new location, tell us more about the decision to expand your business.
J: This was one of these decisions that we needed to make to expand our business as space restraints were becoming so challenging that it was having a negative impact on our staff and products. We were constantly having to push beyond our physical limitations. The new site offers us a long-term vision for continued organic growth for our customers and the well-being of our staff.
SQ: How has Square helped Pigeon Whole Bakers?
J: Square has simplified our customer experience by offering a package that is transparent, intuitive to use, and can handle transactions very efficiently.
We previously had a mix of payment terminals and providers that were clunky and didn’t offer a breadth of reporting or inventory features. We use two Square Registers in our flagship store to help with congestion (one at each end of the counter). It’s very easy to train new staff members on Square — my three-year-old son could come in and use it.
SQ: What piece of advice would you give to new or aspiring business owners?
J: Do your homework, know your topic, go in with the right tools, and be prepared to compromise on social events with friends and family. I am only just starting to catch up after many lost years. Be prepared to work hard, But it’s worth it!
SQ: Tell us more about your plans to sell out of your new warehouse. Why is it important to take it back to basics and offer a new experience for customers?
J: I’m really looking forward to offering a customer experience that offers our hot loaves straight from the oven on Friday afternoons and showcases the new location!