How to Build and Maintain the Optimal Bakery Case Solution

Bakery items a growing opportunity for c-store foodservice sales

In-store bakery cases present a unique opportunity for convenience retailers to boost their morning—and evening—foodservice sales. Showcasing best-sellers and effectively managing the case throughout the day can be the difference between a repeat customer and a missed opportunity.

Prairie City bakery case

A well-stocked, well-maintained bakery display helps convenience stores compete not only with other convenience stores but also with bigger competitors such as quick-serve chains and bakery-cafes. Here are a few best practices for building a better bakery case.

Put Pretty Items On Top

In most cases—literally—the top shelf is the one the customer sees first, especially if the bakery case is positioned at standing height. That’s why it’s important to load the top shelves with eye-catching items.

“Quality is so important, but customers also eat with their eyes,” said Bill Skeens, founder and president of Prairie City Bakery. “The bakery case has to be visually appealing and remain that way all day.” Skeens typically recommends loading up this shelf, or the one most directly at eye level, with the freshest, most attractive items.

“You only get a first chance to make an impression, so you want to grab people’s attention with delicious-looking items,” Skeens said. While it’s important to keep the bottom shelves stocked as well, positioning the most popular and intriguing items on the top shelf will help accomplish that goal. This also sets the tone for the rest of the offerings.

“Our signature cinnamon rolls are six inches in diameter and have a cream-cheese smear, and our muffins come in elegant tulip shaped packaging, so customers can’t help but say ‘wow,’ ” Skeens said. Clearly, top-shelf, beautiful products like these stand out to the consumer.

Maintain Good Variety

Some baked goods typically sell better than others, so best-sellers should be presented front-and-center, especially during the morning rush. And most customers appreciate a wide variety of options.

According to research firm Technomic’s most recent MenuMonitor study, doughnuts continue to be the top seller among baked goods, especially earlier in the day. One-third (36%) of consumers purchase doughnuts at least once a month at convenience stores, and they rank third among the top foodservice items consumer report purchasing once a month or more often. C-stores have responded to this, with more than half (52.2%) regularly offering the cakey treat, even as a snack item later in the day (25.8%).

One-fifth of consumers (22%) purchase other baked items once a month or more often, according to Technomic. More than half (57.7%) of operators regularly sell muffins, which were found to have a total snack menu distribution of 16.1%, making them a viable option for afternoon sales following the morning rush. Following closely behind were pastries (42.5% operator penetration/14% snack menu distribution).

For c-stores, stocking these top-selling items, along with a variety of others, is key. The easiest way to maintain a wider assortment of offerings is to buy bulk product in smaller unit sizes. “If you have a bakery case with four shelves and room for 36 items, you don’t want to put out an entire 12-item case of cinnamon rolls and then 12 of something else and 12 of something else. Then, you’re only really offering the customer three options,” Skeens said.

Some suppliers, such as Prairie City Bakery, offer baked items in 4- and 6-item packages so operators can present multiple options for customers without the risk of extra items going to waste.

Keep Cases Stocked  

Packages with four and six units help retailers thaw smaller amounts at a time to keep their case well-stocked, filling in units when necessary.

“No one buys the last item in the case,” Skeens said, noting it can signal something that’s not-so-fresh. “If you’re at the end of your rush and don’t want to put out any more merchandise, at least consolidate what you have left to one or two shelves to make the case look full.”

After the morning rush, consider changing up featured items to more afternoon-friendly baked goods such as cookies, brownies, cakes and other items. Cinnamon rolls and muffins also tend to sell well throughout the day, according to Skeens. “The bakery case takes up very valuable space in a convenience store, so to not use it for 18 hours doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

Offering a gourmet coffee program and maintaining that beverage service throughout the day can help boost afternoon or evening bakery case sales, as coffee and baked goods are highly complementary.

Strategic in-store product placement and meal combinations can also enhance the offering. According to Technomic, a majority (57%) of consumers say meal combos can prompt them to purchase foodservice items. Technomic’s Donna Hood Crecca points out the success of 7-Eleven’s recent “Morning Meal” deal, which included a cup of coffee and a bakery item for $2.

“Given that more than half of consumers (56%) are interested in promotions on beverages, and coffee/hot beverages are so important to driving traffic and loyalty, bundling beverages and bakery is a great opportunity for convenience stores,” she said.

Clean the Cases

“The No. 1 rule—other than maintaining variety and stock—is to make sure your case is clean,” Skeens said. That means wiping smudge and hand prints off the glass with a non-abrasive cloth, soap and warm water, as well as cleaning out the crumbs and other smears, and even washing service items and other accessories. “Customers don’t want to eat off something that looks dirty—it signals poor quality or staleness,” Skeens said. It’s important to keep wax paper and bags well-stocked throughout the day, as well.

The bakery case has paramount placement in most c-stores, so it should be consistently monitored. A well-stocked, clean case presents significant opportunity to c-store operators.

This post is sponsored by Prairie City Bakery


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