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Buying bread... in restaurants.


ulterior epicure
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Please tell me that charging diners for bread will be a short-lived trend.

Have any other cities (besides Kansas City) been experiencing this phenomenon?

I admit, encounters have been limited to two restaurants.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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I'm afraid with the rising price of grain, it will be something we will see more and more :(

You are so right. Flour prices have soared. The organic unbleached flour I purchased last month for $2. 60 per five pounds is nowt $5.00 or more per 5 pounds. It's increasing daily in cost.

I see more restaurants charging for bread. The bread basket, bread plate, etc.. has been one of the most wasteful aspect of food service. Diners will barely comsume all the offered bread. They then ask for more, then leave 75% of the reloaded bread. Very frustrating.

We never recycle the breadbasket stuff, once it hits the table, it is history. Too many people touching too much bread! But it is such a waste. I can understand small restaurants like Sarah's charging for bread.

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"I can understand small restaurants like Sarah's charging for bread."

I can _understand_ it, but I can't agree with it. As a customer, I suppose I'd tell the owner/manager that I felt it was similar to charging for water, or butter, or au jus. Logic tells me it's not much different than charging for a salad, but custom and sensibility tells me that it's a nickel & dime move that pisses me off. Maybe they should consider table rental in view of rising commercial rents, or a surcharge for warm food given the trends in energy costs. the descriptive latin phrase is (I believe) chickenshit.

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again, not to beat a dead horse, but all our costs are spiralling. Fuel costs, mostly, but basic commodity stuff is through the roof. I use organic cucumbers. Thre months ago they were 25 bucks a case; now they're 67 dollars a case. That's something I have to pass on to my customers; same with grains and flours. An increase of 25-50 percent is not uncommon.

And if you're a fan of mid-eastern cuisine, beware - tahini has increased about 400 percent just this year....

"A culture's appetite always springs from its poor" - John Thorne

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I have to agree with Synergy and Maftoul, there is a cost factor involved. And when it goes up, what is a chef to do. Two choices I can think of right off, raise the prices on the menu or start charging for the bread. I would be upset if the bread is crap bread but if it is a good bread, then charge. I would have no problem with that.

Quick question, is part of the increase of the price of flour going to the grower or is it all being taken by the middle man?

Get ready because the cost of dairy is also going up, that means butter is getting more expensive. When the cost goes up in the grocery store, it is going up to the restaurants at the same rate

Edited by joiei (log)

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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A well-managed restaurant will find a way to work increasing costs into its overall pricing scheme without rolling out changes that are such a fundamental departure from the way things are typically done. Businesses face rising prices all the time; it's ongoing. Either way, the customer is going to absorb them. But how such costs are passed on is completely a matter of skill and style.

Charging for bread may be perfectly logical and even justifiable. But a restaurateur who takes on the roll of the victim and makes too big a deal out of rising bread costs seems far more likely to alienate customers than one who finds a more subtle way to integrate such costs. Charging for bread seems like an effective way to win the battle and lose the war.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

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All good points being made, here.

I have no objections to conservation; in fact, I encourage it. Certainly bread (and butter) is one of the biggest source of waste in the restaurant business. But I suspect that there would be considerably less bread wasted if:

1. Most of it was any good. Inferior restaurant bread is not only ubiquitous, it's sadly become presumed.

2. Diners were asked whether they wanted bread at all. Many times I would more than happy to reject it. In fact, I have been known to tell the server not to bother bringing bread.

I appreciate the rising cost of agricultural products. I certainly think that charging $6 for a basket of bread is a bit steep. I failed to mention this on my blog, but for those of you who haven't ordered the bread basket at Sarah's, would your opinion change if I were to tell you that it included:

(a) two (stale) croissants (that suspiciously resembled the croissants used for their chicken salad sandwich at lunch);

(b) a couple of slices of "herbed foccacia" (that suspiciously resembled the bread from which the "herbed foccacia croutons" on their salads are made and the same that is used for their salmon sandwich (and a few others) at lunch); and

© a few wedges of warmed pita (which didn't appear to be a leftover from any lunch item)?

