The Customer Always Comes Second
January 22, 2015 Matt Salis - Owner, Great Harvest Bread Co. of Denver
At the Great Harvest Bread Co. of Denver, the customer always comes second. That’s right…I said second. I know this is probably blasphemy to the ears of retail gurus and the most successful of business people. We are not only putting something in front of the customers, but actually admitting to it. It is small business customer relations insanity. It is not the first time I have been accused of having a screw or two loose. I am not only admitting that our customers are priority number two, I am even bragging about it. Why am I boastful about something so insidious? Because it is at the core of what makes us who we are. It is why we are blessed with so many loyal and loving customers. To put it simply, it’s what makes the bread taste so good.
You see, we bake our bread from scratch. Lots of people throw around phrases like that. “Baked Fresh Daily,” or “Hand Crafted In House.” They seem to leave out that during one or multiple stages in their process the fresh baked and hand crafted foodish-like thing was frozen or transported for hundreds of miles. Don’t be fooled. When I say we bake our bread from scratch, I mean scratch. Scratch, scratch. We do not start the day with flour. We back it up one very most important step. We start our day with wheat. That’s right, kernels of wheat straight from the fields of farmers we know and trust after years of doing business together the right way. We take the non-GMO wheat our partner farmers grow specifically for us, and we pour it one bushel at a time into our stone mill. Our stone mill is a pretty complex and high tech machine. Try to follow as I describe the intricate process. We pour wheat in between two big stones that spin a fraction of an inch apart from each other. They are so close together that there is not even room for a kernel of wheat to fit between. Therefore, the stones grind the wheat into a course flour for us to use for our really, really scratch baking process. All parts of the wheat go in one end, the stones grind it up, and all parts come out the other end. This is the definition of whole grain. Absolutely 100% of the several varieties of wheat and rye flour we use are ground fresh in house this way. No freezers and no long drives for our flour. Baking with fresh flour has huge advantages in the areas of shelf-life and nutrition in the end product. The biggest advantage fresh ground flour gives us, however, is taste. It simply tastes better. Not a little better. Our freshly stone ground wheat and rye is the single biggest reason so many of our customers tell us we bake the best bread they have ever tasted.
All this wheat grinding is time consuming and skill requiring. It is not, however, the thing that takes precedent over our customers. We are happy to take a break from milling wheat to help a customer. We can get back to the wheat. Our customers are more important.
The next step in our scratch baking process is to combine our fresh flour with other natural ingredients to create flavor combinations from all ends of the culinary spectrum. Our most popular bread by a ton is and always will be our Honey Whole Wheat. To our freshly stone ground whole wheat we add honey from a local bee keeper, water, salt and fresh yeast. That’s it. No dough conditioners, no artificial additives, no preservatives, no fillers and nothing a chemist thought might keep our costs down. Five simple ingredients that when mixed together with a little skill and a little love create a bread that is unlike anything your can find in a grocery store. While the most important chapter, Honey Whole Wheat is just the first part of the story. From there we add fruit, seeds, nuts, cheeses and spices to come up with breads like Parmesan Pepper Bomb and Apple Pie Bread and Roasted Garlic Sourdough and Cherry Walnut and Cheddar Artichoke. The combinations are endless and we are feeling a particularly creative streak coming in 2015.
Blending and mixing of natural ingredients in just the right proportions is a combination of art and science. It is not easy, and it does require some concentration. It does not, however, come on our priority list before our customers. When a customer is in need of assistance during our dough crafting process, we eagerly step to the front to provide service with a smile. So far in the process, the customers still comes first.
Next we weigh, kneed, shape and proof dough. When the time is right, we put it into the oven to bake. These steps in our unique bread making process require experience, an understanding of the chemical reactions between the yeast, water, honey, salt and other ingredients, and a dash of patience along with a smidge of precision. I would be lying if I said it was easy. Occasionally, we make mistakes that keep us humble. From time to time, the dough reacts in ways that are unexpected requiring us to think and react and make decisions. Easy? No. Important? Yes. More important than our customers? Absolutely not. Even with the detail and timing required while preparing our bread for the final step in its journey to perfection, we are never too busy to slice a customer a warm hunk of bread and help in any other way we can. The customer is still priority number one. At least so far.
Our customers take a back seat to almost nothing. I say almost nothing, because our absolute top priority is the little buzzer attached to the timer on our oven. That’s right. At the Great Harvest Bread Co. of Denver, the thing that ranks number one is a little buzzy sound that tells us we might have reached bread perfection. Buzz goes the oven, and our bakers know it is time to drop everything, including our customers (or at least hand them off to another crew member), and pull out bread steaming hot and delicious. Wheat milling can wait a minute. Dough being prepared is at least a little bit patient. But when the oven tells us we have reached bread nirvana, nothing takes priority over that. Perfectly baked bread that has been given all that love during the steps leading up to being pushed into the oven is ready when it is ready. Not before. Definitely not after.
So as you can understand, it is in your best interest – you – our loyal customers – to take a back seat to our oven buzzer. It is a little mechanical device that is our absolute priority one and makes our second priority (you) very happy.
We make our bread from scratch. All the way back to the wheat fields, scratch. A lot of time, skill, love and craft goes into every loaf. We do it all for you. We even set the timers on our oven for you. Can’t you feel the love? Doesn’t it feel great to be our customer and know that in our minds you always come second!?! Come see us for a hot free slice today and see what we mean.
Flash us a grin and hold-up two fingers acknowledging your place in our bakery and we will stamp your bread card twice for each loaf purchased between now and the end of January (our Denver location only, please).
That is your reward for your loyalty. That is your reward to being happy to be second fiddle at the Great Harvest Bread Co. of Denver. Come in now and see what the “buzz” is all about! Thanks for letting us be your neighborhood bread company…making bread the way it ought to be!
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Great Harvest Bread Co.
765 South Colorado Boulevard
Denver, Colorado 80246
Open Mon. - Fri. 6am - 3pm
Sat. 8am - 3pm, Closed Sun.