If it’s Boichik Bagels, you know there’s going to be plenty of hype and long lines involved, and that’s what happened at 7:30 a.m. in Berkeley Friday morning as the runaway blockbuster bagel brand opened its 18,000-square-foot production plant and cafe.
Berkeley-born craze brand Boichik Bagels is very good at making a tasty New York-style bagel, but they’re even better at creating hype. Amidst the pandemic-era Bay Area bagel boom, Boichik Bagels was catapulted to the front of the pack when the New York Times raved in 2021 that Boichik Bagels owner “Emily Winston’s bagels are some of the finest New York-style bagels I’ve ever tasted.” It was off to the races from there, as Boichik Bagels opened a Palo Alto location the following year, then started showing up in cafes and grocery shelves across the Bay Area.
And today the Bay Area News Group reports that at 7:30 a.m. Friday morning, Boichik Bagels opened their 18,000 square foot bagel production plant in Berkeley, which is a production facility, cafe, and merchandise shop.
What’s genuinely neat here is that you can not only get a coffee and the bagel at the new plant, but also watch the bagels being made by some sort of robotic bagel-maker. “The main thing is that I designed the whole place around the showpiece, which is the heart of the plant, the dough line, which has been like my new baby,” Winston tells Eater SF. “It’s super awesome, it’s really fun to watch — it’s quite mesmerizing.”
The media hype in this case is obsessed with “robotic technology” making the bagels. Now I spent decades in food service, and the contraption seen in the top left photo above just looks like a glorified version of the Hobart mixer I used when I worked at Pizza Hut in 1991.
The video above shows the BakTek machinery, which has actually been around for decades, though this version is slightly customized. And other than a robotic arm, I don’t see much here that’s that a lot more advanced that what we saw in the factory-line opening credits for Laverne & Shirley. But the owner Winston turned to retail investors to crowdfund this venture, and investors care a whole lot more about automation than they do about quality food service. So if automation is the aspect Winston chose to promote, well, it worked.
I’d say the innovation here is that the production plant has a cafe and a community dining space. It looks fun to watch the production (which involves plenty of actual human labor too), from the dining space, and the Bay Area News Group says the facility can produce “12,000 bagels an hour.” Eater SF adds that “Winston says she’s hoping to host events such as mahjong, bridge, and chess clubs to play alongside some coffee and bagels.” That may well have the makings of a very popular destination.
Personally, I’m digging the trucker ballcap more than the robotic technology (and again, the new facility has lots more schwag like this in the merchandise shop). It’s clear that Boichik Bagels is now determined to become Big Bagel, and hey, it’s nice for a Bay Area brand to gain national fame. But careful what you wish for...
Image: Biochik Bagels via Facebook