FWIW, the pita was the best of the three - it was served warm and it was incredibly fluffy and moist. Why they don't offer a pita wrap at lunch, in keeping with the apparently leftover bread theme, is a mystery to me.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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A well-managed restaurant will find a way to work increasing costs into its overall pricing scheme without rolling out changes that are such a fundamental departure from the way things are typically done.  Businesses face rising prices all the time; it's ongoing.  Either way, the customer is going to absorb them.  But how such costs are passed on is completely a matter of skill and style.

Charging for bread may be perfectly logical and even justifiable.  But a restaurateur who takes on the roll of the victim and makes too big a deal out of rising bread costs seems far more likely to alienate customers than one who finds a more subtle way to integrate such costs.  Charging for bread seems like an effective way to win the battle and lose the war.

=R=

The irony is that it may actually be better for people who are not big bread eaters than simply rolling it into the general price structure of the restaurant. Because it would be an increase that is not disguised it would be more noticeable and so more potentially problematic to the restaurant's pr.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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All good points being made, here. 

I have no objections to conservation; in fact, I encourage it.  Certainly bread (and butter) is one of the biggest source of waste in the restaurant business. But I suspect that there would be considerably less bread wasted if:

1. Most of it was any good.  Inferior restaurant bread is not only ubiquitous, it's sadly become presumed.

2. Diners were asked whether they wanted bread at all.  Many times I would more than happy to reject it.  In fact, I have been known to tell the server not to bother bringing bread.

I appreciate the rising cost of agricultural products.  I certainly think that charging $6 for a basket of bread is a bit steep.

Also, I failed to mention this on my blog, but for those of you who haven't ordered the bread basket at Sarah's, would your opinion change if I were to tell you that it included:

(a) two (stale) croissants (that suspiciously resembled the croissants used for their chicken salad sandwich at lunch);

(b) a couple of slices of "herbed foccacia" (that suspiciously resembled the bread from which the "herbed foccacia croutons" on their salads are made and the same that is used for their salmon sandwich (and a few others) at lunch); and

© a few wedges of warmed pita (which didn't appear to be a leftover from any lunch item)? 

FWIW, the pita was the best of the three - it was served warm and it was incredibly fluffy and moist.  Why they don't offer a pita wrap at lunch, in keeping with the apparently leftover bread theme, is a mystery to me.

I guess to summarize my previous post: I don't mind paying for good, specialty bread as much as I do paying for what appears to me a second-service (i.e. leftover) bread. At Sarah's, charging $6 for that "Freshly-Baked" bread seemed a little insincere.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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A well-managed restaurant will find a way to work increasing costs into its overall pricing scheme without rolling out changes that are such a fundamental departure from the way things are typically done.  Businesses face rising prices all the time; it's ongoing.  Either way, the customer is going to absorb them.  But how such costs are passed on is completely a matter of skill and style.

Charging for bread may be perfectly logical and even justifiable.  But a restaurateur who takes on the roll of the victim and makes too big a deal out of rising bread costs seems far more likely to alienate customers than one who finds a more subtle way to integrate such costs.  Charging for bread seems like an effective way to win the battle and lose the war.

=R=

The irony is that it may actually be better for people who are not big bread eaters than simply rolling it into the general price structure of the restaurant. Because it would be an increase that is not disguised it would be more noticeable and so more potentially problematic to the restaurant's pr.

Agreed. In fact, as others here have indicated, often 'free' bread is served to diners who don't even want it to begin with. Eliminating that waste would be a great way to offset rising costs.

I generally only eat bread at restaurants when the bread is truly noteworthy or when the bread helps me to enjoy the food that's being served. If a great sauce is served as part of a dish, I'll definitely want some bread to mop it up. But if I'm having a sandwich for lunch, I really don't need or want the perfunctory bread basket in advance of it.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Simple solution, right on the menu: "bread basket served upon request (additional charge of $X may be levied)." Is it tacky? Yes, perhaps. It's a *heck* of a lot less tacky than charging $6 for junky, stale bread.

