Sweet Mandy B’s Sweet Success


Most students at DePaul University have encountered the delicacy of Sweet Mandy B’s at some point during their college education, whether directly or indirectly. There are the die hards (as often as they can get there, they do), the excuse makers (I don’t want to write this paper anyways, so lets go get cupcakes), the “I earned it” girls (who can justify the indulgence since they worked out), the special occasions (birthdays, weddings, the works), and the rest have either simply tried Mandy B’s or heard other students discuss it.

The number of students that Sweet Mandy B’s draws in on a daily basis is astounding; and students are only a portion of their customer base. There are people all over Chicago who are willing to make the trip to Lincoln Park in order to get Mandy B’s. In food and confection related industries, the quality is top priority since that is what consumers are truly after when they go in for a treat. In order to sustain such high quality management and fresh cupcakes, cookies, and specialty foods, just in time inventory is a must. Nobody wants to walk all the way there to spend money on a cookie that is stale or doesn’t satisfy that sweet tooth. Managing the way that baked goods are created, decorated, and stored in order for maximum freshness for the maximum amount of time appears to be something that Sweet Mandy B’s management has mastered, from my experience at least.

Another aspect of operations that is essential to consider in this industry is capacity. When people place orders for cakes, it is typically for a special occasion, in which case they need the cake at a specific time on a specific day. Cake orders and order patterns must be closely analyzed in order to increase staff during busy ordering times such as holidays or time of large events like graduation. Space and oven scheduling is another consideration, for only so many cakes can be baked as there are ovens. Sweet Mandy B’s seems to have this under control as well, for the entire second half of their store is available should they need to utilize that space, yet the don’t waste money keeping it lit or stocked when they are able to limit baking to the main kitchen.

Location strategy is interesting in this case, for Sweet Mandy B’s does not follow the typical “Location is everything” mantra. Rather it makes a product that is too good to resist, and people have no problem travelling from all over the city to pick up their pre-ordered cakes or stop by for a snack. However, their location is, in fact, intelligently placed because many college students do not drive, and the proximity to campus is a major plus. Its convenience also encourages students to stop by when they probably would not have made the trip if they had to actually plan for it and catch a train. With its thriving success, is there anything that could drastically hurt Sweet Mandy B’s sales?


10 thoughts on “Sweet Mandy B’s Sweet Success

  1. I absolutely LOVE Sweet Mandy B’s! I actually read an article once that ranked them the second best place in Chicago for sweets (sorry, could not find the link). It is quite interesting I thought reading about how many customers that SMB’s attracts on a daily basis. I definitely thought it was primarily college students, and furthermore DePaul college students! It absolutely makes sense that JIT inventory is attributable to their success and their management philosophy just kills it. Additionally, I found it interesting to read about their capacity constraints. You can definitely tell that Sweet Mandy’s would loose out on profitability if they are not strict about the quantity of their product they hold.

    Great post!

  2. Sweet Mandy B’s is definitely one of the best places to go when you want a quality and delicious sweet treat.
    Their friendly staff, warm treats, and great variety makes Sweet Mandy B’s have such great success with DePaul students and other people who travel to Lincoln Park. As discussed above, Sweet Mandy B’s just in time inventory and customizable treats are great attributes to the sweet success that is Sweet Mandy B’s. They have their management style down to a T where they know how many individuals to have on staff and what times of the year call for greater orders from the bakery.

    I have discovered that Sweet Mandy B’s is a fan favorite amongst DePaul Students, even with great competitors such as Swirlz, Molly’s, and many more. As of right now I don’t think that many things can hurt SMB’s sales, unless everyone starts to lose their sweet tooth- which I don’t see happening any time soon. However, one thing that I think SMB can improve on is their capacity usage. I think that second room adjacent to the kitchen could be used/utilized for more use rather than just a sitting area – can you think of any way that SMB can use this area to increase sales or draw in more customers?

    1. spr1314drutkowski,

      It is interesting that you mention utilizing the second room as more than just a sitting room. One of the problems I see with Sweet Mandy B’s and many bakeries is their inability or choice to not cater to those with nut allergies. To my knowledge, there is only one nut free bakery in Chicago. This causes Sweet Mandy B’s and other bakeries to lose out on a whole different market. Obviously bakeries who excel can focus on the quality and quantity of their treats when they do not have to worry about cross contamination, but I do know a large percentage of people live with nut allergies.

      Perhaps if the second room in Sweet Mandy B’s was turned into a nut free section they could cater to everyone in Chicago, not just those without allergies. My vision would be similar to a children’s doctor’s office; one section for sick patients and one for healthy. The rooms, nut and nut free would have to be closed off from each other and have separate baking rooms to avoid cross contamination. I am not sure how this would work on the large scale with time and sales, but I would be interested in seeing how this might work in a bakery setting. I am also wondering if it would be worth it to cater to both types of people at one bakery or if it is just more cost efficient and safer to have separate facilities altogether.

