This staple of the restaurant menu is a versatile customer favourite.
Good news: Consumers on a tight holiday budget still want to treat themselves.
Better news: Elevated bread service is a popular trend that lets guests indulge without overextending your restaurant menu or production capabilities.
Simple breads used multiple ways add tempting menu offerings. Appetizers, shareables, salads, handhelds, entrées and desserts can have a bread component with smart menu planning and workmanship, according to Gordon Food Service Corporate Consulting Chef Nicholas Gonring.
“Bread can take up a lot of freezer space, so you have to be thoughtful about how it’s used throughout the menu,” he said.
Breads … and butters
Bread comes in many varieties – whole loaves, sliced, baguettes, rolls, croissants, buns, etc. To satisfy bread-loving consumers, Gonring has two table bread suggestions.
1. Sourdoughs. “People appreciate the complexity in the fermentation process and the character it adds.”
2. Parker House rolls. “What’s old is new again. Chefs have been using them in a cluster of six, cutting them apart like one big bun and building little smashburger sliders people can pull apart and share.”
Both breads are ideal for dipping and bread-and-butter service. They’re simple to create and raise cheque averages.
“One way to make it more interesting is with compound butters (see sidebar),” Gonring explained. “There are lots of flavour combinations and they are easy to make.”
To build sales, describe it on the menu as Wisconsin butter, cave-aged butter or grass-fed butter.
Bread handhelds and beyond
Bread fits the entire menu. On a recent trend-spotting tour in Los Angeles, Gonring saw growth and evolution of two menu items trending before the pandemic:
1. Katsu sandos. “There are a lot of people using thick-cut or ultra soft white milk bread in both crustless and crust-on sandwiches as a carrier for panko-crusted proteins and plant-based options.”
2. Croiffles. “People have continued to evolve and adapt this from when we first saw this at a chocolate shop in 2019. Take an already-baked croissant, slice it as a carrier, fill it with ingredients you would serve at breakfast, lunch or on the dessert menu, then smash it on a waffle iron.”
Both show the value of bread as a handheld carrier. In addition, Gonring notes buns are an insurance policy, resistant to getting soggy like some breads.
“Almost every menu has a bun somewhere,” he said. “A Sienna Bakery® brioche bun elevates burgers, plus it works for other hot sandwiches that can get soggy wrapped in foil for takeout.”
Bread also shows up on the appetizer menu as crostinis, and it enhances salads as housemade croutons or tuiles – shaved slices of frozen bread baked and elegantly curled.
Leftover bread? No problem
Speaking of salads, panzanella salads make great use of leftover bread. Cubed bread pieces soak up flavours from the vinaigrette or dressing. “I don’t think there’s a season when you can’t make a panzanella salad,” Gonring said. “It’s colourful, recognizable and delicious.”
Leftover bread also joins the brunch menu as strata or becomes a dinner entrée as meatloaf.
“Take crustless white bread after it’s left out to dry. It will soak up your eggs and you won’t see it when you make the strata, but it helps stretch out your eggs and adds texture to the dish,” Gonring said. “Bread also helps you stretch out the beef used in meatloaf.”
Leftover croissants create a more luxurious bread pudding. “It expands the croissant beyond just a carrier for a chicken salad sandwich,” Gonring said. “They’re buttery and way more flavourful than old, stale bread.”