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If you don't get free bread at a restaurant do you think it makes them cheap?

Ordered off the menu for brunch and was told bread was only for the buffet. Seems cheap to me, but at the same time perhaps bread isn't something that should be expected?

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  1. Bread shouldn't be expected, I don't think. It's a bonus. Nothing in life is free, so why should a basket of bread be? I don't base my opinion of a restaurant solely on the freebies. It's all about the meal, drinks, and service. It's certainly nice to get the bread, but I wouldn't expect it.

    1. Going to a restaurant is about the experience. Some choose to have bread as part of that experience and others choose to exclude the starch. I wouldn't consider the lack of bread as being cheap, but if I feel during the meal, "I'd like some bread with this," then we have a problem. Some places just "need" to have free bread (Most obvious one is probably a steak house). If it's not there, then that's very poor planning by the chef.

      1. No, they are not being cheap. Not all menus in restaurants call for bread as as a necessary item to compliment an entree or meal. Sometimes restaurants try to keep the menu prices down, so they do not offer bread....or butter for the bread if they do.

        Nothing is free...if a restaurant wants to give or offer bread on/for the table....the cost of supplying the bread should be built in to the prices listed on the menu, or listed on the menu as an extra charge.

        3 Replies
        1. re: fourunder

          O.K This is not a little thing. I have been in food service for 40 years. I own and have owned many restaurants. I still do own two italian places.

          People come to your place and are hungry because they are. They can also be hungry because of your good food by anticipation of a good meal. When you serve them bread upon sitting down you do two things.

          1) they being hungry start to slam down the bread because it is in their face. This in turn causes them to become full before they even get their food. They are full but not satisfied. They somehow have missed the real delivery of a great meal because they are full of bread.

          2) This in turn also cuts into sales because they are not going to order a dessert etc. Then they will pack up their unfinished meal and take it home. It cost $ to pack up a meal and to not sell additions to the meal.

          It is perhaps the worst thing a restaurant can do to a guest. Stick a bucket of bead in their face.

          Should it be free. Yes but only with the main meal not prior to that.

          We made the best homemade bread anywhere. We got to the point that people whould come order as little as possible and eat tons of bread. Could we charge them. No or not without a fight. So what did we do. Stop the great bread and got plain old Italian bread from sam's. That solved it Shame but true. People will kill you for bread if you charge them. Even if you give them all the true reasons.

          Mark Twain once said........"That the basic differance between a man and a dog is that if you feed a dog it will not bite you"

          1. re: fourunder

            This is an aside, but I honestly can't think of a worse tactic than to give people "free" bread and then charge them for butter because it's "optional". That would really piss me off as a customer. I might even go all white trash and take the damn loaf home with me since the health dept says they can't give that loaf to anybody else. Melted garlic butter? Yeah, that could definitely be optional.
            Maybe one loaf of complimentary bread with the butter/dippingsauce and then charge for additional ones. I'm not so naive as to think that people won't order one of the cheapest things on the menu and snarf down great huge amounts of bread and butter because it's free and delicious and they're scroungy. If you've got a big spender at your table, go ahead and comp them another loaf or two, depending on what they're spending on the food and liquor.

          2. Bread is never free. It's built in the price (the norm in the USA) or you pay a la carte. But you do pay something.

            That said, restaurants can do as they please in terms of deciding on an approach, but have to live with the consequences. In the US, that usually means that not providing bread as part of the experience will likely diminish the restaurant in the view of more customers than the other way around.

            1. Not necessarliy, but I do appreciate a good bread basket. Especially in a red sauce Italian place or steakhouse.
              I would only be disappointed if it was a place that normally served it (my local diner serves delicious challah), or if someone specifically called it out on a recommendation and it didn't appear on the table.

              1. In this particular situation the free bread for the buffet is to "stuff" the buffet customer with cheap filling carbs to hopefully curb their appetite for the more expensive offerings.
                You should have had your dining companions score you some free bread if you wanted it rather than asking.

