Bakers Delight co-founder Lesley Gillespie joins Hall of Fame

By Sarah Stowe | 27 Oct 2021 View comments

Lesley Gillespie,  co-founder of Bakers Delight, has been inducted to  the Franchise Council of Australia (FCA) Hall of Fame.  

Gillespie joins husband and inaugural Hall of Fame inductee, Roger Gillespie as a  recipient of the prestigious award, which recognises outstanding contribution to franchising as a franchisor, franchisee, academic, consultant, politician, or financier. 

Roger and Lesley opened the company’s first bakery in 1980 in Hawthorn, Melbourne.  

More than 40 years on, Bakers Delight remains family owned and operated under the  leadership of their daughter, Elise Gillespie and her husband, David Christie.

There are more than 650 locations across Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand. The  North American business is now headed up by their son, Aaron.  

For Lesley, being inducted into the Hall of Fame represents the perseverance and success  of the network’s many franchisees who have helped build the brand over four decades.  

“Our success as a business has always been based on the success of our franchisees and  it has been their dedication to building business success that has ultimately taken Bakers  Delight to where it is today,” she said.  

The secret to the brand’s continued success lies in three essential ingredients, she said.

“We built a franchise model that allows for leadership at every bakery. If you have owner/operators with skin in the game, there’s no doubt you get a much better outcome.

“Secondly we have stuck to what we know best and that’s bread! After all these years we  haven’t deviated from our core offering and it has served us well. Thirdly, we have always  believed that franchisee success comes first which when nurtured correctly, ultimately leads  to more focus on customer experience, greater brand loyalty and better customer  satisfaction at every bakery.” 

While there have been plenty of challenges throughout the Bakers Delight journey, there have also been plenty of highlights, particularly during the early days of the brand’s expansion into Canada under the name of COBS Bread.  

“Opening our first Canadian bakery in 2003 was a very proud day. We took a big risk in expanding into North America and we didn’t know whether it would work or not. Seeing that  first bakery finally open up and take in $30,000 – an opening week record at the time – gave us  a tremendous sense of satisfaction.”

Lesley was also instrumental in establishing and nurturing Bakers Delight’s long-standing partnership with Breast Cancer Network Australia which has raised more than $20 million over the past two decades.

This fundraising result, and the ability for the franchise chain she co-founded to provide jobs for thousands of young Australians, are the achievements of which Lesley is most proud.

“Seeing people who were genuinely hungry for success but never destined to be doctors or lawyers come into the network and find a business or career for themselves is incredibly  satisfying. It has been a privilege to give so many people a chance to succeed and then watch as they pass the same opportunity on to a new generation,” she said.