Which Way Do You Slice It?

After a Sunday morning swim I often swing by a small bakery to grab a cup of coffee and a slice of bread. I became hooked on Great Harvest Bread after the store enticed me with its free, made-from-scratch slices.

The free slices aren't skimpy - usually at least an inch thick with free butter or other fixings if you're so inclined - and they do the job.

I grab a slice after a swim, but I while I'm there I often buy a loaf. I now am a proud card-carrying member of the Alexandria, Va., franchisee - buy 12 loaves and get the 13th free. The parent firm is based in Dillon, Mont., and it calls its chain of stores "freedom-based franchises." Headquarters says that means there aren't a lot of rules from the parent company that a franchisee must follow.

The Alexandria store's trimmings aren't fancy - the coffee offerings are found in a couple of thermoses and don't have your heart set on any delicate pastries. But each week, the store is usually out of bread by early afternoon due to customer demand.

Last week after having my goggles and swim-cap filched by someone while I was getting into my street clothes, a slice of comforting bread was just what I craved.

Great Harvest's freebies have reeled me in as a regular customer. But while freebies often work in the food industry, they obviously do not for other types of firms.

By Sharon McLoone |  February 20, 2008; 11:51 AM ET Polls
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