Sunday, January 27, 2013

Start a bakery business – What equipment do you need?

So what equipment would you need for your bakery? It depends on what you plan to bake and sell. 

Below is a list (not exhaustive) of the equipment you most probably need:

Actually it goes without saying that the number one item on your list will be an oven. So what kind of oven should you buy? The oven that I bought for my bakery was a second-hand two-deck electric oven. I picked an electric one instead of a gas one. This oven was about 1 metre by 1 metre and the height was about 2 metres. It weighed a whopping 300-over kg! It came with a proofer at the bottom and it had a steam function that allowed me to inject steam into the oven while baking. As I baked mostly chiffon cakes, cupcakes and cookies, I never needed to use the steam function and the proofer. So why did I buy it? The reason was that it was reasonably priced and it could fit into the shop space I rented which was about 250 square feet. And since I wanted to buy a second-hand instead of a new one, my choice was limited. Anyway the oven could bake 12 large chiffon cakes at one go and that was good enough for me. But if I could turn back time and choose, I would have gone for a four-deck oven instead of a two-deck one, so that I can bake more items at one go.

The one disadvantage of this large oven is that it takes about an hour to preheat to the desired temperature. So if you decide to buy this kind of oven, start preheating it the moment you step into your bakery every morning. So that by the time you prepare the batter, the oven will be ready for baking. Industrial ovens like these require three-phase electricity, so the shop unit you rent must have this kind of electricity installed. Another thing to consider is: can this oven fit through the door of your shop unit? Will it take up too much space? When viewing an oven, remember to take along a measuring tape (the retractable metal type) so as to note down the dimensions.

On the other hand, if you decide to go for a convection oven, then it is likely to be a single-phase one. It is a much simpler process. You don’t need to hire a mover to transport it. If you plan to bake just cupcakes or cookies or a few cakes, then I think this kind of oven is good enough. This kind of oven can bake buns as well. It heats up very fast, unlike the large industrial oven which takes one hour. Also, this oven can also be placed on a table, so it saves space. And because of that, you can rent a smaller shop unit and save on rent.

The bottomline is you must be clear about what you want to bake and sell, so that you can pick the right oven for your business. For me, I bought both an industrial oven and a convection oven, as having both ovens helped cut down production time.
Two-deck oven

Convection Oven

The next important piece of equipment to buy will be the mixer. In my previous bakery, I first bought a second-hand 20-litre mixer. It was large enough to mix my batter. However, as sales went up, the 20-litre one was not big enough. So I bought a second-hand 30-litre one. With a 30-litre one, I could mix more batter at one go, saving much time and labour. Does that mean that you should go for a larger mixer from the start? Maybe even a 40-litre or 60-litre one? For me, even though I bought a 30-litre one, I still kept the smaller mixer. Because a smaller mixer can mix a smaller amount of ingredients. If I tried to mix a small amount of ingredients in the larger mixer, the beater can’t even ‘catch on’ to the ingredients and mix them! What happens is that the ingredients will be left swirling around and settling to the bottom of the mixing bowl. For the large mixer to work, you need to add mix a substantial amount of ingredients. If your bakery is a very small scale one, then it is better to get a smaller mixer. I’ve seen some bakeries with smaller mixers of 10-litres which they use to whip cream and frosting. These smaller mixers can be put on the table. For the 20-litre and larger mixers, they have to be put on the floor.
20-litre mixer
30-litre mixer

A chiller is a must for storing butter and other cold ingredients like milk, cream, etc. Most chillers have a worktop which is great because you will need whatever working space you can get in your bakery. The one I bought was a three door one with a stainless steel worktop. I bought it from a pie bakery that closed down. It is a requirement for the chiller to have a temperature gauge. This is to ensure the temperature in the chiller is cold enough and that your ingredients are stored at the correct temperature. This prevents the ingredients from spoiling and causing your customers to suffer food poisoning.

If you plan to sell decorated cakes in your bakery, you may need an industrial freezer. These freezers are roomy and can store several cakes. A freezer is good for storing cookie dough too.
Steam Proofer
This is what you will need if you plan to bake and sell bread/buns/donuts. After you prepare the dough, you place it in the steam proofer to let it rise. The warmth and moisture in the proofer will enable the dough to rise much faster than usual. If you plan to open a bread bakery, my advice is that you should go for a professional course in bread baking and work in a bread bakery to gain some experience first. Because to sell bread, the standard of your bread must be very, very good. To open a bread bakery, you need to spend a lot more money on equipment, such as a large industrial oven, a steam proofer, large mixer, a bun-divider & rounder, a bread moulder, electric bread slicer, etc. All these do not come cheap. On top of that, you need a lot of space, so you have to rent a larger shop unit. You also need more manpower, and these days it can be hard to hire employees who are willing to do manual jobs. A lot of investment goes into starting a bread bakery.  

When I closed my bakery, I shifted some of the equipment over to my father’s shop at Grandlink Square. I sold the large industrial oven because my father’s shop did not have the three-phase electricity feature. But I did not sell my turbofan convection oven. It was easy to transport and needed only single-phase electricity, so I brought it to my father’s shop. The shop happened to be vacant at that time. Using my experience in setting up a bakery, I equipped the shop with the necessary things to start a bakery or a baking school. At first, I thought it was a gamble to do that because potential tenants would want an empty shop so that they could bring in their things. Plus, we could only rent to those tenants who are into the baking business. Won’t this severely limit us to the number of potential tenants we could rent out to? But lo and behold, actually the response turned out to be much better than expected. A lot of Singaporeans have a passion for baking and some want to have a chance to turn the passion into a profit-making business. And they want to do so without sinking in too much money. My father’s shop made perfect sense; no need to spend money on renovation or equipment. After I put up the advertisements, I had calls and SMSes every day asking about the shop. Of course, some of them had reservations about setting up shop in a low human traffic area (Grandlink Square is not a popular mall at all). But those who were interested were planning on depending on online and delivery sales. The shop is a mere five-minute walk from Paya Lebar MRT Exit D. What’s more, Paya Lebar MRT is an interchange MRT station. This accessibility made my father’s shop attractive to potential tenants who wanted to set up a baking school.



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