Breaking bread with family, the Bakers Delight tradition

Inside Franchise Business: Bakers Delight family owned franchiseFor Bakers Delight it has always been about family. As a family-run business everyone is treated just

The first Bakers Delight was opened by Roger and Lesley Gillespie, in Hawthorn in 1980. Baking has been in the Gillespie family’s blood for generations so the business was founded on the back of a genuine passion for bread and decades of learning and experience. The success of the original Bakers Delight bakery in Hawthorn led to the establishment of another bakery and then another until the Gillespie’s went to try their luck with the business in the US. During their time there they learned about the value of franchising and brought their knowledge back to Australia.

There are now more than 700 locations across Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand.

Elise Gillespie, daughter of the founders, has now taken over the reigns as joint CEO with her husband David Christie. Her parents are still involved as directors on the board and Elise’s brother Aaron runs the North American business as president. Other family members have even been involved in the business over time as employees of Bakers Delight or franchisees.

Gillespie says the family aspect of the business puts value long term goals rather than just worrying about short term targets. “We want our children to care about the brand as much as we do,” she says.

While having a family owned franchise has it perks due to the communal and familiar feel that the business possesses, Gillespie says she needs to be conscious of separating family and business at times.

“We’re always talking about business as a family, and we need to be conscious that the rest of our executive team weren’t a part of the discussion we might have had over dinner!”

Families often have their ups and downs and the franchisors find that communication and good advice helps to combat that.

“We’re very open and deal with issues head on before they become bigger issues. We also have great external advisors who keep us in line,” says Gillespie.

“We have a formal family council which is chaired by an external advisor. We run these meetings with the same professionalism that we would expect a board meeting to run.”

The co-CEOs say they never lose sight of the fact that the family business is made up of many smaller family businesses, the franchisees. 

“We know they experience the same high and lows and the complexities of running a family operation that we do which allows us to approach things differently. Being a private company also enables us to be more agile in the marketplace and gives us more scope to take calculated risks and innovate where we need,” says Gillespie.

The franchise’s longer serving staff and franchisees in particular appreciate that they can speak directly with the owners. 

“We have many people who have been involved in the business since the very early days and have formed close relationships with them,” says Gillespie.

“We believe the continuity of ownership is seen as important, but at the end of the day what really matters for staff and franchisees is doing meaningful work and getting well recognised and rewarded for it.”

The franchise says franchisees should have a passion for retail, a strong work ethic, a great leadership and must be community minded.