Proof is in the pie for Banjo’s Bakery Cafe

Jessica Saxby grew up in Banjo’s Bakery Café stores. A family business that began in Hobart in 1984, Jessica was hungry to learn the recipe for success. Now Chief Executive Officer of this well-loved nation-wide brand, Jessica shares her story with Business Franchise magazine.

Jessica, tell us about your path from helping out in the family bakery as a teenager to running a national brand.

My working career with Banjo’s started in the original Hobart store as a sales assistant at age 13. I was able to work my way up to sales manager before I made the leap into a HR Support role in Head Office, while I undertook a Bachelor of Commerce at University of Tasmania (majoring in HR, Marketing & International Business).

In 2006, I took on my own venture, LivEat Sandwich Bars, while I was still at university, using my real-world knowledge of the business with my home-grown skills in the food, hospitality, and retail industries. In 2009, I was appointed as a Director on the Board of Banjo’s Corporation – and by age 27, I was appointed as CEO and Managing Director in the fast-growing family business.

It was an exciting time to join Banjo’s, as we were ready to refresh the brand. This gave me the opportunity to hit the ground running, converting 90 percent of the network to the new look and feel, resulting in sales growth of 20 percent.

We have also joined other market leaders in embracing technology with the introduction of click and collect and third-party sales channels. We have streamlined numerous business processes moving from paper-based recipe books to our own recipe app and digitizing key business procedures like auditing, compliance, and customer feedback.

It has been an incredible experience being involved in the business from a young age, watching one store grow to 44 and counting across Australia.

 

What is the Banjo’s brand all about? What makes you unique?

At Banjo’s, our main product offerings are freshly baked goods and coffee. We pride ourselves on developing product lines that encompass fresh ingredients traditionally loved by Australians. Sometimes these products have a twist to surprise and delight our customers, like our Signature Pie range which includes Lasagne, Chicken Parmi and Double Cheeseburger Pies. However, we also continue to offer fan-favourites such as Sausage Rolls, French Vanilla Slice, House Cakes and Danishes. Banjo’s breads are preservative free and our products are baked fresh on-site daily at each of our stores. I love that our approach to baking brings back the nostalgic element of food – it’s all about enjoyment, friends and family served alongside friendly customer service.

Bakeries have always been synonymous with freshly made products, local communities and a sense of wholesomeness. When Banjo’s opened their doors, the business concept was unique and still is today, providing a place which offered customers the opportunity to sit down and enjoy freshly baked savouries and cakes or handmade treats for breakfast, lunch or snacks with perfectly made barista coffee. Although times have changed, we differentiate ourselves from our competitors through our approach to baking fresh product daily. Whatever we’re unable to sell during the day is donated to local charities, individual to each store and region, totaling $11 million per year across the business. This is just one way Banjo’s contribute to our local communities.

 

Where are your current locations/territories? Are you looking to expand?

We currently have 44 locations across the country in Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. The next phase of our business growth strategy involves an expansion plan outside of Tasmania with territories available on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, in Brisbane, Dalby, Ipswich and Mackay in Queensland. In Victoria, our key growth areas are Melbourne, Altona, Sebastopol, Stawell, Truganina and Warragul. New South Wales has availability in Sydney, Forbes, Narradarra and Tamworth.

We’re working towards expanding our network in both regional and metro areas with high traffic and near new and developing infrastructure, centres and housing locations. Our team are always looking for prime locations across the country – get in touch via our website if you’d like to learn more or apply as a franchisee.

 

What type of person makes an ideal Banjo’s franchisee?

We always look to work with people who align with our organisation’s values and goals. Communications and relationships between customers and our community are at the core of everything we do. Our franchisees are passionate about baking and people, they are outgoing, have a great attention to detail and always put their team first.

 

How do you look after your franchisees?

I am a big believer in fostering talent from within. We have a number of programs for our staff throughout their career progression at Banjo’s Bakery Café. One of the key opportunities for our team is the Self Raising Program, which mentors current Banjo’s team members who wish to climb the ranks through their career with us.

Selected employees receive full training in baking, sales, administration, and business ownership through courses. The Banjo’s Resource Centre also supports the team member in finding a site for their new franchise, helping with location selection, fit out and leasing. I’m proud of the fact that over 60 percent of our stores are owned by Self Raising Program graduates.

We are only as good as our team. Therefore, it’s about supplying the tools for success through every stage of the process. This includes assistance in recruitment, marketing and business strategy, assets for advertising, digital media and localised marketing, operational set-up and staff training.

The support we provide continues in day-to-day operations to ensure each of our franchisees are set up for success by providing ongoing sales and baking training and business mentoring.

 

Have you celebrated any particular achievements in the past 12 months? What’s in store for the future?

There have been so many incredible achievements for the Banjo’s team over the last 12 months. We opened our first new drive-thru store in Queensland when COVID-19 hit and followed that with another three during the height of the pandemic. The drive-thru bakeries have sustained double digit growth across the network since opening in early 2020.

The team have also launched two new Signature Pie flavours including the Bangers and Mash and Lasagne Pies – both a huge success nationwide and receiving international recognition. We have developed and launched our own Mobile App for online ordering and customer loyalty which is growing 30 percent month on month – the first for a bakery chain in Australia – and raised almost $60k for our primary Charity, SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY for suicide prevention.

The last 12 months have seen us partner with online ordering aggregators to diversify our sales channels as markets are driven towards more convenient and efficient methods of food ordering and delivery.

Moving forward, we are very excited to further expand the Banjo’s brand across Australia with over 50 drive-thrus slated to open in the next three to five years. Meanwhile we will continue to implement strategies and techniques that modernise our approach to business without losing touch of our family values and baked good offering.