                1. I don't think that, in the restaurant business, the word 'cheap' doesn't quite apply in this instance. I think it is more likely that the restaurant is just trying to keep pace with the rising costs of other things (rent, utilities, delivery charges, etc), and has to forgo the sort of things that diners sometimes take for granted. I worked in a small restaurant during a time that both gas and electric went up substantially *just* as winter set in. I saw what the owner went through, trying to restructure *everything*, from labor to inventory, just to keep a small profit margin stable.

                  I think Monku has it right: the product is being provided in such a way as to compensate the restaurant for its offering.

                  And I don't think I've ever expected bread with a brunch menu.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: onceadaylily

                    The Original Pantry in Los Angeles (since 1924) claims they serve 58 tons of sourdough bread (1.5 lb. loaves), a quick calculation and knowing about what they pay wholesale per loaf, that's almost $194,000 in sourdough bread alone they serve (comes free with every lunch or dinner).

                    I've been to a few places where the bread is so good I could polish off 4 or 5 baskets on my own.

                    1. re: monku


                      That's a lot of dough (says the woman who, averting her gaze from chowhound, is in the process of making a copycat cheddar biscuit recipe from a well-known chain, and who estimates the cost of such to be in the neighborhood of four bucks a batch). Those biscuits are (or, rather, were at my last visit ten years ago), complimentary. But I know their offering likely comes at the expense of other things, things that the diner might feel more worth their expense.

                      The cafe I worked in paid a little over four bucks for a loaf of bread from a bakery here, and that was wholesale. A slice came with the soup we made every day. Soup was our best-selling item. When the cost of maintaining the space went up, and the bakery shortened the loaf to cover *its* increased expenses (by almost a third, at the same price), the owner of the cafe asked that we only give bread upon request, and it *pained* her to do that.

                      1. re: onceadaylily

                        "That's a lot of dough".......I was almost going to use that.
                        I think customers take a lot for granted.

                        1. re: onceadaylily

                          I worked at a regional chain which served complimentary rolls. People loved them and part of the "Southern hospitality" thing was to just keep bringing them out. After several years the policy changed to giving the equivalent of 1.5 rolls per person per basket. We were supposed to drag our heels on refills - usually by the time the main dish came folks were less interested in the rolls.

                          This change in policy resulted in tremendous negative customer response. IMO it would have been better to just increase the prices rather than stop seeming generous with a very, very popular item. They lost a good many regulars (who were also good customers) due to this decision. As a server it hurt, since often the customer thought the service was flawed, rather than the policy.

                          1. re: meatn3

                            Yes, I did see *my* bottom line affected as a result of some of the owner's policies, but my experience was a little different than yours. The owner eventually did raise prices, and that hurt our business, and my tips, far more than any of the cost-saving measures she had introduced. Of course, the price increases did seem, to me, to be in excess of an average profit margin, so I can't say if my experience in that instance was typical.

                            The owner did eventually re-think the, um, careful allotment of the bread, but only after she raised prices (let them eat cake!). But the majority of our customers were so upset about the price changes that the slice of multigrain went relatively unnoticed.

                        2. re: monku

                          The restaurant knows that too. "Make the bread too good and they lose any appetizers soup etc."

                      2. Did you actually want bread? If so, just order it (or opt for the buffet instead).

                        If you didn't want bread, why feel slighted over something you didn't want anyways?

                        1. I don't expect free bread except as mentioned above in Italian or steak joints. And if they wanted to charge me a small amount, I wouldn't mind. In fact, a number of Mexican/southwestern places charge for chips and salsa and I'm neveer offended by that. I'm actually a little grateful as it keeps me from eating more than I need.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mojoeater

                            I definitely expect the first bowls of chips and salsa to be complimentary, but I have no problem if subsequent ones are charged for. If the salsa's really good, it's worthwhile paying for more chips especially if they're made in-house and wonderfully fresh. Likewise the salsa. If they're really good and they have a takeout area, I'd for sure waltz in and buy them, don't need to have a freebie then.

