A little corner of France in the Bolivian town of Santa Cruz de la Sierra: the bakery “Panaderia Artesanal Bon Pain” takes its customers on a journey to Paris with every bite – except that the quality of the croissants and pains au chocolat was variable and not up to French standards each and every day. To change that, the company asked Senior Expert Contact (SEC) for support. Together with a Zurich baker, they improved the recipes and adapted the production process.
Last spring, SEC asked Peter Zimmermann to advise a bakery in Bolivia. The “Panaderia Artesanal Bon Pain” specialises in French products such as croissants, pain au chocolat and baguettes. Unfortunately, these treats did not taste the same every day. As a result, the sales figures were too low. The experienced SEC expert was very happy to finally be on site to support a client in a bakery again after a two-year break caused by Covid-19.
During a three-week online preparation phase, Peter Zimmermann had the opportunity to familiarise himself with the bakery, the products, and the difficulties. Together with Huascar Cornejo, the managing director, he then set the goals for the on-site assignment: during his time in Santa Cruz, he would analyse and optimise the production process, revise recipes, and develop new recipes.
High temperature and humidity made production difficult
Once in Santa Cruz, our SEC expert got to know the team and together they set about analysing and improving the processes as well as testing and improving new and existing products and, above all, documenting their production. The cause of various problems of the Bon Pain team soon became clear: the high temperature and humidity in the bakery was causing the leavening agents in the dough to react even before baking. And the short pastry could not be shaped because it immediately became soft. The experienced baker knew the solution: from then on, the dough was processed and baked immediately; the shortcrust pastry was even put in the freezer before it was further processed in small portions.
The bakery “Panaderia Artesanal Bon Pain” was founded by the uncle of the current manager Huascar Cornejo. Unfortunately, business was not good, and he decided to close the bakery. Since Leslie Bavia, Huascar Cornejo’s wife, had basic knowledge of the bakery trade and did not want the employees to be laid off, she took over the bakery without hesitation. Today, the couple runs the business with eight employees.
Questions to SEC expert Peter Zimmermann
How do you judge the results of the assignment in general?
The task was to improve the quality and the processes. I tried to change many things. My ideas were not always implemented, and the business owner/decision-maker was not always available either. The employees have limited competence. In the end, the client decides what he considers feasible and reasonable. He knows the situation on the ground and his possibilities.
Which suggestions were implemented during the assignment?
We changed the croissant recipe and adapted it to the business. Organisational changes were made on an ongoing basis. I created new recipes, adapted them and deepened the employees‘ knowledge of their production.
What made the biggest impression on you during this assignment?
The staff expressed interest, noted down recipes and engaged with suggestions for change.
What surprised you or what did not work as expected?
I would have liked to have had better contact with people in the company. Unlike in other assignments I have done, the client was not interested in private exchanges and joint activities in their free time. Fortunately, this is not always the case. Bolivia is a foreign country for me, and I also want to take something back from the culture during SEC assignments.
Where did you reach your limits with this kind of counselling?
Language is always an obstacle. It simply takes longer to realise a concrete project. Showing the client and his staff that “constant change” is needed is a challenge. People find it difficult to decide to do something new.
Did you continue to have contact with the client after the end of the assignment? With what kind of support?
Since the end of the assignment, I still have contact with the client on a personal level. In other assignments it was different and often the professional exchange remained after the assignment. Of course, this can still change if concrete enquiries come in.