In Focus
FRANCHISING | Staff Reporter, Australia

Find out how Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses aims to stay ahead after 115 years in operation

The family owned and operated bakery, started in 1901 in the Northern and Western suburbs, when the Ferguson and Plarre families established themselves in Melbourne. Both families merged their businesses to become 'Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses' in 1980.

The brand aims to offer quality products, service and innovation, including the use of only free-range chicken, hormone free beef, fresh cream and real custard, serving desserts, birthday, wedding cakes, award-winning meat pies and Tiddly Oggies to its customers.

QSR Media got in touch with Daniel Worthington, Marketing Executive at Plarre Foods, to talk about the brand's long history and where it aims to go in the future.

QSR Media: What's new at Ferguson Plarre?

Daniel Worthington: In August this year, Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses turned 115! So we’ve very proudly been celebrating 115 years of being a family owned Australian retail bakery business. Some of our wonderful milestones have included serving the Queen of England and the President of the United States. We’ve got 60 wonderful franchisees and 67 stores across the country.

So with a milestone like 115 years, we’ve been celebrating! We’ve had a great start to the year with all of our 115th Birthday promotions, including:

We’ve launched a range of gourmet Tiddly Oggies (pasties), one of which won the Gold Medal in Australia’s Best Pasty Competition. The rest took out Silver and Bronze medals. We’re famous for pasties and this has been a wonderful boost for our franchisees and customers.

We launched a world-first birthday competition “Win a birthday cake every year for the rest of your life!” to huge acclaim. We’ve had well over 10,000 entries. 12 year old, 5th generation Plarre member Abbi Plarre will draw the winner on the 16th of September. This will be very much a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket kind of moment!

We’re also launched a 12 page, full colour celebration cake catalogue featuring 115 of our best cake designs into the market in mid September. It featured in newspapers and over one million homes across Victoria.

A new range of cake boxes, bags and coffee cups all featuring some of the wonderful little stories from our proud 115 year history.

QSR Media: What can you say are the challenges you are currently facing in the industry? Opportunities?

Daniel Worthington: I think product innovation and creating retail excitement is key right now in retail food. I know that in the full range bakery space that we play in, many businesses find it hard to do everything from making a fresh great quality vanilla slice, éclair, pie and donut all the way to a wonderful birthday or wedding cake. This is always a challenge but one that we’ve embraced and conquered at Ferguson Plarre. The Plarre family have been baking for over 115 years and we’re foodies at heart. This is why we’ll always make our own products. It helps us guarantee the quality and freshness of our offering and that is everything in the current market. It’s also a powerful point of difference for our franchisees.

Having a retail fitout that resonates with your customers is also vital in the current market. Having great product is one thing but there’s no point in making a great cake, coffee or pie if the environment that your customers consume it in isn’t aligned with their personal brand. Our customers, or Guests as we call them, are looking for an ambience that completes their experience at Ferguson Plarre. We’re very proud of our latest store designs which are resonating very strongly with our Guests and our franchisees.

Quality of franchise applicants is also a challenge for most franchise brands. At Ferguson Plarre, we tell our staff and franchisees that for every dollar someone gives you, 50c is for the product and the other 50c is for the way you make them feel. At Ferguson Plarre we deliver happiness through food, so we need franchisees who can give our Guests that experience. This is what we screen for when selecting franchisees to wear our brand.

QSR Media: Any big plans you have before the year ends?

Daniel Worthington: Plenty! We worked on a visually spectacular range for our Christmas range which we redevelop every year to keep our Guests intrigued and able to try something different every year. We also have an amazing super-gourmet chunky choc chip cookie in the pipeline. It’s been inspired by the famous Otis Spunkmeyer cookie in the USA…and it’s scrumptious!

QSR Media: What would you like to tell the market about the direction of your brand?

Daniel Worthington: Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses is a 115 year old brand that has traded through 2 World Wars, The Great Depression, numerous recessions and food trends. We are a brand that has resonated and thrived in the Australian market for over a century.

We’ve got our product recipes right and we’ve got our business recipe right. Our direction remains unchanged and we’ll continue to leverage our 115 year foundations of success: quality, freshness, heritage and happiness through food.

QSR Media: Any other comments?

Daniel Worthington: To anyone reading this who has purchased a Ferguson Plarre product over the last 115 years I’d like to say this: Thank YOU. You are the reason we’re here and we look forward to serving you for another 115 years!

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