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Bakers' Best to sell Newton cafe, focus on catering

Posted by Leslie Anderson  August 15, 2011 02:02 PM

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Bakers' Best announced plans today to sell its popular cafe in the heart of Newton Highlands so that it can concentrate on its growing catering business.

The busy restaurant on Lincoln Street has long been a place for Newton residents to meet over breakfast muffins or the cafe’s famous chicken and grape salad, lobster rolls, and panini sandwiches. It will remain open until a buyer is found, the owner said.

“This was one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve ever made” Michael Baker, owner and founder of the company, said in a statement. “Our plans to restructure are not the results of financial strain or floundering sales. Frankly, that would have made the decision easier.”

After operating for 27 years and growing into one of the region’s leading caterers, the company said it planned to restructure its business model by selling the cafe and concentrate its efforts on full-service and corporate catering, which make up 85 percent of the firm’s sales.

In 2010, Bakers’ Best marked its second highest grossing year to date, and the company’s percentage of sales from catering had never been greater, the company said.

“We have found that the core of our company is shifting, more and more, towards our catering and corporate events,” Baker said. “This change has taken place steadily over the past decade, and we think that this plan is the best response to facilitate the future growth of the company.”

Baker said he will still remain active in the Newton community where he and his family live.

‘‘It’s bittersweet,’’ he said in an interview this afternoon. ‘‘We know it’s the right thing to do at this point, but it’s a very hard thing to do. My family grew up here. I grew up here.’’

Bakers’ Best opened in 1984 in a tiny storefront across Lincoln Street. It moved to its current location in 1994, then doubled its space in 2001 to become a 48-seat cafe. ‘‘When we started the store ... my interest was opening a little mom and pop takeout store. We grew every year 15 percent or so.’’

The demand for its catering services grew over the years, as the same people who ordered lunch at the counter began using Bakers’ Best to cater celebratory meals for their families. ‘‘I love the relationships I’ve developed over the years,’’ Baker said. He’s seen children grow up through catering ‘‘their brisses, then their bar mitzvahs, and then their weddings.’’

But the company’s menu also caught the eye of corporate clients. ‘‘Now we’re sending out 100-plus deliveries a day, deliveries to biotech firms, the hospitals, the colleges, hedge funds, financial industry, lawfirms. So that business has grown significantly.’’

Four years ago, the company opened a 10,000-square-foot commissary in Needham that became the base of its catering operation. The recipe that had made the cafe a success began to shift. ‘‘I don’t think the store represents what we do anymore,’’ Baker said.

Bakers’ Best has listed the retail location with Atlantic Restaurant Brokers, the company said. Until it is sold, the cafe will continue to feature specialty foods, sandwiches, and homemade soups for take-out or dining in, and offer full service brunch on Saturday and Sunday and breakfast at the counter on weekdays.

Now and after the cafe is sold, the same items can be ordered and delivered from the company’s Needham commissary. Orders will be taken over the phone at 617-332-4588.

‘‘We want to go out the best we can,’’ Baker said. ‘‘We’re not going to change anything about this store during this process. We have a reputation we’ve had over the years, and we want to maintain this reputation. It’s not like we’re closing. Our business is continuing.’’

Bakers said he plans to serve the same families he’s gotten to know in his store through the catering and delivery business.

“As a long-time business owner in Newton, I remain committed to being part of the community going forward.”

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