One reason One Mile Bakery was instantly so busy were some fantastic reviews in the very early days after the business launched from local food bloggers. They each sampled a typical food delivery (on the Bread, Soup & Jam subscription package), featuring the same loaves, soup and jam delivered to that week’s customers. It was nerve-wracking for me: I’ve worked as a (theatre, art, food) critic for 15 years and suddenly the tables were turned: I had a sudden, sharp pang of empathy for everyone I’ve ever reviewed.
Also, I had only been open a few days and was still working the basics out (i.e. I had to buy more of almost everything for the kitchen and on a commercial scale – hello to a 24-litre soup pan that can be seen from outer space and doesn’t fit in any of my kitchen cupboards), so wasn’t sure this was the right time to put my food under scrutiny. But then, as a restaurant critic, I’d reviewed places as soon as they had paying customers, so couldn’t really ask for special treatment myself.
I’d been reading the food bloggers’ posts for quite a while, following them on Twitter and often deciding where to eat out based on their recommendations. I approached them via Twitter (I’d never met any of them) with a view to getting reviewed and was delighted when they all agreed. I knew their reviews would be crucial: in the absence of established restaurant critics in the local print media, their blog posts have a considerable following and are undeniably opinion-forming.
Waiting for the reviews was agony; I got through it with lots of therapeutic kneading! I will never forget reading the first one (107 times) from Gourmet Gorro (this year’s Welsh Food & Drink Blogger of the Year, no less) and dancing round my very floury kitchen. This was followed by equally glowing reviews from Love to Dine, UrLastMouthful, Corpulent Capers and a weekly review from one of my customers who is also food blogger Eats for Wales.
I am ashamed to say I know most of these off by heart by now, as I’ve re-read them so often: this was the first real sign, in the fledgling weeks of the new business, that my idea – dismissed by some arguing nobody would buy without seeing or tasting the food first, or that the subscription model would be a problem for customers – might well catch on. Thanks to these reviews, orders went through the roof and I was at near maximum capacity within a few weeks. Months later, I still get customers ordering deliveries and coming to classes because they’ve read one of these reviews.