How Tartine Bakery maintains long lines after 15 years in business

In the early years of the 21st century, society was much different that it is today. Technology and pop culture have changed dramatically since then, and so have consumer interests. Even though Tartine Bakery opened in an understated area of San Francisco in 2002, the one thing that has remained constant is the long lines that extend out of the shop and down the block.

Over a decade and a half, co-owners and spouses Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson have made full use of their culinary backgrounds to create an experience that keeps customers coming back for more. Both trained at the Culinary Institute of America and spend time training and cooking in France. That preparation has allowed them to take their business in exciting directions.

Prueitt and Robertson each have specific focuses when it comes to daily production – Prueitt with cakes and pastries, and Robertson with breads. They have been nominated for James Beard Foundation Awards for Outstanding Pastry Chefs in 2006 and 2007, and won the award in 2008. They are sought out for their baking expertise, as they’ve produced multiple books to high acclaim. Recently, Robertson spoke at the International Bread Symposium in Charlotte, giving his insight into the future of artisan bread.

While there were scattered bakeries throughout San Francisco when Tartine opened, the area hadn’t yet seen the boom in bakeries that has now occurred. Tartine has a leg up on the competition with its time being in the community, but it has also seen what hasn’t worked with other bakeries and has ensured that it doesn’t copy those mistakes.

A big part of Prueitt and Robertson's success is that they don’t remain complacent; they are always looking for ways to improve.  “I like finding new ways of doing things,” says Prueitt. “I’ll think of the classic thing, but how to change that thing.”

Robertson reiterates Prueitt’s point: “I'd say that we're never really satisfied. We always look back at old photos, and now that we're retooling our recipes to use older grains and things like that, it's very heartening to see that they haven't changed that much, in a way. But there's always a way to make things better here and there.”