- Text Emma Fecko
- Design John Portis
Lines wrapping around city blocks. People sitting in folding chairs brought from home. Crowds so massive that you’re legally obligated to ask, “Wait, what’s going on here?” At the end of these hours-long waits isn’t a streetwear collab or an exclusive sample sale, but rather the golden promise of an exquisitely laminated croissant or a crackly wood-fired Montreal bagel. These days, the latest “it” item tends to be sugar and flour-forward. Spurred by drop culture, bakeries are churning out sweets so tasty, so Instagrammable and review-able, that customers are compelled to wait hours on end for a few minutes of delectability.
The rise of bakery hype, in many ways, is a direct result of the pandemic (and no, not just because of the baffling trend of banana bread baking). Pop-ups emerged as a viable solution to fill the void when Covid-19 forced restaurants to close their doors and provided a seamless solution for contact-free take-out and innovation. With short-term openings and the freedom for experimentation, they became the perfect trial run for bakers—both professionals and novices—to go all in on sweet treats.
Even as storefronts have reopened for business, pop-ups still have an enduring influence, and an impact on the popularity of baked goods. According to Joana Silver, the General Manager of Brooklyn’s La Bicyclette, the bakery “had lines around the block every day during the pandemic.” Three years later, the purveyor of artisanal baguettes and viennoiserie is still drawing massive crowds, especially for highly-anticipated collaborations like one with rapper Action Bronson.
To learn more about bakery hype culture, I talked to some of my favorite Day One Agency foodies to get their hot takes on what’s worth lining up for (and just how long is too long). Jenny Chang, Associate Director of Creative Strategy & Insights, is willing to play the long game—or at least plan her day around getting ahead of the crowds. “The most I’ve lined up for baked goods is 90+ minutes for Courage Bagels in LA,” she says. “And to avoid a line, I willingly wake up at 6 a.m. to get to Courage first thing when they open. Always worth it.”
Andrew Downing, Senior Creative Strategist, echoes the aforementioned La Bicyclette hype. “I once waited in line for 30 minutes to try a ham and cheese croissant. It was at La Bicylette in Williamsburg,” he shares. “I actually think it was worth it, not only because the food was amazing, but I was waiting super early in the morning, so it wasn’t interfering with anything.” Andrew also mentioned that if a drop was enticing enough, he’d gladly wait two hours.
LA BICYCLETTE BY THE NUMBERS
While the siren call of freshly baked goods is clearly irresistible, are the lines really worth it? Sinead Chang, Brand Coordinator, explains that it’s often less about the item itself and more about the experience. “I’ve definitely bailed on a line that I was waiting in solo after only 30 minutes, but happily waited over an hour in line with a friend. I think my willingness to wait doesn’t really depend on how badly I want the goods,” Sinead says.
To keep apace with the trend cycle, bakeries are constantly evolving. In addition to the continued post-pandemic rise of pop-ups, Jenny has also noticed the expansion of Asian bakeries like Paris Baguette, Tour Les Jours and 85C. “[Asian bakeries] are typically much more affordable, have bigger selections and frequently come out with more novelty flavors than Western bakeries,” she says.
BY THE NUMBERS: D1A FOODIES' HABITS
Another popular (and perhaps contradictory) trend among bakery enthusiasts currently is one against trendiness. As Emma Bond, Senior Strategist of Creators & Casting, says, “Honestly, I really love that classic desserts are back in style. A great croissant, a delicious cookie. I love going to new spots and seeing who is doing it best or what unique spin they are putting on it.” By seeking out and supporting local bakeries rather than large corporations with multiple locations, waiting in line and feeding into hype culture seems, to many, more justified. If anything, the attention boosts visibility to businesses that may need it the most.
There’s also something forced, perhaps, about food that’s overly curated and tailored for Instagram or other social media. “I’m kinda over the ‘trendy’ bakery items that come and go in waves (R.I.P. cronut). What I’m always on the hunt for is just a good classic, made by cool, local bakers. Call me a bakery purist, but nothing will beat a well-made croissant," Sinead says.