Tatte Bakery & Cafe is an upscale Boston chain featuring high-quality baked goods and light fare in a European-inspired setting. The fast-casual concept received national attention in February when Panera Bread announced it had acquired a majority stake in Tatte with plans to test it as an expansion vehicle into upscale markets.
Tatte's founder, Israeli native Tzurit Or, uses her family’s recipes for most of Tatte’s dishes and sources many ingredients from Europe and Israel. “I didn’t grow up here, so I don’t have any American recipes,” Or said, adding with a laugh, “all my recipes are in Hebrew.” The menu lists elevated cafe fare—like muesli with seasonal fruit, and sandwiches such as short rib grilled cheese and tuna salad on brioche—alongside meals Or grew up eating. Breakfast options include Avocado Tartine on housemade sourdough and Shakshuka with feta and challah. For lunch, the menu lists options like a lamb meatball sandwich and hearty salads like Crunchy Halloumi and Fattoush served with za’atar bread.
Back to basics
Everything but Tatte’s breads—made with dough produced in one location but then proofed on-site—are crafted at the unit level. A self-trained chef, Or said Tatte’s artisan baking and food preparation processes come naturally to her. “Where I come from, everything is made from scratch,” Or said. “You had to plant, harvest and make everything. Nothing came out of a box.”
Or not only designs Tatte’s menu but also its sites, from the front of house to the kitchens. The upscale bakeries are meant to resemble European cafes, with decor elements such as reclaimed antique tables and chairs, subway-tiled walls and custom-made chandeliers. Retail areas display packaged pastries and breads, and chalkboards list the day’s menu and specials.
After opening five units in the Boston area, Or took a break from expansion in 2015 to find “the right partner” to grow Tatte, she recalls.
“I didn’t need money,” Or said. “I needed a partner that understands what it takes” to run Tatte.
She was approached by Panera and identified with CEO Ron Shaich’s commitment to clean eating and quality foods. In February, Panera announced it acquired a 50.01 percent stake in Tatte, with the option to increase that investment in the future.
Tatte will remain an independent company with Or still at the helm. “Nothing changed for us except that our lives were made much easier,” Or said. The investment allows Tatte to use Panera’s resources to support its back-of-house operations and to expand Tatte outside of Boston.
Slow and steady expansion
Although Or aims to open Tatte shops in “many urban markets,” including Chicago and Washington, D.C., she doesn’t want it to become as big as its parent company. “We’re never going to be Panera or close to Panera; I don’t want 2,000 locations,” she said. “Our expansion will take longer than other businesses because of our attention to detail. We cannot lose the culture, the soul that Tatte is all about.”