It amazes me every time I visit a restaurant – the important things that we miss. With menus the focus is, and always has been, on the protein, the center of the plate. The biggest, the best quality, cooked to perfection, sourced from the finest ranch, grass fed, Angus, Wagyu, Kobe, Natural, Organic, and the list goes on and on. Where we fall short is in the details of that menu, the complements, the “tag along” ingredients. What about the quality of condiments, butter, the cheese quality on the burger or the pizza, the salt for that steak, the olive oil on the salad, the coffee, or tea, and maybe most importantly – the quality of the bread products used.

Great bread IS ESSENTIAL in any level of restaurant experience. Why is it overlooked so often?

What differentiates an acceptable burger from one that is outstanding? THE QUALITY OF THE ROLL. What separates an acceptable sandwich from one that knocks your socks off? A GREAT ARTISAN STYLE BREAD OR ROLL makes all the difference. What impresses diners right from the start of a meal and helps to bring them back time and again? OUTSTANDING BREAD! What is the definitive difference between good and incredible pizza? Well, you guessed right – THE QUALITY OF THE CRUST!

Restaurateurs hoping to hit the mark and win the battle for loads of return guests MUST invest the same amount of time on quality bread as they do the center of the plate. I’m not kidding – bread is the difference maker, period.

I know, here lies the problem – you don’t have the space or the expertise to make your own bread. As much as you want to believe that bread is bread, and its importance is incidental – you are WRONG. It is essential (there- I said it again). So, you MUST, absolutely MUST find a way around the bread dilemma. Do your research, sample, and compare, find a bakery in your area that can live up to the challenge of GREAT, not good, bread. If not in your area, then find a bakery that will ship while still maintaining the quality that makes a difference. They are out there. Sure, it will cost considerably more than what you are buying off the back of a “one stop” vendor truck, but it’s worth it. Your customers will rave, and you can raise your prices to cover the difference. People will pay for quality – are you willing to invest the time to find out?

Remember the importance of VALUE to your guests. You don’t always get what you pay for, but you do with bread. It takes time, effort, knowledge, passion, hard work, great raw materials, and total commitment to make outstanding bread – respect this.

I remember reading an article about a studio drummer by the name of Bernard Purdy who has played on more records than you can count. He is not one of those fancy, over-the-top, crazy fast and wild drummers who lives to be the center of attention – Purdy and what he calls the “Purdy Shuffle” is a simple, mesmerizing backbeat that makes you tap your feet, sway your head, and smile. He is referred to as the hit maker for bands. If you can arrange for Bernard to play on your record – count on it being “GOLD”.  Bread is the same way. It doesn’t crave to be in the spotlight. Bread doesn’t try to out-perform the center of plate or negotiate to take over the verbiage on a menu, but it is the hitmaker. Bakers know it, many chefs know it, and the customer craves it.

Back to the dilemma – every restaurant suffers from the same problem, so maybe bread needs to be the baseline concern for the restaurant community in your town or neighborhood. After tiring from your search for a great bakery that will ship fresh to you, maybe after pulling your hair out trying to solve this problem, maybe it’s time to brainstorm with your competitors and join forces to find, encourage, support, and praise the work of the bread baker and help one open a wholesale operation in your area. “Not my job” you say. Well, if you are inclined to believe my long-winded praise for the importance of great bread, then change your attitude.  IT IS YOUR JOB, it is the reason for restaurant success, and without it you will struggle to find customers who rave about your operation and your product.

What will it take to get the message across? How many hours will you spend trying to find the formula to put your restaurant over the top when the answer is right here – BREAD!

So, solve it – find those bread bakers and give them all the love and support you can muster. Take care of them and bow a little every time they deliver that warm, crusty, chewy, nutty, aromatic, goosebump inspiring, delicious bread that makes you want to stop whatever you are doing, slice off a big slab, spread a tablespoon of slightly salted butter on top, sit down, close your eyes, and take a big, bodacious bite. This is exactly what your guest wants to do as well.

Now that I think got my point across – consider doing the same with great coffee, the best tea, mouthwatering artisanal cheese, incredible jams and jellies for your breakfast menu, perfectly cured slab bacon, quality salts for the dining room table, installing soft water filters on your cold water supply, and a whole variety of “small details” in your restaurant that truly make a difference in the customer experience and your ability to attract them back – time and again.

It’s all in the details, folks. Sweat the small stuff – it’s bigger than you think. No excuses – GET TO WORK!



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About Me

PAUL SORGULE is a seasoned chef, culinary educator, established author, and industry consultant. These are his stories of cooks, chefs, and the environment of the professional kitchen.


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