Slice your breads the way you like ‘em. Many larger stores bake their own bread. Sometimes, those large sourdough loaves need to be cut, quickly and evenly. Enter the bread slicing machine. Pick a loaf and ask your friendly bakery counter staff if they could run it through the slicer and get perfectly even cuts. Making croutons? They can run the loaf through the machine twice on opposing sides to give you block cuts.
Provide cake decorating supplies. For one-off cake supply needs, ask your supermarket’s bakery. They might be able to give you a 9-inch cardboard cake circle, a proper pie box, or even a couple disposable plastic piping bags for making frosting flowers. Sometimes the bakery will even have a SKU code so you can pay for it at the register. Do not ask for any frosting piping tips, as these are not single-use tools and are usually personal to cake decorators.
Provide cake layers, tart shells, frostings, and more. Some supermarket bakeries will sell you any of the separate components they use for making their own in-house desserts. Many stores don’t bake everything at their location. They have larger suppliers where the cake layers, fillings, and frostings are made from scratch. These items are wrapped and shipped to them frozen or refrigerated, arriving at the store ready to use. See if they will sell any of those separate items to you.
Customize cakes with your own decorations. You can usually bring in a sugar-printed image from a specialty store and let the pros take care of the rest without suffering any extra decorating charges. Likewise for plastic toys, specialty sugar decorations, or edible flowers that you purchased elsewhere. If you want a particular pattern to be applied to the cake, you can bring in a stencil or tool and request the decorator use it to achieve the specific result you’re envisioning for your special order.
Let you bake it at home. As mentioned earlier, most grocery store bakeries make certain things in-house and the rest is made, or partially made, at an off-site commissary location. These items (like croissants, cookie dough, or pies) are usually frozen before shipping, for easy packing and to ensure the product doesn’t get damaged in transit. It arrives in an ideal state to either stay frozen or get baked. Some bakeries will let you purchase these items in their raw, frozen state to take home and bake yourself. It will probably be a bit more expensive, but the convenience might be worth it. Remember to ask the bakery counter staff for any tips on thawing and baking, and get them in writing (or take notes).