Bread and Bowl: Teaching the industry a lesson on quality and quantity
It’s been a tough year for us all, and the hospitality sector has been no exception. Despite many obstacles, Bread and Bowl has adapted its business to stay afloat, whilst also carb-loading many Mancunians with no expenses spared in quality or quantity.
We sat down with Charlotte, the founder of Bread and Bowl, to talk about how the business came to be, the year she’s had keeping the business afloat, supporting local, and her entrepreneurial plans for the future.
*Make sure to read until the end in order to get a 2 for £15 student discount code valid for the whole of October!
You took the plunge at the start of this year to open up Bread and Bowl. Had you been in the industry before?
“I’ve always wanted to start a business. I’ve always thought of funny ideas I could do, for example I started a cleaning business, apps, all sorts of stuff. I wanted to turn anything I did into a social enterprise, I didn’t just want to consume and consume… I want to empower people around me.
“I had a corndog stand called Charlie Mac’s Fancy Corndogs at Hatch for three months, then I got a place at Spinningfields. It wasn’t working at Spinningfields […] so I was either going to get a job or start this Bread and Bowl business that I had been thinking of for ages and ages…
“I put my last £500 into it. I don’t come from a wealthy family so when I run out of money, I’m out of money for real, so this was a big risk for me. We started with soups and pastas at first and it was going really well in Spinningfields. Then the lockdown was looming, so I adapted it into a delivery service.
“[It] carried me through lockdown, then I had to get a kitchen to move into The Wheatsheaf in July and now I’m moving into The Crown & Anchor which has got a beautiful beer garden!”
Who makes up the team? Is it just you or do you co-own the business with anybody else?
“It’s just me! I have a lot of help from my friends, my mum and step-dad, but it’s mainly me, though I wouldn’t be able to do it without all the people around me. I’ve got a couple of employees, but it’s a really small team. I’m hoping to hire and get bigger, but obviously Corona is stopping me from growing at the moment.”
Though you may not be able to grow at the moment, it’s an impressive feat that since opening this year, you’ve already managed to set up a full delivery system infrastructure in order to survive during lockdown. How did you solve this logistical nightmare so quickly?
“I’d never done anything like this before and I’m terrible with technology. I started without a website and was invoicing everyone. I was getting 100-200 orders every weekend, where I’d personally email everybody and ask for money that way.
“There were loads of teething issues of getting the right delivery drivers and organising times, as I was doing it all over Greater Manchester as opposed to the area-by-area system I’ve got now. I’m still working it out, but it’s going alright!”
You must be excited for this new chapter at The Crown & Anchor?
“I’ve got full control – will probably adapt it a bit to see what their customers are saying, but it’s going to basically be The Bread and Bowl. I’ve got loads of brand new items coming out, and the winter menu as well.”
Big chains are often stingy with their items or portions, but you’re proving that if a small business can do it everyone can. What made you decide to create a menu that doesn’t compromise on quantity or quality at a great price?
“I’ve always been like that, even with Charlie Mac’s Fancy Corndogs – I want to make stuff that I would eat. I’m pretty greedy; when I go out and get a small plate I’m furious. Ultimately I can make this food; I know how much things cost and I’m not greedy financially.
“I want to make sure people are having an amazing experience without compromising on quality. I’m a vegetarian and serve a lot of meat, so I want to make sure it’s not coming from dodgy sources. I get my meat from Grandad’s Sausages, bacon from the butcher’s round the corner.
“It’s not that expensive, so I really don’t know why people charge £15 for a meal.”
Grandad’s Sausages based in Hatch? That’s so cool to hear you’re collaborating with local businesses to source your ingredients.
“Exactly. I’m about to do a collaboration with an alcohol business that does Bloody Mary’s to make a Bloody Mary Breakfast Bowl in collaboration with them. It’s all about lifting each other up. These are hard times – it’s always a hard time for businesses in the winter, so if we can work together to make the industry stronger then why not?”
We touched on your inspiration earlier, but I wondered what inspires your menu and the concept of bread as a bowl?
“The Bread and Breakfast is the perfect hangover cure because it was created on the back of a hangover! I’d seen it in some sort of way in New York (minus the fry-up). I stuffed it all into the bread, and that’s how the Bread and Bowl was born.
“I get inspiration by looking at dishes from places like San Fran & NY and seeing anything carb-y that I can put into a bread bowl. It comes from my friends, dates, the odd Hinge conversations and listening to people I suppose! It’s about creating a cosiness and comfort – it’s comfort food done well.”
“Ask for help. I would say that to anybody who’s a business owner. Don’t be afraid, don’t do everything on your own. It’s really lonely when you’re a business owner. Listen to people, and when people offer their help, take it!”
– Charlotte, owner of The Bread and Bowl.
You’re not just B&B but you also do sourdough kits and smoothies. With the upcoming move to The Crown & Anchor you must have more up your sleeve – do you have any sneak peeks we could look forward to?
“I’ve got my winter menu inspired by San Fran dishes as it’s their ‘thing’ over there. Clam chowder is a big thing, so that’ll be going on the menu.
“Loads of soups, more vegan options as I know how rubbish it is when you’ve only got one portobello mushroom or falafel option. I’m looking into more halal options as well, any way to be more inclusive. Any way that I can open the doors to more people.
“I’ll move more into my desserts as well, as I currently have my chocolate fondue, but I want to make that better and crazier. Maybe move into a cheese fondue into a bread bowl. Carbs, carbs, carbs!”
I saw that you’re non-judgemental and fair on the complications yet need to shop and support local businesses. Did you feel supported during lockdown by the people of Manchester?
“Absolutely. Honestly, Manchester came out and they really did support. The amount of customers that got in touch with me to tell me what a good job I was doing, giving me feedback and texting me after to tell me how amazing it was… that makes all the difference.
“When you’re your own boss you always ask yourself, ‘am I doing this right?’ but people took the time to tell me.”
How about now that restrictions have been (somewhat) lifted?
“I was more scared for after lockdown with the worry of if people were going to stop coming here. I’ve seen a slight decline in customers, but I’ve also got a lot of loyal customers who have kept me going and made sure I can pay my rent.”
Especially with the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, a much larger discussion was sparked on the ethics of where we put our money, so it’s great to hear you felt supported.
“It was frustrating to go past Nandos or Pizza Hut and you’d see huge queues outside as they can afford to do 50% off in January, whereas small businesses can’t.
“In the same breath, I do understand that not everyone can come and spend £10 on a breakfast. I totally get that; it does price people out. You want to be able to treat your kids and stuff and sometimes it is only McDonalds. I’ve been in that position myself where I can only go shop in Primark; it is the society that we’re trapped in, not the person.”
B&B will be opening its doors at The Crown and Anchor on the 16th October. In the meantime, you can take a look at their menu and order on their website. For weekend deliveries, order by Friday 8PM. You can also check them on Instagram and Facebook.
Their 2 for £15 student discount promotion will continue throughout October. You can claim this offer using the discount code ‘CARBS 123’. You can also get two bowls and two smoothies for £20 with the discount code ‘mancunion’.