No one likes being charged for something that's seen normally as "free". It looks twice as bad when the bread isn't fresh, and/or good. It's downright deplorable when it's SIX FREAKING DOLLARS FOR JUNK. I understand a restaurant's need to make a profit, but one can't make a profit using such tactics, and then claim "Rising costs! Rising costs! The sky is falling! We'll never make it!"

It's not been a problem here in the Detroit area...yet. Or, at the very least, I haven't seen it happen here when I've been out. Then again, I don't go in to every place expecting a bread basket...as UE alluded to, few are even worth the trouble. To me, bread should be a stop-gap measure in keeping my stomach from growling due to extreme emptiness, or, if it's really something exceptional, a course unto itself. But it had *better* be something to behold if I'm being "charged".

I especially enjoyed the line from the previous poster about being charged extra for a meal being warm due to rising energy costs. This bread thing sounds like it's not far away from that particular kingdom, and if I even *start* to detect that I'm being nickle-and-dimed by a restaurant, I'll vote with my wallet...by keeping it closed.

Edited by boagman (log)
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I no longer work in a restaurant, I'm the chef for a catering company, so our costs are calculated somewhat differently. It may be easier for us to build in cost increases.

I wouldn't have a problem paying for bread if it was truly exceptional. That is usually not the case around KC. It wouldn't bother me if portion sizes were decreased slightly in many places. That would off set food cost increases and people don't need giant portions anyway.

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This trend has hit Northern Florida. One restaurant that has had a fairly extensive and apparently housemade basket has begun to charge for it and offer plain rolls as gratis bread service. This seems a reasonable compromise to me.

I think the cost of bread could be mitigated by asking if bread is wanted. Many say "no".

I agree that rolling (heh heh) the expense of bread service into the general price of the meal is a smart move. Diners get nickel and dimed all day long, I don't want that feel in a fine restaurant.

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This is a similar quandry to Mexican restaurants that are slowly starting to charge for the chips and salsa which I have come across a couple of times now. It does not stop me from ordereing the salsa and chips if they are of excellent quality. I have also been in restaurants that would charge for the chips and salsa if that was all the food that was ordered. Again, I have no problem with a restaurant doing that also.

UE, where is Sarah's in Kansas City? I have never heard of it. Sounds like I need to avoid it the next time I am up you alls way.

Edited by joiei (log)

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Charging for bread is common practice in a number of establishments here in Vancouver, BC, Canada, notably smaller places (30 seats or less), or those whose menus are designed around tapas or "small plates" for sharing. At some Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine restaurants, naan/pita/roti are shown as a menu item, and charged appropriately.

If there is a charge for bread, then there should obviously be a menu notation to indicate. Some places here give the option of smaller ($3) or larger ($5) portions.

I don't object to paying for better bread. My DH, however, is a total bread-y, and has "some resistance around" having to order and pay for bread.

Karen Dar Woon

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Many restaurants in Europe charge a "cover" which includes bread. It is usually fairly nominal.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I think 5 or 6 (or even 15 or 20 dollars) for a basket of bread is a small price to pay to assist in the battle against global warming.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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When we visited Germany, the waitress/waiter knew the contents of the breadbasket when it was delivered to our table, counted what was left, calculated how many pieces we ate, and charged us by the piece. Other than being surprised by the foreign custom*, it wasnt a problem. In fact, it encouraged some of my fellows to save their space for the food they'd ordered.

*aint travel grand?:biggrin:

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I haven't been charged for bread since wheat prices have shot up, but I still can't get over how obnoxious it was to see bread and butter on the menu last year at Momofuku Ssam Bar for $8. I buy a whole tube of that same Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. butter for $3.99 at Whole Foods.

