Bakery Retail Chain Discovers that Lean Management Is the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

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The Lean Bakery, now available from Lean Enterprise Institute

Customer expectations and the culture around food are changing. They want to know what goes into the food they eat, and who could blame them?

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Cambridge, Mass.

Weeks after police searched the factory kitchen of 365 café, a chain of 100 bakery shops, looking for a basement hiding illegal immigrants, owners Juan Antonio Tena and his wife, Emi Castro, finally learned the truth behind the nighttime raid.

In The Lean Bakery, just published by the nonprofit Lean Enterprise Institute, Tena and Castro reveal that a “tip” about the nonexistent basement had come from competitors, convinced that 365’s small commercial kitchen couldn’t possibly supply a chain of retail stores with high-quality products unless it had illegal immigrants hiding underground working 20-hour days.

“Instead, what we had was an amazing system to organize our work – in plain view,” the authors write.

The amazing system, called lean management, is a complete business system that continuously develops people and improves processes to provide more value and prosperity while consuming the fewest possible resources, including raw materials, time, money, space, and human effort.

Start Up to Scale Up
In their succinct, entertaining book the authors explain how they went from starting up to scaling up using lean continuous improvement principles to:

  • Dramatically improve productivity to produce a variety of baguettes, ciabattas, croissants, pastries, sandwiches, and cakes for 100 retail bakery shops around Barcelona, Spain, in a commercial kitchen designed to support 60 to 70.
  • Reduce retail store staffing from three or four people to two in most cases, while improving service.
  • Improve productivity and profitability at an experimental shop by learning how to reduce bakers from two to one with no drop in output or quality.
  • Engage people by developing a company culture that encouraged identifying and solving problems.
  • Improve processes so more and more products can be baked or prepared in retail shops instead of the factory kitchen, cutting the complexity and cost associated with baking, packaging, and transporting products from a central location.

The authors believe that this last improvement also gives them a key competitive advantage because it puts food value-creation processes in full view of retail customers.

“Customer expectations and the culture around food are changing,” the authors write. “They want to know what goes into the food they eat, and who could blame them? In the new 365 shops, there will be no secrets, no more bread made in the back of the shop or in the factory … just healthy product made two meters away from the point of sale. Our idea is to go back to the old-fashioned way of making bread, one that will remind customers of when they were in their mother’s kitchen.”

The book is on sale for $20.00 at the Lean Enterprise Institute bookstore:

Editors/Producers/Bloggers: For review copies of The Lean Bakery, contact Cam Ford cford(at)lean(dot)org or 617-871-2911.

About the Authors
Juan Antonio Tena is the CEO of 365 café, a chain of 100 bakery shops in Barcelona, Spain that he launched in 2000 with his wife Emi. After reading Lean Thinking in 2004, he completely transformed the baking and retail operations and how he managed them. He holds a master’s degree in management from IESE Business School.

Emi Castro is the retail manager at 365, responsible for running the network of bakery shops and implementing lean management in the retail side of the business.

About LEI
Lean Enterprise Institute Inc., is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Cambridge, MA, with a mission to make things better through lean thinking and practice. Founded in 1997 by management expert James P. Womack, Ph.D., LEI conducts research, teaches educational workshops, publishes books and ebooks, runs conferences, and shares practical information about lean thinking and practice. We support other lean initiatives such as the Lean Global Network, the Lean Education Academic Network, the Center for Lean Engagement and Research in Healthcare at the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health, and the Healthcare Value Network. Visit for more information.

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Brad Bennett

Brad Bennett

Brad grew up in a small town in northern Iowa. He studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married his wife one month later. They were then blessed with two baby boys within the first four years of marriage. Having babies gave their family a desire to return to the old paths – to nourish their family with traditional, homegrown foods; rid their home of toxic chemicals and petroleum products; and give their boys a chance to know a simple, sustainable way of life. They are currently building a homestead from scratch on two little acres in central Texas. There’s a lot to be done to become somewhat self-sufficient, but they are debt-free and get to spend their days living this simple, good life together with their five young children.
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