California dreaming

01 May, 2007
California-based bakery-café owner Jim Riedenauer, while an astute businessman, has cracked the secret of a laid-back lifestyle ? keep your customer happy. Anne Bruce reports
Page 17 
Jim Riedenauer, owner of bakery-café Eddie's, enjoys a dream lifestyle. He spends most of his day indulging a passion for decorating beautiful wedding cakes, when not enjoying spending time with his young family or out and about in the Californian sun.
Riedenauer, you see, is a very smart man. He's built his inherited bakery business on the back of a reputation for quality ? with a minimum of stress and wasted energy. His secret lies in having the common sense to invest and innovate in the areas where margins are highest.The one-shop bakery business in Fresno, California, started by Riedenauer's father Eddie in 1939, has adapted its offer to include premium bakery lines, a wedding cakes business and a café over recent years. Sales are now booming at the downtown outlet.The bakery specialises in cakes made to order, from ornate wedding cakes to more modern numbers festooned with pink chocolate swirls. Flavours range from dark chocolate to vanilla, with carrot and banana popular choices. The most expensive, with custom fillings, sugarpaste flowers and rolled fondant creation, costs $1,475, feeding up to 350 guests. Generally, cakes are priced at $2-$4 a portion.The company makes up to 20 wedding cakes a week, depending on the season, July to October being the busiest periods. The fanciest cakes are on display in its showroom at the downtown outlet. Riedenauer says he is embracing innovation in his business, as cakes can now be decorated by computer.Eddie's also now has a café attached ? a response, says Riedenauer, to people's changing shopping habits. It offers a lunch menu from 11am-2pm, which makes for "a very efficient quick turnaround", and serves around 150 covers daily. A wide range of daily lunch specials are offered at the café, from clam chowder in a bread bowl to chicken pot pie with side salad; plus meatloaf, Asian coleslaw or macaroni salad.The café area has a wood-fired oven, which is used to make pizzas, and "impress customers" as Riedenauer candidly puts it.Earlier in the day, there is a breakfast menu including croissants or Granola cereal. And towards the afternoon, the café does a roaring trade in lines such as fresh fruit tarts, individual pastries, cheesecakes and chocolate mousse. Overall, the café accounts for 15% of turnover ? "a nice balance", according to Riedenauer - but has a "symbiotic relationship" with the adjoining bakery, driving footfall.The bakery employs between 13 and 24 staff, depending on demand. These include four full-time bakers, two helpers, five in the cakes department, three chefs and 12 salespeople.Bread accounts for a small percentage of sales. Sourdough breads are the biggest sellers - this is California after all ? while spiral rye breads with dark and light ryes mixed together are also popular. Ever the realist, Riedenauer admits to using bakery mixes in the bakery. "I like good mixes; they can taste better than if I make them from scratch," he says.Riedenauer knows how to keep his priorities straight - always go by what the customer wants. His father Eddie would surely be proud of his success. n



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