Ask The Salty Waitress: My Manager Wants Us To Reuse Bread

Dear Salty: I just moved to a new town and got a job as a server at a diner. It's mostly fine so far, but there's one issue. My manager wants us to reuse bread from baskets for new tables. Everywhere else I've worked that had bread baskets, we threw away any bread that didn't get eaten, even if it didn't look like anyone touched it. But when I went to throw it away at the diner, my manager told me to save the pieces that looked fine. The bussers and other servers just shrug when I bring it up, like that's the way it is. I think it's gross, but I'm the newest server. How much should I argue with this?

Thanks,Grossed Out

Dear Grossed,

Despite what the late, great, wonderful Anthony Bourdain said, reusing bread doesn't happen as often as people might think. This is the first time you've seen it, and I haven't been told to do this—quite the opposite, actually—in my years in restaurants. I have been in plenty more restaurants where leftover bread got reused—into the mouths of hungry workers.

You should speak up to your manager, if only because it could teach you a lot about your new boss in general. If they brush it off without even hearing you out, or they're rude to you to put you in your place, that's a red flag for any future issues you're going to have with them.

So do bring it up, but do it outside the chaos of a busy dinner service, maybe during preshift. Don't outright accuse them of being dirtbags, since you're the newbie: "I just want to make sure I understand how you want me to clear bread baskets. You want me to reuse the old bread for new tables? I've just never worked in a place that did that."

Pointing out that this is the exception rather than the rule might get your manager to rethink it, but there's also a chance this is coming from further up the ladder. How much bread is the diner saving by doing this? Would throwing away bread from baskets make a substantial difference in how much bread the restaurant orders? If it would, then this is a question that could go all the way up the chain of command.

But if it's just some rolls here and there, you raising the issue might be enough to make your manager question the policy. Maybe embellish a little? "I'm just afraid that a guest could find a piece that's ripped or dirty or something and be really upset." There also might be other ways to use up leftover bread other than chucking it and creating waste. Some restaurants are all about touting their low-waste moves these days—composting or using that bread for breadcrumbs, or who knows what.

But if your little chit-chat gets totally shut down, then the butter pad's in your court, Grossed Out. Is the bread issue just one of many corner-cutting, cheapskate measures? Does your manager give zero shits about server input? Is the place just lazy in a bunch of ways? Only you can decide for yourself whether the bread issue is worth walking out over.

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