Ashley Greene Bernick

Sweetest Bakery in America Winner: Tricks of the Trade

For the second year in a row, Lochel’s Bakery was named Sweetest Bakery in America in 2018, earning industry cred and a grand prize of public relations and marketing support from Dawn Foods, as well as a trip to the Dawn Innovation Studio. Kathleen Lochel, who owns the Hatboro, Pennsylvania, bakery with her husband, Rob, shares their recipe for winning, as well as tips for bakery business success.

Batter Up: Congratulations on winning the Sweetest Bakery in America contest for the second consecutive year! To what do you attribute your success with the contest?

Kathleen Lochel: Mainly, interactions with the customers in the store. To get people in the door, we did things like Sample Saturdays. In June, we sampled strawberry shortcake. Once we got people in, we could tell them about the contest. We made sure our employees explained to customers how to vote by paper ballot or on the phone. We also told customers that because we’re a small business, we participate in the contest to grow and gain media attention. 

BU: How have winning the contest and your relationship with Dawn impacted your business?

Lochel: The advertising that comes with winning this contest broadened our horizons regionally. Locally, it’s helped us too. Immediately after our win was announced, it brought in new faces. And we hope those new customers become lifetime customers. We’ve always had a good relationship with Dawn Foods. That’s our main ingredient supplier.

BU: Lochel’s has existed since 1942, passing through three generations. How do you balance bakery traditions with evolving trends and consumer palates?

Lochel: I always say, “We’re a traditional bakery with a modern twist.” We have a great mix of traditional items that are third-generation recipes. But we have to change with the times to meet the current needs of customers. For example, we’re sticking with our traditional donuts but adding different elements, because the more trendy customer is looking for things like that. We take our pumpkin donut, and instead of putting sugar on it, we’re using maple glaze. We also used to just have our traditional jelly donut, but now we’re topping it with peanut butter. 

BU: How do these gourmet donuts impact profitability?

Lochel: Adding a small, quality element can definitely turn profits. I’ve been taught in my 13 years of owning the bakery that you can’t be afraid to charge what you have to charge. The larger chains charge what’s needed. We small businesses also have to in order to maintain our quality.

BU: Spring is about fresh starts. Do you have any advice for bakeries testing new products this season?

Lochel: In the spring, we’re adding fruit to items, whether it’s fresh fruit or pie filling. We make strawberry or cherry donuts, for example, and top cheesecake and Boston cream cakes with fruit. Regardless of what bakers are adding or changing, presentation is the biggest thing.

Fresh fruit makes desserts look really nice.

Visit SweetestBakeryinAmerica.com to learn more about Dawn’s contest!