  3. After reading this blog post, I am hungry, craving sweets specifically, and wondering how soon I can get my hands on a cookie. I am a Sweet Mandy B’s customer and have purchased multiple birthday cakes and dozens of cookies from them over my college career. Thankfully I live in Lincoln Park near the lake, so I am far enough away that I do not give in to every craving. I have never experienced a dry or stale item from this bakery, thus I agree that their JIT inventory and storage techniques are flawless.

    One new competitor Sweet Mandy B’s will have to monitor is Insomnia Cookies. It is a new late-night cookie shop, on Lincoln Avenue, that delivers. Warm, fresh-baked cookies delivered to me during a late night sweet-tooth craving? Yes, please! Insomnia Cookies is only open from 5pm-3am and offers cookies, cookie cake, ice cream and milk. They are obviously targeting a different customer and offering a smaller range of goods, but they can potentially steal of some the business from Sweet Mandy B’s. Every year, my friend orders SMB’s cookies for his trombone recital reception, but this year he purchased Insomnia Cookies. If I want a cookie, I now usually order from Insomnia Cookies unless I am on the other side of campus. I do not see Sweet Mandy B’s being dramatically altered due to Insomnia Cookies but they should definitely keep tabs on this sweet competition.

  4. I really enjoyed this article! I think it’s very clever how you tied operations management into the story. Most of the time when you go to a place like Sweet Mandy B’s you don’t take into consideration how much really goes into making their products. I do agree that Insomnia Cookies is probably getting some of Mandy B’s business, since they deliver late-night, but I think that Mandy B’s definitely has the advantage over Insomnia because they offer a huge variety of products that are ALWAYS delicious. It’ll be interesting to see what happens between these two companies.

  5. Great post! I am also a SMB’s customer and enjoy their sweets very much. My friends though, prefer Molly’s when it comes to cupcakes and have recently been ordering from Insomnia. With more and more competition, I feel as SMB might change up their strategy. Maybe they can extend their hours past 9:00pm to attract more of the late night sweets cravers.

  6. I, too, love Sweet Mandy B’s. I think one huge difference that sets Sweet Many B’s apart from its competition is that it offers something for everyone. Sweet Mandy B’s doesn’t just have cupcakes, or just have cookies. They really have everything anyone with a sweet tooth could want. I think their location is different, but really works for them. In that area of Lincoln Park there seem to be a lot of families with young kids. The bright colors and obviously the sweets draw a lot of these families in. Also, it is easier to find parking out front of SMB than their competitors. While places like Swirlz are just as close, I don’t know one person that’s every actually had a cupcake from there, however everyone I know has been to Sweet Mandy B’s. In a bakery business, it is extremely important for them to forecast correctly and have just in time inventory. They do not want to lose customers because they ran out of a product early on in the day. Everything has to be planned out perfectly and their special orders have to also be taken into account. I think that cupcakes have been very popular over the last few years. I think this might die down once something new comes along. However, since SMB has more than just cupcakes, I don’t think their sales could be hurt too drastically. I think they have a strong enough customer base and new students coming in every year who get hooked. I think they will be around for a long time and outlive some of their competitors.

  7. Excellent post! I agree when you talk about the vast following that Sweet Mandy B’s has, in addition, the only way I think Sweet Mandy B’s would have a drastic decline in sales is if a large number of competition came nearby. Also, I remember a while back reading about how when the recession hit, cupcake stores started opening all over. TV shows started coming, the cupcake craze took over in many aspects. Now with the recession behind us, it could very well be that sales decline. With an increase in household income, families are willing to splurge in the food and beverage industry (fancy dinners), where before a splurge may have been 4 cupcakes at the price of $5. Given this, it makes it desirable by college students because it’s accessible and affordable.

  8. I love this place, but I think that cupcakes are such a fad that once that is over it can definitely hurt the bakery. Also competition in cupcakes at gaining with sprinkles and sugar bliss and other stores that they might not have the competitive advantage they thought. I believe for a long while they might be successful but it might not work in the long run.

  9. Obviously this is an older post, but I wonder if a follow up post would be interesting. The cupcake “fad” has just about ended and I wonder if previous posters would change there opinion on Sweet Mandy B’s. Crumbs bakery, arguably is the most famous bakery in the United States, but take a look at their stock price http://finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=CRMB+Interactive#symbol=CRMB;range=2y .

    The problem with bakeries is that there is nothing proprietary about the product and there is huge competition. I would argue that in order for bakeries to survive, it is more about clever marketing and customer service than any operational efficiencies. Now I do not know if Sweet Mandy B’s is struggling or thriving, but the marketing side of the business is much more important to its’ survival.

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