                          2. I don't expect a bread basket at brunch.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: pdxgastro

                              Yes, I was going to say the same. I'm a bit of a brunch fanatic and very rarely has any establishment ever provided me with a bread basket during brunch. Bread and/or toast is usually side order that is charged.

                            2. No they re not cheap, they just don't feel the need to offer a gimmicky thing for customers. Good! I like originality.

                              1. It is often a nice welcome touch, (especially if it is good) and its cost is of course factored into the average check, but I shudder to think how much of it goes to waste, which serves nobody's interest. Bread is getting pricey after a dismal global wheat harvest.

                                1. i'd rather not get a so-called "complimentary" bread basket that i do not want, and instead have a bread basket/side listed on an a la carte menu at a moderate price, to order if i do wish to have bread.

                                  i think the quality of bread & spreads tends to be higher when it's an ordered item rather than "complimentary," in almost all cases. "complimentary" bread is imo wasteful and too often shoddy and low-quality. if it is in a very old-school steakhouse or italian-american joint, it's one thing for all-you-can-eat bread to be built into the prices, but otherwise i don't generally expect it.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                    I agree. The way naan is ordered a la carte could be used more generally.

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      I’m with you guys. I’d rather pay a small amount for the bread. One reason why this appeals to me is that by ordering the bread myself I have control over when it arrives. I honestly dislike the practice of placing bread in front of diners the moment they are seated. This is especially true when the bread is warmed. I love good bread, but consider it an accompaniment to my meal, not a pacifier while I wait for it.

                                  2. I'd be fine if bread were never offered with a meal - it has nothing to do with my being gluten-intolerant but I've never thought it necessary particularly with the huge portions served in all restaurants.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: eperdu

                                      I agree about bread, but disagree that all restaurants serve huge portions. Most of the places I frequent use appropriate portion sizes. Perhaps it's regional.

                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                        Perhaps. If I go to a higher priced restaurant the portions are appropriate but the majority of chain restaurants are far too much food. It's not uncommon for me to end up with 3 meals worth of food which is ridiculous.

                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                          I believe that most of the dining public equates the size of the portion to quality........ So sad!

                                        2. re: eperdu

                                          Actually, neither do I. I'm fine if they don't offer bread at all, but heaven help them if they don't get my food to me in a hurry. I'm usually staving by the time I get to a restaurant.

                                        3. Well, for 11 dollars for a small amount of poached eggs over some tiny potato pancakes and a little smoked salmon with a thimblefull of grapefruit & melon salad, it doesn't seem too much to provide a little bread if asked, but I guess I can understand if they don't desire to. Seems like it would go far in engendering good will among customers.

                                          16 Replies
                                          1. re: observor

                                            Seems like it would go far in engendering good will among customers.


                                            How is it different than if you ordered a side of toast with your entree...they'd charge wouldn't they?

                                            1. re: monku

                                              It is no different, but this was brunch at a high end restaurant, so it's not like getting breakfast at Denny's.

                                              1. re: observor

                                                Funny you say this because I thought maybe you were at Denny's or IHOP or a similiar type place. I guess because you mentioned a buffet and the word cheap in your post and also because an employee basicly told you no free bread for you - I envisioned an inexpensive chain restaurant.

                                              2. re: monku

                                                It has been demonstrated that people respond positively when they think they are getting something for free (even if they are paying for it in the price). So a little "free" bread would help word of mouth or the overall impression of the place, IMO.

                                                1. re: observor

                                                  $11 for brunch at a high end restaurant sounds like a deal to me.
                                                  Still sounds like a side order of toast charge to me.

                                                  Maybe you would have gotten more sympathy if the title of your post read
                                                  "If you don't get free bread at a high end restaurant do you think it makes them cheap?"

                                                  Curious...how much was the buffet?

