Artisan breads offer a reliable way for restaurants to distinguish themselves—especially in today’s environment.
“Post-COVID, consumers roared back into the foodservice space,” says Brie Buenning, director of marketing at La Brea Bakery. “But now we’re in these inflationary times, and you’re seeing consumers begin to recoil a little bit. Restaurant operators are working to figure out ways to draw consumers back in. They’re offering more unique menu items that consumers can’t make at home. Premiumization is a real draw.”
Artisan breads appeal to consumers looking for this elevated experience—but the shelf life of most high-quality artisan breads only lasts about a day, and baking is labor-intensive. As operators continue to battle labor shortages and supply chain issues, the math just doesn’t add up.
Or does it? Read on to learn why and how restaurant brands are adding high-quality artisan breads to their menus anyway—and saving on labor.
With the skyrocketing popularity of takeout and off-premise dining, transportation and portability are key concerns for operators. Sandwiches—the tried-and-true, easy-to-consume favorite—appear on 73 percent of U.S. menus, according to Datassential.
But the success of a sandwich depends heavily on its carrier. Using artisan bread elevates the sandwich experience (and allows operators to increase check averages). Whole grain and sourdough breads are known for the “better-for-you” effect and satisfy the growing consumer desire for functional foods. And of course, any sandwich carrier needs to have a significant hold time—customers must be able to enjoy a sandwich regardless of where they choose to eat it.
“La Brea artisan breads have a natural enzyme that gives them an ambient shelf life of four days,” Buenning says. “That gives operators the flexibility to prepare ‘grab-and-go’ offerings ahead of time. They stand up to a sandwich hold, and can be transported while still ensuring a great eating experience.”
Ever since the homemade sourdough trend exploded during the pandemic, customers are getting savvier about bread options.
“A lot of customers align the products they eat with how they approach their lifestyle,” Buenning says. “There’s a new appreciation for sourdough, as well as the more artistic, handmade qualities of bread. La Brea breads are mixed and baked in a true artisan process, so all the operator needs to do is thaw and serve, but they’re still providing their customers with an elevated experience.”
Bread is also starting to appear on more menus as a standalone item. “People will judge a restaurant based on the quality of its bread,” says Chef Jon Davis, culinary innovation leader at La Brea Bakery. “Consumers are much more educated about bread nowadays. It’s great that they understand—it means that free bread is no longer an expectation. A consistent experience is key, though, and if you’re baking fresh bread daily, it can be a real struggle. La Brea delivers a level of consistency that a lot of people enjoy.”
Finding the resources to menu high-quality artisan bread has been a tough problem to solve, especially in today’s labor market. La Brea’s “thaw and sell” artisan breads with a longer ambient shelf life open up a range of possibilities for operators. Not only can operators avoid having to find employees to bake fresh bread daily, they can also prepare menu items ahead of time and even keep a grab-and-go case stocked—a trend that has picked up considerable steam in the last two years. “Operators don’t have to worry about storage or frequency of delivery, which is a huge leg up from a back-of-house perspective,” Buenning says. “They’re also seeing benefits in terms of cutting down on wasted labor.”
Labor shortages seem to have no end in sight, so this is a top-level concern. “La Brea offers a way for restaurants to serve upscale bread without the dedicated labor we’re all struggling to find—without compromising the eating experience,” Davis says.
As restaurants also condense their menus in the face of inflation and supply chain issues, every SKU needs to cover multiple bases. Elevated sandwich carriers can perform equally well across menu categories and dayparts—from toast at breakfast, to rolls at dinner, to carriers for dips as a late-night snack. La Brea’s high-quality artisan breads create an opportunity for restaurant operators to increase check averages in each of these settings, without investing in extra labor.
“You can use one type of artisan bread as a cross-fit for any type of menu,” Buenning says. “It’s very versatile, and it’s becoming more mainstream—diners’ palates are changing and there’s a real appreciation for artisan bread now. It adds a halo effect to the rest of the meal and allows for higher margins.”
To learn more, visit the La Brea Bakery website.