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The first time I noticed this in a context in which it seemed odd was at the Park Kitchen in Portland, where "Ken's bread and house made crackers with good olive oil" is 4.00. While I was initially a bit put off, the bread was *excellent* as was the olive oil, and I didn't mind paying for it. When I considered how much this must reduce waste, I even sort of liked the idea...

But that's just me.

jk

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They charge for a basket (or half basket) of bread at Dano's Heuriger in Upstate NY, but it truly is very good bread. There's a wide variety, and it's freshly made. I was surprised about it the first time I saw it, especially given that some of their other specialties are cheesey spreads, so you kind of have to buy some bread to put them on. But in the end, the bread is good enough, and the price is reasonable enough that I never hesitate getting a full basket. And in this case, there'd be no reason not to take any excess home.

They charge $4.75 for a full basket, $2.75 for a half. The smaller portion is plenty for two people, not that I've ever been able to stop at a half regardless of my party' size.

half:

gallery_23992_3752_59874.jpg

whole:

gallery_23992_3752_26395.jpg

Of course, these were the prices last year, it'll be interesting to see if they feel obliged to raise them.

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

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I wonder is this trend will bleed over to Tex-Mex places and their bowls/baskets of chips with hot sauce. Diners in Texas might revolt if that happened!

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Please tell me that charging diners for bread will be a short-lived trend.

Have any other cities (besides Kansas City) been experiencing this phenomenon?

I admit, encounters have been limited to two restaurants.

Adding a world view to the conversation string: here in Australia we invariably pay for bread. There's no such thing as free bread on the table. And even in an average restaurant, we pay stupid amounts of money for that's typically very average bread spread w/ a bit of butter.

I long for places such as Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage, Alaska where you can get full drinking great beer and eating excellent (and free) Spent Grain Bread.

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Restaurants' costs are increasing. I'll assume everybody agrees with that statement. So the question is, how should restaurants deal with the situation? There are several options, and most restaurants will need to use a combination of strategies.

The simplest option is to keep all variables the same except for menu prices. But that translates into what may be surprisingly large menu-price increases -- perhaps more than a restaurant's customers will tolerate. Thus, people in the restaurant business are exploring various ways to keep menu prices the same, or to raise them less than the true cost increases would require.

Converting included items (like bread) into paid items is one of many such tactics. Reduced portion sizes, reduced staffing, cheaper ingredients (either lower quality or just less expensive -- like using less expensive species of fish), increased add-on sales (dessert, coffee), better efficiency (less wasted food, etc.) . . . there are a lot of ways to go.

I wouldn't rush to say one set of answers is right for every restaurant. Indeed, the style of a restaurant may dictate a particular approach. Even in countries where bread charges are customary, those charges are typical only at casual restaurants. At the fine-dining end of the spectrum, I'm not aware of bread charges being the norm anywhere. Indeed, I'm not sure I know of any Michelin-type restaurant anywhere that charges for bread. Which is probably, in part, why high-end restaurants have raised their prices so much more in recent years (at least in the US) than casual restaurants have: the high-end restaurants mostly can't cut anything out, they can only raise prices to reflect costs.

Inflation isn't the only issue here, though. The paying-for-bread trend in the US started before the current spike in costs. It was already occurring in smaller, contemporary restaurants, especially those serving styles of cuisine that don't specifically demand bread. Momofuku Ssam Bar, for example. If you want bread, you pay for it. You pay a lot. But it's really good, as is the accompanying butter.