                                              3. re: observor

                                                I'm glad you mentioned what the meal was. When I get Eggs Benedict, I've never gotten a side of toast with it. When I get corned beef hash, it doesn't comes with a side of potatoes as other breakfast dishes may. It sounds like the restaurant considered the potato pancakes, regardless of their size, as a bread-equivalent. Sounds like a great meal for a very moderate price IMO.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  At my golf club I get a side of potatoes with my CBH, it's a bit redundant but I don't care. Is it awkward? NO!

                                                  The OP's description tells me he wasn't satisfied with the portions.

                                                  1. re: monku

                                                    Ah, but I think that's a different thread :)

                                                    1. re: monku

                                                      Potatoes and Sliced Bread used for Breakfasts are pretty cheap......I expect both with any breakfast egg item ordered except with a sandwich, or if instead it came with grits. Holding back two slices of bread because someone ordered Eggs Benedict is petty. I go out to enjoy myself, not to save money or count calories. Giving extra toast is far easier than providing a bread and mini muffin basket. Keep the table happy......

                                                      1. re: fourunder

                                                        I wasn't implying that it was done as a cost cutting measure but as monku said above, it's redundant. If I got two poached eggs with Canadian bacon, I wouldn't expect two English muffins. If ordered a meal that came with hashbrowns and I asked for a double serving of them, I'd expect to pay something for this.

                                                        1. re: c oliver


                                                          my comments were not directed at any of yours.....I was just speaking about myself to keep me happy.


                                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                                "I go out to enjoy myself, not to save money or count calories."

                                                                Thank you , fourunder, I don't go to restaurants that often, so I don't even take my calorie count into consideration (within reason, of course).
                                                                I started out spoiling the hell out of my husband with fabulous home-cooked meals nightly. As he was a forest service firefighter based in southern AZ, he was prone to going out on initial attacks with no notice before the days of cell phones. I made fabulous homemade meals that he never even showed up for (because he couldn't), and my young son wasn't always the best guy to bounce new dishes off of (although now that he's 22 he's perfect for it). We still don't go out that much, but when we do I try to be the antidote to people we've eaten with in restaurants that spend their whole time trying to pry a freebie out of the restaurant.
                                                                Sorry, I'm Catholic, I have to make up for some of the sins of the others who scrounge. 8^)

                                                                1. re: EWSflash

                                                                  Catholic guilt . . . A powerful force. We never even finish the bread basket, let alone ask for seconds.

                                                    2. re: c oliver

                                                      Well, the food itself sounds nice but, indeed, the portion was quite small (and not hot) and a bit of bread doesn't seem like that big a deal for a place that claims it has won "myriad accolades distinguishing it as a nationally acclaimed New Hampshire restaurant".(and has entrees in the 20-something dollar range for dinner.) Anyways, toast usually comes with eggs and potatoes on a typical breakfast plate... I guess that it was brunch had something to do with it.

                                                  2. it's the second basket (and third) that can become a problem especially in the Tri-County Early Bird Area. Watch those puppies disappear into purses and shopping bags. Now who's cheap?

                                                    1. I curious as to why some believe it's appropriate for a steakhouse to provide bread for the table? Are you planning on making your own steak sandwiches? :-)

                                                      11 Replies
                                                      1. re: fourunder

                                                        I don't know about appropriate, but bread at steakhouses is the norm from my experience. Maybe it's an old school thing.

                                                        1. re: monku

                                                          Three of the worst tasting bread offerings I can recall come from high end steak houses.....which are now chains........Ruth's Chris, Morton's and Del Frisco's .....however, the Onion Bread at Peter Luger is alway outstanding.

                                                          1. re: fourunder

                                                            There you go.
                                                            That onion bread at PL's sounds like it would make a great sandwich.

                                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                                Funny...I grew up literally a few blocks from the PL on Long Island and went a few times as a young teenager. Back then I didn't appreciate it for what it was, it was just the neighborhood steakhouse.

                                                        2. re: fourunder

                                                          Ok, this just reminded of something I saw several years ago when we were at Cheesecake Factory.

