“I’m not an innovator or creator,” admits John Homrighausen, a Houston event professional. “I’m an improver and a nudger. I’m always scanning for the next tweak.” His most recent tweak to his Houston catering and event companies, Americana Catering and J-BAR-H, is transforming 126-square feet of space at the front of his kitchen into a bakery that pops up on weekends. Which might be a little odd because, among the other things he says he is not, is a baker.
But when given the option in this economy to roll over or make rolls, this self-professed Texan barbecue man chose the latter. “I ask other business people all the time, ‘What do you have available to you that is just sitting there? What can you do with it?’”
He might not be a baker, but thanks to the passions that drive him Homrighausen is raising not only dough but customer loyalty and awareness.
“As a small business owner during this recession,” he says, “I’m not going to just sit here and die. I’ll try anything!” Anything, that is, that remains true to his passion. “I have a weird dedication to authentic Texas food,” he says. So he started Ranch Bakery with a regional anchor product. “I kept seeing all these donut shops, but they aren’t authentic to Texas. Kolaches are a regional specialty of sweet, soft dough wrapped around sausage. I worked hard to make the fillings I offer unique and superlative.”
But just a few great recipes does not a success make these days. So Homrighausen, a true believer in the power of social media, applied all he knew to Ranch Bakery. He didn’t even name the company until he secured its web site domain. “Then I went straight to Facebook and Twitter to open accounts and began promoting it on Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yelp,” he says. He’s used Facebook to crowd source names for his newest menu items – giant Ding Dongs. It garnered a lot of humorous names that amused his Facebook brethren, but also brought hundreds of hits to his web site.
And he always posts on Facebook to announce what’s in the oven for the weekend (so far the bakery is only open on the weekends). Each time he posts, the orders for his kolaches, pie fries (pie crust rolled in apple pie flavoring and served with salted caramel sauce), hand pies and bourbon caramel popcorn come rolling in. “At this point I’m getting 70 percent of my bakery business from Facebook friends who are driving a long way and are spending an average of $40. Compare this to the average of $11 that local drop-ins and drive-bys spend.” After being open for only five weekends, the bakery has not lost a dime, and last weekend, just turned a profit.
Powered by Facebook Comments