Take an Italian staple like lasagne, combine it with an Australian icon, the humble pie, and you have the perfect ingredients for a truly original snack. Sounds unusual, but for fresh bakery franchise Banjo’s Bakery Café, it’s a new success story to build on its long line of original ideas for baking and selling fresh food.
The company was started back in 1984 in Hobart by Mark Saxby. His daughter Jessica, now its CEO and Managing Director, is driving a revitalised company into the eastern states of Australia.
When Jessica took on her CEO role, the company was sitting still and needed a reboot to kickstart its revival. First on the list was its branding and marketing strategy. “I took on the role of CEO at around 27 years of age,” she tells The CEO Magazine.
“The business at the time was very stagnant. Our sales were pretty much flat and our stores were in desperate need of rebranding. They were very tired and we had a mix of concepts across the network. So over an 18-month period, I managed to rebrand 90% of the network, with all stores now fully aligned to the same brand.
It was a cultural change, really, that was required to ensure that the 30-year-old brand kept its relevance in a competitive marketplace.” Jessica’s strategy was to remain authentic to the Banjo’s legacy while modernising its approach to baked goods.
She wanted to find a balance that allowed the company to grow in terms of its outlet count while also developing its new business through new and exciting product ideas. Hence the Lasagne Pie.
“The retail sector is constantly evolving so the continual evolution of the business is obviously necessary for longevity in the market,” she says. “The brand had come to a halt, but since then, we’ve managed to open 10 stores and we’ve also developed and launched the drive-through concept, which is the future. We will now be going into drive-throughs rather than standalone traditional Banjo’s cafe concepts.”
Banjo’s now has 44 stores along Australia’s east coast, from Tasmania to Adelaide, east to Victoria and through to Queensland. Most are franchised, with the rest owned by the company.
Jessica also overhauled the company’s operational methods, after looking askance at its fully paper-based systems. Digital technology was employed throughout its head office and stores, and efficiencies were found in every facet of its operations.
“We now have apps for everything. We digitised all our recipe books, most people pay with an app and there are videos on how to make the products, because everything’s baked fresh onsite,” she points out.
“A lot of time has been spent moving anything that was paper-based to an electronic format. Younger employees don’t want to read a book; they’d much rather sit and watch how to do things. They’re used to watching YouTube or Googling something, so we had to be creative so we could keep engaging with our employees.”
Embracing new technology has created a number of new sales channels through apps such as DoorDash and Uber Eats. Banjo’s has also created its own retail app with a VIP loyalty program, click-and-collect and catering options.
Fresh in, fresh out
Suppliers are critical spokes in the company’s wheel, providing, among other essentials, the fresh produce on which its reputation stands. The company has developed longstanding relationships with several preferred suppliers for its meat, packaging, flour, drinks and other key staple bakery items, while fresh produce is sourced locally by store managers.
Those suppliers play a key role in the company’s ongoing growth strategy, and are prepared to adapt their systems to meet the needs of Banjo’s. “We’ve been with some of these businesses for over 20 years,” Jessica says.
“We’ve always had very close relationships with Fresh Cut, Star Packaging, Allied Pinnacle, just to name a few. But all our suppliers are very engaged with us. They attend our yearly conferences, value our franchise relationships and meet our franchisees. They also meet with us when we’re talking to new markets along with our R&D team.
“Our meat supplier, Pandani Select, is a Tasmania-based company, and they’ve grown with us. They supply all our meats to all our stores, but they’ve also been innovative in meeting the way that we want our meat done, so they’ve changed their business processes just to suit our needs. We really appreciate that.”
People with people
While Jessica’s drive for growth has reinvented the Banjo’s brand, at the very centre of the business lies a very personal connection for everyone involved.
The business model, after all, is based on personal connection with customers and their desire for good food in a pleasant environment, and that is a formula that will not change, she insists, even though online ordering, delivery and drive-through practices have changed some of its operations.
For Jessica, the business turnaround has been tumultuous but hugely rewarding. She has plans for up to 80 stores and is making serious headway into the Queensland market, with 20 sites currently in lease negotiations, the majority of which will be franchised. She also has big plans for her employees, including turning them into entrepreneurs within their own franchises if they wish.
“We have never lost sight of our family values,” she says. “We’re a family-owned business, and we always will be, and that is true to our heart. We want to grow what I call our Banjo’s family – our employees. While we are continually seeking to welcome new franchisees to the business, we also have our ‘Self Raising Program’ in place to nurture and train our staff to become franchisees. Or some franchisees will put up their hand to train our employees to become franchisees. That is a real opportunity because there’s a lot of staff who don’t realise their own potential, and just need that leg up and some practical guidance to get to the next stage.”
And that next stage gives Jessica a bold image of the company’s future, which is intertwined with the people she is involved with every day.
“It’s bringing everyone together, getting them all on the same page and lifting the standards of the brand. With the rebranding, everyone decided to be a bit stricter in audits and so everyone got their life back with Banjo’s. It wasn’t tired anymore; it became trendy again. People started to have that care factor, so we really changed the culture of the business,” she explains.
“It’s the future – growing with the new drive-throughs, the relationships we have with our suppliers, our franchisees and our employees as well. As they come up through the Self Raising Program, we plan to help set them up to have a life with Banjo’s.
“We have continued that momentum of growing and innovating our incredible hospitality, as well as what we’re doing with technology, our unique pie offerings and so much more.
“We’re continuing to evolve, and I think that’s got the franchisees and employees highly engaged and involved with the brand. But outside of that, we produce everything onsite. It’s handmade and baked fresh, and we deliver it to our customers with a smile. That really is our motto, and we strive to bake things better.”
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