Most restaurants in Moab want fast customer turnover. The more people you move through the restaurant the more money you will make, or so the conventional wisdom goes.
But that desire to get people fed, happy and out the door has meant that there aren’t many places in town that have great desserts, said Cinda Culton, the manager of Sweet Cravings Bakery and Bistro. That’s because people tend to linger over desserts, which can slow down the turn over in a restaurant.
But Culton doesn’t mind if most restaurants in Moab subscribe to that view. Making delicious, quality desserts was exactly the niche that she wanted Sweet Cravings to fill.
“We wanted to have something that takes you back to mom’s home cooking,” she said. “For the last 20 years I have wanted to do this.”
Culton’s path to Sweet Cravings was anything but straight.
After growing up in Las Vegas she began her professional life working in Jackson Hole for Vail Resorts as the area director for sales and marketing. Several jobs later she found herself in Grand County working as the director of sales and marketing at Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa.
That was when she realized that Moab was in need of a good sweet shop.
“I felt like there wasn’t a real strong dessert location (in Moab),” Culton said. “The other piece that for me was lacking was there wasn’t a great spot to go for a girl friends lunch.”
So Culton started looking at properties. She saw a few locations before coming across a property on the north end of Main Street.
Culton loved the location but it was a bit back from the street so she ended up renting both that property and a store front on the street. And thus Sweet Cravings was born.
It has made for an interesting set up, with the bakery building about a 100-yard walk from the storefront.
Starting out Sweet Cravings didn’t do much advertising. It was a strategic decision; they wanted time to fine-tune their operation, and for word of mouth to be what brought people in.
“It has grown from there with a lot of local support,” Culton said.
That growth has been caused primarily by two factors, said Culton; good food and good customer service.
The first is accomplished by using the time-tested, made from scratch recipes that Culton grew up with. The coleslaw recipe is her great aunt’s and many of the bakery items were originally created by her mother and grandmother.
And it seems that customers approve. Sweet Cravings has a 4.5 rating on TripAdvisor.
“I’ve never worked at a place where nothing has been brought back and everyone just raves about it,” said Judy Cunningham, a server at Sweet Cravings.
Customer’s favorites are the biscuits and gravy for breakfast (new this year) and the Capone Sub for lunch.
The customer service end of the business is something that runs in the Culton family. Culton’s mother taught customer service for 10 years at a vocational school in Las Vegas. And she brings that expertise out with her each time she comes out to help her daughter at the bakery and bistro.
“I’m crazy about the place. The minute you walk in there you are their friend,” said Sweet Cravings regular , Ginger Aaron. “In town I don’t think I have ever been in any restaurant like it.”
Though winning over the locals has been a big push for Sweet Cravings, the number of tourists coming in has been growing as well.
“We are surrounded by lodging and outfitters so that has helped us grow,” Culton said.
Sweet Cravings also runs a catering service, which has proved quite popular. That side of the business has more than doubled this year.
The bakery and bistro has also introducing some new items for the new season. Along with the crowd favorite biscuits and gravy there is now a spicy Thai wrap. The new tres leche cake has also been a big hit.
But Culton has not let the success go to her head. Though she could see expanding the space in the restaurant in the future, Culton wants to be sure to keep the values that made Sweet Cravings successful.
“It comes back to the quality focus. A lot of places grow too quickly and you lose that quality and that personal aspect that everybody is drawn to,” she said.