Ask a Chef: Why do so many restaurants charge for bread these days?

All your modern dining etiquette quandaries answered.

October 16, 2019 ‚óŹ 1 min read

By Richie Nakano

As a kid, the complimentary bread hitting the table was the best part of the meal. You’d grab a slice, smear entirely too much butter all over it, then promptly be scolded by your parents about filling up on bread. But it feels like nowadays every single restaurant is charging for it. Shouldn’t it be free? What gives?

It used to be that a restaurant would buy in cases of frozen baguettes, defrost a few each night for service, and ta-da, free bread. When they realized that this bread actually sucked and the guests were filling up on it, they switched to offering a couple slices of locally baked bread when requested. When chefs started to really geek out on bread baking, trying to cook through the Tartine bread book while passing around decades old sourdough starter, things took a turn. In-house bread production necessitated an entire pantry of flour and grains not previously needed, and a highly skilled baker to turn out loaves. Add in culturing butter in house, and thats a lot of labor needed to make an item that was previously given gratis. So my advice? Enjoy access to a ton of amazing bread before we hit another low-carb trend.

Dining dilemmas used to be like “Do I tip 15 or 18%?” or “How long will the restaurant hold my reserved table if I’m running late?” Those were simpler times, because for most of us, dining out has gotten a lot more confusing. Who do we tip at the robotic hamburger restaurant? Why can’t you get a reservation without putting a credit card down? We tapped into our expert community to offer some advice so we can all be better diners, and the result is our column we like to call "Ask a Chef," where we are dedicated to answering all your modern dining etiquette quandaries, directly from the chef perspective.
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