When Chris MacLeod and Tiff Singh launched their Minneapolis bakery Laune Bread in 2019, they didn’t have a storefront. Instead, they relied on bike and electric car deliveries, as well as pick-up sites throughout the city, to distribute their naturally leavened breads and pastries. For them, operating as a primarily subscription-based business was a no-brainer.
“Without having our own space or storefront, we determined that the most effective way to distribute our products directly to consumers was through a CSA model,” says MacLeod.
When the Laune team did finally open a brick-and-mortar shop in 2021, adding retail to the lineup, they remained committed to growing a subscription platform. Today, they use Per Diem in a way that’s flexible and open-ended, allowing members to choose a commitment level (weekly or biweekly) and place holds on their accounts. Here’s how it works for them.
From day one, MacLeod and Singh were inspired by the subscription model as an effective, efficient way to approach production. Since they know up front how much to produce each week, they can eliminate excess waste—helping the planet and their bottom line.
“We worked in the food industry for a number of years and saw a ridiculous amount of food waste from restaurants, bakeries, and diners,” MacLeod explains. “A subscription-based model allows us to know exactly how much product to bake every week.”
Even with the retail storefront, they aim to “underproduce,” or intentionally sell out of product. “This will hopefully encourage customers to pre-order and become future subscribers.”
When the pandemic hit, Laune already had an online shop and subscription model in place. The subscriber base quickly doubled in size, and home delivery grew exponentially. When vaccines became available, more people felt comfortable picking up their weekly bread, too.
In the summer months, MacLeod and Singh sell at farmers’ markets, but Minneapolis winters are notoriously difficult for food businesses. In that period especially, “subscriptions are important financially,” MacLeod says.
A flexible CSA model lets customers easily add items onto their general subscription, such as a seasonal loaf or Valentine’s Day cookie box. Laune also offers gift options, so fans can purchase a subscription for friends or family members. Often the ones who buy gifts for others are subscribers themselves. Says MacLeod, “I like to imagine they want to pass on the experience of bread by gifting it.”
With subscribers, MacLeod and Singh can forge relationships that are deeper and more substantial than the ones they might have with one-off customers.
Using Per Diem, Laune sends weekly email reminders to members, both to communicate logistics (such as pick-up times and order deadlines) and to add insight into what’s happening at the bakery. Emails share stories about local farmers and millers they work with. “People are appreciative of learning more about local food systems and practices,” explains MacLeod.
With home delivery, the Laune team can connect with customers on their doorstep. “During COVID, we received a lot of feedback from our customers about the importance of bread in their lives,” says MacLeod. Stuck at home, often without a general routine, ‘Bread Day’ became something they could look forward to. “Kids will wait for us to drop off the bread in excitement.”