James Worthington: Perfecting the family recipe
James Worthington is the CEO of Kneaders Bakery & Café, the Orem-based company that has grown from a single café that opened just before Christmas 20 years ago into a 55-store franchise with cafés in six states. Like his parents, founders Gary and Colleen Worthington, and many of his siblings, he’s watched the Kneaders success story continue to rise like a plump ball of dough waiting to be baked.
“I was a senior in high school when Mom and Dad opened that first store,” he recalls. “My parents had kind of started a second career once Dad sold the construction business he’d owned. They bought a Subway sandwich franchise in north Orem and we all stayed busy helping run that, particularly on BYU football game days. But they got bored, didn’t like having to have a store open on Sundays, and began tossing around the idea of developing their own business.”
So Kneaders was born, with Gary handling the construction and design, Colleen continuing to handle the books and all the kids helping out in every imaginable way.
“We washed dishes, made sandwiches—pretty much everything to do with the business,” Worthington says. “We’d get up early to bake, go to school, and come back in the afternoons. That experience has really proven helpful as we’ve franchised the concept, because we know first-hand how to help operators with any challenges or problems they have.”
In 2000, a second store was opened in Provo. The third store later opened in Midvale and Worthington became the company’s first franchisee, a position he held until moving to the corporate office in 2007.
As the Kneaders’ reputation continued to grow, the company began to slowly evolve.
“All along the way, we’ve been willing to take a step back and look at what we’re doing,” Worthington says. “We’ve wanted to keep that same Mom and Pop feeling when people come in to our cafés. We wondered how we could do that with 55 stores, and we feel we’ve struck the right balance.”
Gary and Colleen have stayed involved, “but they now can choose what they want to do,” Worthington says. “There’s a very strong family bond for all of us, and we all want to help the business continue to succeed.”
As its clientele has grown and changed, so has Kneaders’ menu. Worthington says, “You always have to watch customers’ profiles, their trends, their desire for new things. It’s important not to be caught up in an overnight craze or fad, but to find those recipes and items that will last. We still look at every single piece of feedback that comes from our website. When we get feedback, we can roll things out and test them. It’s been a successful formula for us.”
By design, Kneaders has slowed down its growth projections for 2017, with plans to open only four or five more cafés, and a similar number for 2018.
“We have a lot of demand from people in areas where we don’t have locations,” he says. “This year, we’ll be opening a new store in Kansas City. That will add another state to our existing locations in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Idaho and Texas.”