Of course all these factors -- inflation, style of food -- are real, but they can also become excuses. Restaurants (businesses in general) often take advantage of such excuses to raise prices more than the underlying causes warrant. Remember when France switched to the Euro? So, I think people should be understanding about the current round of price increases -- whether they're expressed as increases in menu prices or decreases in what you get for the same money -- but we shouldn't be overly forgiving. We all need to earn a living too.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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    • By andiesenji
      ANDIE'S ABSOLUTELY ADDICTING BREAD & BUTTER PICKLES
      Here’s the thing about pickles: if you’ve never made them, they may seem to be an overwhelming (and possibly mysterious) project. Our listener Andie – who has offered some really valuable help to the show several times in the past – has sent this recipe which provides an opportunity to “try your hand” at pickle-making without much effort. Andie suggests that making a small batch, and storing the pickles in the refrigerator (without “processing”) can get you started painlessly. Our Producer Lisa says that the result is so delicious that you won’t be able to keep these pickles on hand - even for the 3-4 months that they’ll safely keep!
      The basics are slicing the cucumbers and other veggies, tossing them with salt and crushed ice and allowing them to stand for awhile to become extra-crisp. You then make a simple, sweet and spicy syrup, (Andie does this in the microwave), rinse your crisp veggies, put them in a jar, pour the syrup over, and keep them in the refrigerator until they’re “pickled” – turning the jar upside down each day. In about 2 weeks you’ll have pickles – now how much easier could that be? If you are inspired, I hope you’ll try these – and enjoy!
      MAKES ABOUT 1 QUART.
      FOR THE PICKLES:
      4 to 6 pickling cucumbers (cucumbers should be not much larger than 1 inch in diameter, and
      4 to 5 inches long)
      1/2 to 3/4 of one, medium size onion.
      1/2 red bell pepper.
      1/4 cup, pickling salt (coarse kosher salt)
      2 quarts, cracked ice
      water to cover
      2 tablespoons, mustard seed.
      1 heaping teaspoon, celery seed
      FOR THE SYRUP:
      1 1/2 cups, vinegar
      *NOTE: Use cider or distilled white vinegar, do not use wine vinegar.
      1 1/2 cups, sugar
      2 heaping teaspoons, pickling spice mix.
      PREPARE THE PICKLES:
      Carefully wash the cucumbers and bell pepper. Slice all vegetables very thin, using a food processor with a narrow slicing blade, or by hand, or using a V-slicer or mandoline. Toss the sliced vegetables together in a glass or crockery bowl large enough to hold twice the volume of the vegetables. Sprinkle the salt over the vegetables, add the cracked ice, toss again to blend all ingredients and add water to just barely cover the vegetables. Place a heavy plate on top of the vegetables to keep them below the top of the liquid.
      *Set aside for 4 hours.
      PREPARE THE SYRUP:
      Place the vinegar, sugar and pickling spices in a 4-quart Pyrex or other microwavable container (the large Pyrex measure works very well)
      Microwave on high for 15 to 20 minutes. [if a microwave is not available, simmer the syrup in a narrow saucepan on the stovetop, over low heat, for the same length of time.] Allow the syrup to cool. Strain the syrup and discard the spices.
      ASSEMBLE THE PICKLES:
      Place one wide-mouth quart canning jar (or two wide-mouth pint jars) with their lids in a pot of water to cover, place over medium heat and bring the water to a simmer (180 degrees). Remove the pot from the heat and allow jar(s) and lid(s) to remain in the hot water until needed.
      *After the 4 hours are up (crisping the vegetables as described above) pour the vegetables into a large colander and rinse well. The cucumber slices should taste only slightly salty. Return the rinsed vegetables to the bowl, add the mustard seeds and celery seeds and toss well until evenly distributed. Set aside.
      Return the syrup to the microwave, microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes [or heat the syrup on the stovetop] until an instant read thermometer shows the temperature of the syrup is 190 to 200 degrees.
      Place the vegetables into one wide-mouth quart jar, or in 2 wide-mouth pint
      jars that have been scalded as described above. Pour the syrup over the vegetables, place the lids on the jar or jars, tighten well and place in the refrigerator overnight.
      The following day, turn the jar upside down - then continue to turn every day for 2 weeks. (This is to insure that the pickles are evenly flavored)
      After 2 weeks open the jar and taste. The pickles should be ready to eat.
      Pickles will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 months.
      ( RG2154 )
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