With the country on lockdown, and the crowds at Borough Market no more, Matthew Jones has radically repositioned Bread Ahead Bakery & School’s business strategy and has been finding new ways to still connect with his customers and keep his shops going. During the pandemic, Bread Ahead Bakery, based in Borough Market in London, has opened three new sites and more than doubled their Instagram following. Pivoting from in-person teaching, they have launched an e-learning series with subscribers from all over the world. He must be doing something right, and we want to know what.
If anyone knows about bread, it’s Matthew Jones. Starting out in 1986, Matthew learnt his trade alongside Shaun Hill, Simon Hopkinson and John Torode in restaurants including Bibendum, Pont de la Tour and Quaglino’s, eventually becoming Head Pastry and Bakery Chef at Mezzo. Bread Ahead Bakery was born in 2013, and their bakery school was opened the following year.
As we chatted, his steady voice sounds upbeat over the phone, “Positivity is what we do here at Bread Ahead!”
How have you and your team managed to stay positive with the ongoing changes to daily life?
Well, first of all I love what I do. My response in the face of crisis is to just keep moving and keep myself occupied. We didn’t close a single day during the pandemic.
Naturally there have been a mixture of reactions to the situation on the team. Some have found it very challenging and are worried, worried about their health and their family members etc. However, as a collective we seek to just get on with life and keep adapting as we go.
I will say that keeping up the pace in the face of change has been a coping mechanism not a business decision.
One feature of my lockdown was tuning into your live Instagram masterclasses. Tell us more about that?
Sharing and teaching has always been central to what we do. What’s special about Bread Ahead is that we take pockets of knowledge from our bakery and put it into domestic setting for home bakers to learn and grow. Online gave us a lift and the ability to still share what we love and interact with our community.
Amazingly, we saw the community on Instagram grow organically and exponentially over the past months, now at 196K. We really saw people tuning in from all over the world, from Australia to Dubai! It was great to bring something positive to people during that time.
You’ve said that keeping that connection with your customer base is important. Did your customers help keep you positive during this time?
Absolutely. We had so many positive and encouraging comments on Instagram from people, and we even got presents in the post! It was so great to feel part of this community of people seeking to interact and engage while all isolated at home.
The Baking School is a central part of Bread Ahead, tell us how you’ve pivoted to adapt to e-learning in the wake of COVID19?
I have always loved home baking and working with home bakers. Coronavirus caused us to do some deep thinking in terms of the direction we wanted to take the business. It wasn’t so much a time to pause, but a time to push. We had wanted to do e-learning for years and the this forced us to start it up.
The first time in front of the camera was uncomfortable, but as time as gone on it has become second nature. It’s a great space to be relaxed and open with our audience. We’ve got chosen an interactive and engaging style; my wife Erika does the filming. It’s great.
Adaptation and change have been central to your success. What are your tips for other businesses in the industry during this time?
People need food, and people will always go to those with knowledge of food. This is a good time for training and mentorship, for encouraging people in the industry. I really hope that people take the chance to get into baking, and we can welcome new talent to the field.
TWISPER is on a mission to bring fairness and positivity back to the hospitality industry. During this unprecedented time, we hope to cast light on the grit, resilience and determination that are an inherent part of the industry. We know that these qualities will lead to recovery and restoration as we look to the future. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to get the latest industry news and TWISPER announcements.