                                                          The lady in the table next to us whipped out her own cold deli meats and sliced cheese and started to make little "tea-sized" sandwiches from the Cheesecake Factor bread basket. And, of course, she ended boxing up whatever thing she ordered ...

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            Don't you just love the creativity people can come up with?

                                                            1. re: fourunder

                                                              I was actually waiting for her to ask the server not to pre-slice the bread ... so much easier to actually make a real-sized submarine sandwich

                                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                                              I am surprised CF put up with that nonsense. I say that, but let me tell you it is sometimes difficult to tell people they cannot bring food or drink into a restaurant. For some reason they do not get what you are doing there.

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                Well, hell, at least she paid for the meal she took home, many scrounges wouldn't have even gone that far.

                                                              2. re: fourunder

                                                                When the menu's so loaded up with proteins a starch to complement them are a must. Besides, I need something to clean up the plate with!

                                                              3. I'm annoyed more by the inverse phenomenon, when I've ordered something that's already bread-based like a sandwich or a burger and get brought a basket of bread while I'm waiting. Doesn't happen all the time but it does from time to time. I'm not going to eat bread while waiting for a sandwich, and it bothers me that it's going to go to waste since they can't offer it to anyone else after it's been on my table.

                                                                1. I don't eat bread so I don't mind if they offer it. I would prefer to only receive the food that I request.

                                                                  1. I wouldn't expect bread to be served with brunch...

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                      Actually, neither would I. That's the whole crux to this thread, isn't it?

                                                                    2. With the exception of buffets, I've never been to a place that didn't serve bread/rolls/tortilla chips unless you're ordering a sandwich.

                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                            Brunch? Not in my experience. Usually a basket of bagels and assorted breads are set out.

                                                                            1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                              Yeah, never once seen this, and I eat out for brunch almost every weekend.

                                                                            2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                              At brunch, I'm almost always served muffins or corn bread or pastries or biscuits, gratis. It's not exactly bread, but it's certainly bread-ish. At dinner, I prefer to get single slices or rolls from the roving bread guy - less waste.

                                                                              1. re: small h

                                                                                My favorite brunch spot (great, but pricey) does a buffet with an entire table of breads--crusty french an Italian loaves, assortment of small rolls, bagels, croissants, you name it. Accompanied by all sorts of flavored butters and cream cheeses.

                                                                                1. re: gaffk

                                                                                  I will take any excuse to link to this:


                                                                                  Old, but still surprisingly relevant!

                                                                                  1. re: small h

                                                                                    smallh I don't blame you. I don't usually find the onion funny, but that is hysterical. I think the bread thing IS a conspiracy ;)

                                                                            3. re: mucho gordo

                                                                              I have been to plenty of places with no bread - especially at lunch.

                                                                            4. I think it depends on the place.

                                                                              When you go to a mex restaurant don't you expect chips? They cost money (torts, fryer time/oil, storage and then the cost of the salsa and all its components). But people rebel. get their dander up and get in a downright huff if they are denied what they EXPECT.

                                                                              So if you have been serving free bread and all of a sudden start charging or even start being a bit more... careful with how much bread is brought to the table, people will notice and they WILL be pissed.

                                                                              If you are starting a new restaurant that is not an Italian place and do not bring bread there is no real expectation of it. They may want it, but probably won't be pissed. If it is Italian, you need to serve it.

                                                                              If you charge for your bread - it better be darn good because if I pay for it and it is not fab I will hold it against you.

                                                                              1. I have had 2 extraordinary restaurant bread experiences, one of which was free, one of which was not. The freebie is the bread offering at Daniel in NYC. All made in-house, all sublime. If they didn't offer it, would I still eat there? Yes, but a trifle sadly.

                                                                                The pricey one? At the Dorchester Grill in London. At breakfast, they offer the most phenomenal assortment of breads I've ever encountered, for a price. A price well worth paying.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                  What is the assortment and how much does it cost and does it come with refills? What's the butter like there?

