Schlotzsky’s has been around for almost 50 years but is just getting started. The restaurant has recently revamped itself with a new look but the same great tasting food. The first Schlotzsky's opened up in Austin, Texas in 1971, and now there are locations in more than 25 states, including Arizona.
“Basically the whole Schlotzsky’s concept starts around the bread. We bake our bread fresh every single morning,” says Bobby Nelson, general manager at the Schlotzsky's in Scottsdale near 90th Street and Shea Boulevard. “That’s basically the way they used to do it in 1971, and they had one sandwich that was called ‘The Original,’ and their baker would come in the morning, and he would bake off whatever numbers they thought they were going to do for the day, and when they ran out, they closed their doors.”
That’s definitely not the case now. In fact, the main baker at that location, a man named Andy, says he makes about 250 pieces of sourdough a day at least, and they stay open all day.
“That’s what’s different about us. When we’re talking about what sets us apart from others is this sourdough bread,” Andy says.
They make different types of sourdough including regular, rye, wheat and jalapeño cheddar plus bread for pizza. Chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies and brownies also go in the oven.
“Our bread is fresh every day,” Andy says. “Our bread is not just the typical bread, it’s a sourdough bread, and so the sourdough bread has a different texture to it, a different flavor, and we have found just buying it frozen just isn’t going to happen.”
He has the baking down to a science, too. Every morning, he gets his ingredients ready including the massive bags of flour, containers of yeast and large pans covered with cooking spray to create the batter that once proofed goes into an array of small, medium and large pans.
“The first rise is 20 minutes (at room temperature), it proofs for 20 minutes (in the proofing drawer), it bakes for 20 minutes. So If that changes, I kind of have to orchestrate it and musically sync it, all at the right time,” Andy explains. “Leading, lagging, whatever, in order to make the song turn out well in the end. That’s kind of what is the exciting part about it is to enjoy the rhythm.”
Andy knows many people can now relate to that feeling of satisfaction after bread baking at home has become extremely popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My pride is in the bread to make sure that, although it may go unrecognized, some people come in and go, ‘This is exactly what I want,’” he says.
And Schlotzsky’s is more committed than ever to connecting to customers and bringing them just a little bit of happiness during this tough year. On a recent customer appreciation day designed to give thanks to the Phoenix community, Schlotzsky's locations around the Valley gave out swag bags to the first 100 people in line which included merchandise, a coupon sheet worth $80, a two pack of Cinnabon and a $30 Buy One Get One free for a year card. It was also BOGO free entrees all day, plus Andy made about 800 pieces of bread to prepare for the rush that day. Nelson says it was a great opportunity for first responders and healthcare employees at the hospital across the street and working nearby but also for all people everywhere.
“Everyone has suffered a little bit at some point, so we wanted to kind of give back to everybody,” says Nelson.
Schlotzsky's has locations in Goodyear, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sierra Vista, Tempe and Tucson; www.schlotzskys.com