The New York Times has a story about how a bread revival seems to be taking place, with some restaurants eliminating the free bread basket and replacing it was a "bread course," charging a premium for differentiating products.
An excerpt replete with examples:
"'Our Breads,' declares the menu at Marcus Samuelsson’s Hav & Mar, in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. At Le Fantastique, in San Francisco, the 'Bread & Butter' gets equal billing with the mains: $12 for a baguette with smoked-peppercorn-and-yuzu-kosho-infused butter. Hav & Mar’s basket with Ethiopian-influenced teff buttermilk biscuits and sweet blue cornbread is $19, Nura’s basket is $21 and both offerings come with an assortment of dips … At Kann in Portland, Ore., the plantain brioche ($11 for two) requires two or three weeks for the plantains to adequately ripen, which - in addition to presenting storage challenges - means that if the restaurant runs out, they can’t count on finding more for that day’s work at the perfect state of mushy ripeness."
There are two opposing factors at work here. Bread is easy to make because flour is cheap. But bread is not easy to make because it requires a lot of labor, and labor ain't cheap.
“In the beginning, I was very worried about what the perceived value would be, because it isn’t cheap, obviously,” said Sam Short, who runs the bread and pastry program at Nura. Customers would ask, “$21 for a bread basket?” But, Ms. Short said, that’s always followed by, “It was totally worth it.”
- KC's View:
"Totally worth it." There's a phrase that underlines the difference between price and value.
Look, I'm not saying that everyone can or should invest in baking plantain brioches or sweet blue cornbread. (Though they both sound delicious. I'm all in.) But I do think that if there is a bread revival taking place, retailers of every stripe have the ability to take advantage of renewed interest in the category.
For starters, how about making sure there is great white, wheat or sourdough bread for sale in your stores? A little bit more expensive than the packaged kind, but totally worth it for those who buy and eat it. And, while you're at it, could you make sure that when customers enter the store, they actually are greeted by the aroma of freshly baked bread? Which makes them hungry? And remind them of why food can be transporting and transformative?