Founded in May 1980 by husband and wife team Roger and Lesley Gillespie, Bakers Delight has since become one of the great Australian business success stories and has since grown to become a multi-national company with over 650 stores in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US.
As a third generation baker, Roger had baking in his blood so the couple were reasonably confident that opening their first store in Hawthorn, Victoria would be a good business venture. With the bakery trading well, the Gillespies invested in a second bakery, then a third and before they knew it, they were running more than a dozen bakeries across Melbourne.
By the late 1980s, they had become a family with the addition of son, Aaron and daughter, Elise and were exploring business opportunities in the United States when they were exposed to the concept of franchising. There were very few Australia franchises in operation at the time and Roger and Lesley immediately saw the potential for their expanding bakery business.
After returning to Australia, they set about setting up a franchising business model via some of their most trusted staff within their existing stores and an exciting new era for the brand began.
In 1991 the first interstate Bakers Delight store was opened in Adelaide and in 1993-1994 Bakers Delight expanded nationally. This was closely followed by the opening of the first international Bakers Delight store in Auckland, New Zealand in 1995. By the late 1990’s, there were 225 bakeries operating across Australia and New Zealand and soon the Gillespies turned their sights towards other international markets.
Initially the United States was the target, however after a full assessment of the market, they settled on Canada. In 2003, Bakers Delight opened their first Canadian store with a slightly different product offering and a significantly different brand name – COBS Bread. This was the first of 11 COBS stores to open in Canada in just 12 months and today, the Canadian operation boasts over 130 stores….plus one in Connecticut, USA.
Of course no history of Bakers Delight would be complete without mentioning its unique relationship with Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA). Supporting local communities is part of Bakers Delight’s DNA and a chance meeting between Roger, Lesley and BCNA Founder, Lyn Swinburne in 2000 sparked a very special partnership that remains strong to this day. Bakers Delight has helped raise over $20 million in funds and pro bono support over 20 great years and counting.
By 2017, Roger and Lesley had created one of Australia’s great entrepreneurial stories but began thinking about slowing down their lives a little. Their son, Aaron had already taken the reigns of the Canadian and US operation and in 2017, their daughter, Elise and her husband David Christie, were appointed Joint CEOs of the business in Australia and New Zealand, ensuring one of Australia’s best loved brands would remain in family hands.
Today, Bakers Delight continues to be one of Australia’s best loved brands thanks to its strong network of dedicated Franchisees and having successfully navigated its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, is now turning its eyes towards the next 40 years.
It’s fair to say that adapting to the unique and changing needs of customers, exploring conveniences such as click and collect or home delivery and speed of service in the bakery will all be a part of the next chapter in this Aussie icon’s fascinating history.