Freshly Made Delights

Banjo’s Bakery Café

People around the world have been baking and eating bread since ancient times. Yet what could be better than an artisan loaf made by hand using Tasmanian flour? This year is the thirtieth anniversary of Banjo’s Bakery Café, a successful franchise with a strong community focus and a lot of heart.

“Banjo’s was established in 1984 in Yorktown Square, Launceston. It’s a family owned business. Always has been; always will be,” says Managing Director Jess Saxby. The second store opened in Hobart followed by another in Glenorchy. Today, the company is proud to be Tasmania’s leading bakery chain with over thirty-six stores across Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

While there have been many exciting changes taking place in its stores, the brand has stayed true to its founding concept of offering fresh baked goods seven days a week. Its mouth-watering selection of breads, cakes and pastries continue to turn new customers into regulars from the very first bite. “They’re quality products; they’re handmade and we don’t use preservatives.”

What keeps customers coming back for Banjo’s range of traditional and artisan bread? The answer lies in making bread the old-fashioned way by allowing the dough to ferment overnight. “The fermenting process allows the flavour to develop through the dough,” explains Ms Saxby. “The longer you leave the dough, the more flavour through the loaf.”

Besides being rested overnight, no artificial nasties are added to the dough. “Banjo’s range of traditional and artisan breads are preservative free and always has been.” The traditional bread range includes hearty full grain loaves and round rolls. The artisan bread range takes the bakers much longer to create, and includes a wholesome sourdough rye and sourdough cob loaf.

Banjo’s also has a speciality range of gourmet breads like cheese and bacon pull apart and Dutch fruit loaf. Besides oven fresh bread, it also offers customers a tempting array of cakes, slices and golden pastries. Its pastry is handmade to a secret recipe and has a flaky, melt in the mouth texture. Warming soups with a free bread roll are available every day during the colder months, and there is also a healthy selection of salad rolls and sandwiches perfect for lunch on the go.

While everything in Banjo’s stores is baked or made fresh every day, any unsold – yet perfectly good – product does not go to waste. Every year, Banjo’s stores collectively donate around $2 million of product to hunger relief charities like Foodbank, OzHarvest and SecondBite. “Rather than being thrown in the bin, the food is actually going out to the people who need it,” says Ms Saxby.

Over the years, the stores have also provided sponsorships, been involved in bushfire relief efforts and supported fundraising initiatives like Give Me 5 for Kids which raises money to purchase lifesaving medical equipment for the children’s ward at the Royal Hobart Hospital. Stores are actively encouraged to develop relationships with local charities and provide sponsorship where they can. One example of this is the support of the Look Good… Feel Better program in Hobart, in which people dealing with the effects of cancer and cancer treatment learn beauty tips and tricks to help feel like themselves again. Banjo’s Bakery Café Hobart store is proud to support this initiative and has, for a few years now, been providing sandwich platters for the workshops.

Last year the company joined forces with Cystic Fibrosis Tasmania to help them raise money to support people with Cystic Fibrosis and their families. In May of 2013 the company donated fifty cents from every large coffee sold to Cystic Fibrosis Tasmania, raising over $21,000! Ms Saxby, who presented the giant cheque for $21,047.50 to the President of Cystic Fibrosis Tasmania, says that Banjo’s will be getting on board again this year. “Unfortunately the charity receives no government support and the work they do is critical to the health and welfare of people with CF in Tasmania. It’s a tragic disease and by fundraising through our stores we are helping to raise awareness as well as valuable funds,” says Ms Saxby.

Banjo’s unique blend of coffee is UTZ Certified (a label system to identify agricultural products that abide by a particular code of conduct), which ensures that the beans are sustainably grown providing the growers, their communities and the environment with a fairer deal. And Banjo’s commitment to the community and sustainability does not end there; Juicy Isle is a Tasmanian owned and operated company that supplies juices and bottled water to Banjo’s.

“We try to use local suppliers as much as possible,” says Ms Saxby. “A lot of our fresh produce, our lettuce and tomatoes, and salmon are from Tasmania and local suppliers. We use Tasmanian flour. Our meat for our pies and some of our salad rolls comes from Cape Grim.” It has been scientifically proven that Cape Grim has the world’s cleanest air. From the cattle grazing on the lush pastures of this pristine environment comes 100 per cent grass fed beef that is free of antibiotics, hormones or genetic modification and guaranteed to be juicy and tender.

While the company may have plenty of reasons to celebrate this thirtieth anniversary year, the current focus is on reinvention, training and expansion. Banjo’s is currently undergoing a total brand refresh with the aim of creating a more welcoming store atmosphere that is in line with the future of the Banjo’s brand.

The first Banjo’s store to be upgraded was done in January 2013. “Within the last six months, we’ve upgraded sixteen other bakeries, and we have the remainder to do this year so we’re doing about two bakeries a month. The refresh mainly consisted of giving a store: new signage, lighting, furniture, flooring, counters – as well as new montage and wall art to create a more homely feel to the environment. We also upgraded our packaging to reflect our new design concept and lift the standards of the brand.” New uniforms are in the process of being rolled out to the upgraded stores and the menu is looking better than ever with an expanded range of breakfast options, a sourdough bread range and new cakes and slices.

Foodies will be pleased to know that Banjo’s will be furthering expansion into Tasmania, Queensland and Victoria this year. All future stores will be opening in clusters to allow for greater brand recognition in a particular area. The move will also directly benefit franchisees by enabling them to own and visit multiple sites within an area rather than being hours or flights away.

Ms Saxby wants store employees dreaming of one day becoming franchisees to have the opportunities and training to make it happen. “The basic courses that we run at the moment are Advanced Food Safety, Basic Management Training, Prepare and Serve Espresso, Use Hygienically Packed Food Safety, First Aid, Food Safety Supervisor Certificate 4 Training and Assessment and Fire Warden. In the next six months we’re planning to become a RTO (registered training organisation) and we’ll be doing Certificate 3 and 4 in Retail and Hospitality.”

Banjo’s range of training courses and apprenticeships are all nationally recognised, enabling employees to build their skill set and advance in their careers. The stores have developed a really positive work culture and have many long standing employees who just love being a part of the baking industry as franchisees or as bakers. “One has actually been here for twenty-eight years and the rest have been here between eighteen and twenty-two years. They have been here from the beginning almost.”

Since the first Banjo’s Bakery Café store opened in Hobart, the market has changed a great deal. “When we first started there wasn’t much competition in the market, there was no such thing as KFC or McDonald’s in Tasmania at that stage,” recalls Ms Saxby. “We used to open the bakery at 4am and we had huge rushes of revellers, tradies and workers coming in to get our pies, pizzas and sausage rolls.”

While the advent of drive thru fast food in Tasmania might have had a significant impact on Banjo’s customer base and means that stores now open from 6am to 6pm, Ms Saxby is looking to the future of the brand with great enthusiasm. “I believe we’re a one stop shop for all of our customers. We sell a wide variety of products to suit almost everyone’s needs.”

With a larger offering than other cafés, the company has breakfast, lunch and afternoon options along with excellent coffee. “We provide take away options plus a dining experience for customers to come to our stores to sit in with their family and catch up over a meal.”

Banjo’s Bakery Café is proud to be thirty years young and still growing with the community by baking and making quality foods daily using only the freshest ingredients.

For more information about Banjo’s Bakery Café, please visit http://www.banjos.com.au/

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