Free Bread: Waste of money or a way to make profits rise?

Why do restaurants serve free bread and will it help increase your business’ bottom line?


Bread. It costs far more than it used to and serving it up to every occupied table at your restaurant certainly adds up. But does investing in bread really help profits rise? Let’s take a look at some of the positives and negatives associated with serving free bread before a meal.


Pros:

1. Having something to munch on pacifies irritated customers. Generally speaking, customers visit restaurants because they’re hungry. Unfortunately, one of the side-effects of being hungry is irritability. In order to avoid customers getting grumpy while they wait to be served, many restaurants provide bread. This can often save staff from having to deal with difficult situations or customers leaving negative reviews.

2. Serving bread at the start of a meal can often offset smaller portion sizes. Given that in many restaurants, the emphasis may be on serving up a giant meal rather than a quality one, offering smaller portions may make customers feel like they’ve been ‘cheated’. However, by serving up some bread beforehand, a feeling of contentment is much more likely once the meal is over.

3. If your bread is particularly good and is paired with special dipping sauces, people may be tempted to come to your restaurant for the bread, alone. It can sometimes act as a sort of marketing technique whereby good bread can lead to good sales

4. If you offer free bread, customers often feel like they’re getting a good deal. Since bread is often comforting and filling, having it offered for free is great for making your restaurant seem like it’s offering customers greater value

5. More bread means thirstier customers. Many restaurants make the largest margins on their drinks. Bread requires a lot of saliva and time to chew, which makes diners crave drinks. Given the low cost of bread and the high profitability of drinks, it may be well worth the trade-off to offer free bread. 

6. Meeting or excelling expectations is key for any successful F&B business. Many customers simply expect bread before a meal and not providing it would dissatisfy them and possibly make your restaurant look cheap. 


Cons:

1. Some diners may get too full from eating free bread and order less food, as a result. A full customer is much less likely to order a lot, which could mean sales take a dip.

2. Different food trends mean that often customers won’t touch bread at all. Low carb diets, gluten allergies, less starch and the like are on the minds of many diners. If the bread is free, but no one eats it, it’s like throwing money away.

3. It takes time to prepare good bread and adding an extra step to prep time may put your staff under undue stress. It’s best to assess your individual situation to judge whether this is the case.


4. The cost of making or buying bread could eat into your profits if it does not cause a positive impact with diners. If the bread is of poor quality or your clientele simply isn’t the right fit, the bread will be wasted and so will your money and effort. 


Verdict:

We personally feel the positives outweigh the negatives. It’s always possible to try offering free bread for a few months and see how it impacts business. If your business takes a hit or sees no difference, there is no harm in removing free bread from the menu.

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