Motley Waffle Bar was a specialty bakery shop that I ran at the Saturday farmer’s market in Hayward. I produced and sold Belgian waffles with pearl sugar. These were authentic waffles! The kind where the texture is bread-like and the chunks of sugar give a nice crunch when you bite into them.
Motley was a really fun summer experiment. I was just so curious about running a brick-and-mortar shop using the Square platform. I also wanted to interface more with customers. And what better way to do that than selling waffles at the farmers’ market.
And the best part of it all? We had repeating customers! It’s such a good feeling when you’re doing it right.
I opted for Belgian waffles because:
- They taste amazing.
- They’re perfect candidates for social media. You can put whatever toppings you want on waffles and it’ll look Instagrammable.
- They’re quick to make and prototype with different flavors.
- There are few stores in the Bay Area that sell them or even make them well. For example, Jamba Juice and Starbucks sell Belgian waffles but they taste like bricks.
- I could sell them as premium baked goods for higher margins.
The COGS was about $1.20, and I sold the waffles for around $5, resulting in a profit margin of about 75%.
I spent a lot of time on the brand. Should it be premium and rustic? Or should it be colorful, modern, and trendy? I played around with so many different styles to capture the right feel.
Given that it was a farmers’ market, attendees generally liked the farm-to-table feel. I eventually settled on a more rustic look. I chose a font that had edges resembling a waffle. And the logomark included an inset at the bottom to resemble the act of holding the waffle, which is how I wanted to sell it.
For presentation, I used compostable paper plates and wooden sporks. The logo and prices were written with chalk on blackboards, and the toppings were stored in mason jars. The customers loved it.
Using Square was a no-brainer. In fact, Square was the reason why I wanted to do this in the first place. I was so fascinated by how Square was empowering SMBs that I wanted to try it myself. Setting up a PoS on my iPad, using the card reader, and tracking my weekly sales were seamless.
I was curious how hard I could push the prices. Every Saturday I tweeked the price by $0.25 to $0.50. I wanted to see if I could hit $6, but anything above that would’ve been too much. Some of you might think I’m crazy for selling it at $6, but this isn’t an uncommon price point for premium baked goods in the Bay Area.
Unfortunately, frequent raining made the attendee count fluctuate too much. And since there was no way for the market to count the amount of traffic, I couldn’t tell which price points were generating more revenue.
Because I wanted to make the waffles on-the-spot at the market, I was required to produce the raw goods in a commercial kitchen. I found an amazing family-owned commercial kitchen, which I rented for $300 a month. The most expensive equipment I purchased was a 6-quart KitchenAid mixer for about $250. The rest were standard.
On Thursday nights I would combine the materials and mold the dough to let it rise overnight. Then on Saturday mornings I would wake up at 4am to split the dough into smaller parts and let it rise a little more before the market opened.
Why the farmers’ market? Food is a highly regulated industry. If you ever plan on selling food, the farmers’ market is the cheapest and fastest way to get started.
Overall, this was such a fun experiment, and I learned so much.
I can’t thank my wife and my family enough for their support.