What It Takes to Buy a Bread Route + Route Business Pros and Cons

Buying a bread route — or another type of route business — is expensive to start, but it offers a stable income and the benefits of owning your own business. Below, we outline the pros, cons, and requirements of owning a route business, along with the list of bread companies you might want to look into.

How Route Businesses Work: Advantages and Disadvantages

A route business is one in which an independent operator purchases a route and delivers products to various clients (or accounts) within a certain area, also known as a territory. These accounts often include grocery stores and supermarkets, delis, bakeries, restaurants, office buildings, and more.

There are two types of route businesses: protected and unprotected. A protected route is one in which no other independent operator from the same distributor can deliver to that territory or try to open new accounts within that territory. In contrast, an unprotected route involves more competition. However, this increased competition can mean higher payouts. Any type of route can be a big investment, as they can easily cost more than $100,000, though you can usually finance the route over a period of time. As an independent operator, you also have to finance other necessities, such as vehicles and insurance.

Though specific details may differ depending on what type of route you’re running and/or who you’re running it for, we explain the bread route pros and cons below.

Pros of a Bread Route Business

  • You get to be your own boss: You can set your own schedule and hours, at least to an extent — some accounts may have specific receiving hours.
  • Growth potential: There is the potential to grow your business by adding new accounts and/or territories to make more money.
  • Stable income: Most routes are relatively established, so you should make a steady income from the very beginning.
    • Note: The amount of money you make will depend on the distributor. If it sells you the product for 80% of the total price, your commission is 20%. If it gives you the product, your commission will be a cut of the profit.
  • It’s in demand: Route businesses are in demand. That means you can also likely sell your business whenever you want.

Cons of a Bread Route Business

  • Startup cost: The initial cost to get started can be pretty high, since you have to purchase the route.
  • Risks involved: You often have to pay for the product; if the product you get from your distributor happens to be spoiled or damaged, it can end in a loss for you.
  • Distributor issues: You can run into certain problems with your distributor, such as:
    • Alack of available product
    • A warehouse that is far away
    • Issues with getting the product delivered to you (In some cases, warehouses that are far will have the product delivered to you.)
  • You’ll essentially be a small business owner: As an independent operator, you will be responsible for finding someone to cover your route if you are sick or if would like to take a vacation.
    • Note: “Vacation relief services” can be an option to remedy this problem Typically, the service will run your route for you and take a percentage of the profit.

Route Businesses Requirements

While there are some minor differences between companies, most route businesses have similar policies. To get started you’ll need to:

  • Purchase the route: You’ll also need to purchase the tools and vehicles needed to run it.
  • Recruit employees: Some distributors may help with this.
  • Buy product from the distributor: You are essentially buying the product and reselling it. (Note: Some distributors will give you the product free of charge, and you make a cut of the profit instead.)
  • Load and offload your truck: You’ll need to lift and carry the product when picking it up from the distributor and again when making the delivery. You must be willing and able to load and offload your truck in addition to driving the route.
  • Set up and maintain displays: Unless your route business delivers packages, you will be responsible for setting up and maintaining store displays.

Note: Depending on what type of vehicle you use for delivery, you may need a commercial driver’s license (CDL).[1] Regardless, you’ll need a valid driver’s license and, in some instances, you may need to register as a corporation.

The Major Bread Route Businesses

A variety of companies use route businesses to get their products into customers’ hands and stores. Below, we’ve compiled the list of the major bread and food companies that employ route businesses. When you’re considering starting your own bread route business, the following companies are good places to start — we’ve ordered the companies starting with the best overall options.

Bimbo Bakeries USA

Bimbo Bakeries includes the following brands: Arnold Premium Breads, Brownberry Premium Breads, Entenmann’s, Oroweat Premium Breads, Sara Lee, and Thomas’.

  • Responsibilities:[2]
    • Finance your business, including providing any necessary down payments
    • Organize your company as a corporation or limited liability company (LLC)
    • Sell and distribute breads and baked goods
    • Grow your business by finding new customers in your sales area
    • Manage accounts and/or utilize a bookkeeping service
  • Expenses:[2]
    • Delivery vehicle(s) (often a 20-foot truck)
    • Vehicle expenses, including fuel, insurance, and maintenance
    • A reliable wireless handheld computer/tablet and a printer
  • Find out more on the Bimbo Bakeries Distribution website or visit RoutesForSale.net for a list of Bimbo Bakeries Routes for sale.

Flowers Foods

Flowers Foods brands include Nature’s Own Bread, Wonder Bread, Dave’s Killer Bread, Cobblestone Bread Co., Alpine Valley Bakery, Sunbeam Bread, Merita Breads, Captain John Derst’s Old Fashioned Bread, Butternut Bread, Bunny Bread, European Bakers, Home Pride Butter Top, Mi Casa, Mrs. Freshley’s, and Tasty Baking Company.

  • Responsibilities:[3]
    • Purchase or finance a territory
      • Territories often cost around $100,000; a minimum 5% down payment is required
    • Set up a corporation and maintain at least 51% ownership
    • Grow your sales by increasing customers in your territory
    • Manage accounts and/or utilize a bookkeeping service
    • Hire and manage employees (if you choose)
  • Expenses:[3]
    • Delivery vehicle(s), including fuel, maintenance, and insurance
    • Purchase communications equipment such as a computer and cell phone
    • Advertising (if you choose)
  • Find more on Flowers Foods’ website

Pepperidge Farms

  • Responsibilities:[4]
    • Finance your business (you can purchase a bakery or snack route)
    • Recruit and train employees
    • Maintain payroll records
    • Vehicle and equipment maintenance
  • Expenses:[4]
    • A special handheld computer and printer (estimated cost: up to $5,000)
    • Employee benefits, including worker compensation insurance
    • Vehicle ownership, insurance, and maintenance
  • Find more on Pepperidge Farms’ website

Mission Tortilla

  • Responsibilities:[5]
    • Evaluate and create an order of product needed; fulfill the snack route order
    • Write and transmit orders to Mission Tortilla after servicing accounts
    • Recruit and train employees
    • Manage payroll
    • Maintain vehicles and equipment
  • Expenses:[5]
    • Fuel, insurance, and vehicle maintenance
    • Purchase of inventory; storage facility for product
    • Promotional allowances
    • Liability insurance for your business
  • Mission Tortilla doesn’t have this information on its website, but we were able to find reliable information on RoutesForSale.net

Interested in other jobs that involve driving and delivery? See our list of jobs that give you a vehicle to drive.

In Summary

Buying a bread route can be a good investment, but, like any job, there are pros and cons to owning a route business. The pros are that you get to be your own boss, set your own hours, make a steady income, and grow your business to increase your earnings. Some of the cons include expensive startup costs and potential losses if the product is spoiled or damaged. Most route businesses have similar requirements, responsibilities, and expenses.

For more business ideas, see our articles on how to make money on the side and how to open your own laundromat or laundry service.