                                                                                    1. re: observor

                                                                                      It's been a few years, but the typical assortment was different types of sliced bread, assorted rolls and muffins. No refills.; I don't think one was expected to consume the whole basket, just pick the items you wanted. I think that in today's dollars, the cost would probably be around $25.

                                                                                    2. re: pikawicca

                                                                                      My best bread experience has always been the Circular Dinining Room at the Hershey Hotel. It has a bread basket person (I'm sure that's not the technical term) who circulates around the dining room with a variety of breads from sweet (cherry, chocolate, etc.) to savory (dill, chive, etc.). It is very difficult to exercise restraint as I know it's only a precursor to a fabulous dinner and dessert.

                                                                                      Second best is a historic inn in my area that serves a bread basket with a nice variety of fruit breads, whole wheats, whites, etc.

                                                                                      In general, my bread expectations break into categories. At inexpensive restaurants I do not expect bread. At chains, I do not expect bread at lunch, but do at dinner. At Italian restaurants, I always expect bread and seasoned olive oil. At "fine dining" restaurants I always expect bread. That said, if I do not get bread, I do not consider the restaurant cheap.

                                                                                    3. When we eat out we do not expect bread to be included - I do not think it is cheap. That said, we did have an excellent complimentary bread experience last weekend. The bread was scratch brioche with homemade goat butter with fleur de sel. Lovely unexpected touch.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. In Manhattan, they bring a small basket here for Brunch.....


                                                                                        1. It's regional, of course...a restaurant in France, and indeed in most of Europe, that didn't bring bread (even Chinese restaurants, which makes me snicker) would be drummed out of business in remarkably short order. Bread on the table is as necessary as napkins and silverware here.

                                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                            and in Germany, france and Italy, the bread is usually part of thre Cover Charge, (Coperto, Italy), which is added to the bill.

                                                                                            1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                              No cover charges at any restaurant I've ever been in in France or Germany -- Italy yes.

                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                Sun, in Munchen most places I have been to; "count up" the missing bread/pretzels in the basket and charge accordingly, now theres are more on the biergarten level and not true dinner houses/hotel restaurants etc.

                                                                                                1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                                  I'll keep an eye on it when we go to Germany in a couple of weeks...but I've never seen it (which doesn't mean that it doesn't exist...only that it's not common enough to have stumbled randomly across in the last 20 years)

                                                                                                  1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                                    That's not a cover charge, that's a charge for each pretzel. If you don't take anything, they don't charge anything. If you eat two, they charge you double, etc.

                                                                                              2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                "...(even Chinese restaurants, which makes me snicker)..."
                                                                                                It is very odd that folks insist on having (Western) bread with Chinese food in a Chinese restaurant. In the USA, I have read of folks being upset when they didn't get their bread and butter when having their Chop Suey or Chow Mein in some Chinese-American or even some Chinese-Chinese restaurants.

                                                                                                p.s. you are the only one on this thread to even mention Chinese restaurants in this context... :-)

                                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                                  the French have their basket of bread on the table at *every* meal. It's good bread, but you see the sliced baguette right there next to the Naan at Indian places, too. (LOL)

                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                    I have not seen French bread at Chinese or Indian restaurants in France. Maybe some French people ask for it, and they have some on hand for when this happens, but it is not served automatically, and I wouldn't be surprised if they charged for it (but I have no idea, since I have never seen it). You usually also have to pay for plain steamed rice and naan and everything else in the starch/snack category.

                                                                                                    1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                                      I've seen it in all regions...frequently enough for me to say it's common. (I could name you a half-dozen just here in my little corner of the provinces)

                                                                                              3. Wonderful buddy said to me today that indeed if the bread's on the table it's in his face and he's gonna eat it and then not be fit to devour a whole meal. Me, I have the will-power to resist the bread beckoning me (most of the time). Put it out with dipping oil and I'm a sucker, however.

                                                                                                I'd be very happy to be instructed to have to order bread (free or nominal fee) let's say if I were ordering something covered with sauce (particularly stew or red-sauce Italian).