The Macaroni Grill’s rosemary peasant bread has taken the internet by storm, earning a coveted spot on various lists of restaurants with the best free bread. Buzzfeed even labeled it as “definitive.” What makes this bread so special? How did it become such a sensation? Let’s dig deeper into the story behind Macaroni Grill’s famous rosemary bread.
The Universal Love for Bread
In a survey conducted by Macaroni Grill, they discovered that “bread” ranked among the top things that guests valued most in their dining experience. Holly Wagstaff-Bellomo, the vice president of marketing at Macaroni Grill, revealed that they serve an astounding 100,000 loaves of their rustic-style rosemary bread every week, totaling over 5 million loaves annually. To ensure consistency and flavor, these loaves are partially baked and then frozen in a centralized kitchen before being delivered to the 88 Macaroni Grill locations across the United States.
Handling the bread in this meticulous manner allows Macaroni Grill to achieve the perfect balance of a crusty, delicious outside and a light, airy inside. Additionally, the freezing process accounts for variations in altitude, ensuring that each loaf meets the highest standards.
The Bread that Outshines Paid Dishes
While the bread at Macaroni Grill is free, its popularity isn’t solely due to its cost. The sheer deliciousness of the bread adds to its allure, making its abundance even more incredible. In fact, many patrons can’t even recall the food they paid for after indulging in the irresistible rosemary bread. This begs the question: why would Macaroni Grill serve free bread at all?
The Theories Explored
Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, renowned authors of Freakonomics, have delved into this very question on their podcast. They dissected several theories, each offering a plausible explanation for the phenomenon.
One theory suggests that free bread keeps customers from opting for cheaper desserts, allowing the restaurant to turn tables over more quickly. Another theory proposes that serving free bread prevents customers from becoming irritable due to hunger, making the servers’ jobs easier. Additionally, salty food like bread often encourages customers to order more drinks, which generates higher profits.
Other theories, such as the addiction theory and the theory of free fanaticism, explore the psychological aspects of human behavior. Some argue that receiving something for free triggers a desire for more, while others simply believe that humans love anything that comes with no cost attached. Lastly, the peer-pressure theory points out that once one restaurant starts serving free bread, others feel compelled to follow suit to remain competitive.
The Surprising Truth
While all these theories appear reasonable, Dubner and Levitt debunked them and arrived at a surprising explanation rooted in historical precedent. According to Andrew Haley, a historian interviewed on the podcast, the first restaurants in the Western hemisphere were taverns that offered set menus at a fixed price and time. In these establishments, it made economic sense for the owners to provide complimentary bread, baked by local bakers, as it would fill customers up with carbohydrates rather than expensive proteins. This practice continued with the rise of prix fixe menus and persisted even after the shift to à la carte menus in the 20th century. In 1913, when New York restaurants attempted to introduce a cover charge to finance bread, water, and other accompaniments, patrons revolted. They started bringing their own bread to the restaurants, leading the establishments to quickly reverse course. By this time, the tradition of serving free bread had become deeply ingrained in restaurant culture.
So, the secret behind Macaroni Grill’s beloved rosemary bread lies in the historical roots of restaurant culture itself. It’s a gesture of hospitality and a reflection of the age-old practices that have shaped the dining experience over centuries.
To experience this renowned rosemary bread firsthand, visit Family Cuisine, where you’re sure to have a delightful and memorable dining experience. Bon appétit!