I’ve never heard anyone say “I’ll have a sandwich on day-old stale bread, please.” So, it’s not surprising that a lot of restaurants you visit offer their sandwiches on freshly baked bread. But, from a LEAN perspective, this creates another issue – making fresh bread before the customer wants it is waste. First off, if you make the bread fresh in the morning, by the end of the day (without preservatives) it’s not all that fresh anymore. Bread goes stale pretty quickly. Second, you never know how many customers you’re going to have that day, so you have to make too much bread so that you don’t run out. But that leads to overproduction. Then you have to throw away bread at the end of the day.
I only bring this up because I ran into an interesting experience the other day with a restaurant who solved this problem. They actually baked the bread for my sandwich on demand! Yes, I’m serious. The bread that I had was made immediately before they assembled my sandwich.
Now, this particular place was in an interesting position. They’re a pizza shop, but they also sell sandwiches. So, they could have piles of bread going stale, or… they figured out that they could make a very tasty sandwich on freshly baked pizza dough. Instead of stretching it into a round and placing sauce and cheese on it, they simply stretched it into an oblong shape, baked it with nothing on it, took it out, sliced it open and built my sandwich on it. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine modifying the recipe slightly to make all kinds of different breads on demand.
If you’ve ever baked, you’ll know that the basic structure of a bread recipe is pretty much the same. Sure, instead of bread pre-made they now had pre-made dough, but this has a couple advantages. One, it was an interchangeable part now – they could use it for pizza and for sandwiches. Two, dough doesn’t go stale like bread does.
I’m not saying its the perfect solution for every place that sells a sandwich – it works well for this place because of the nature of their business. But it is a really creative solution to reducing waste, and that’s why I bring it up. Things like this are hopefully moments of inspiration to find a unique way of making your own processes better – that’s why I love them.