how we got here

from bok choy to bagels

"My dad owned some restaurants in Vermont," said Richard French, a founder and president of the Works. "As a young kid I washed dishes standing on a milk crate to reach the sink."

As Richard grew, so did his appreciation for well-prepared food, fresh ingredients and the joy of serving a good meal. "I worked in every area of my dad's restaurants. I learned to cook, wait tables and everything else it takes to make people happy and a restaurant successful."

Richard didn't forget the lessons he learned traveling to New York's Chinatown with the chef of his dad's Chinese restaurant to buy bok choy and fresh chicken and pork. "Sourcing the right ingredients was worth a four-hour trip each way," Richard said. "We wanted to buy the best ingredients at the best price."

school days

While getting a degree in international business at the University of Vermont, Richard never left restaurants, working at Sweetwaters in Burlington before starting Breakfast in Bed. Dressed in a tuxedo, Richard served everything from pancakes and sausage to omelets and quiche—to people in their PJs. "People were paying for someone to sing happy birthday to a friend at their office. I figured offering breakfast in bed would be a more memorable experience."

During the UVM years, other business pursuits included opening a wine store and starting a limo business. Valuable lessons about people and their relationship with food and fun included watching Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield run their small ice cream shop out of a converted gas station. "They showed old movies on a wall outside their store in the summer. In the winter they offered discounts—taking so much off the price for each degree the temperature dropped. The ice cream was close to being free some days in February," Richard recalled. "The ice cream was good, but the adventure of it was even better."

the search for nirvana

the search for nirvana

John Carlin (left) and Richard French make the first of 10 million bagels, 1988

Feeling pressure to find a "real job" after graduation, Richard pounded pavement from Texas to New York in search of corporate nirvana. It didn't exist for a devoted clog wearer who now found himself cramming his feet into wing tips.

He returned to Vermont in 1987, craving both the authentic bagels he had devoured in New York and a new business venture.

With the help of former classmates Jennifer Pearl, Garrett Mead and John Carlin, the Bagel Works was born, and the first café opened in Manchester, Vermont in July 1988. In 2002, with five cafés and much more than bagels, French changed the name to The Works Bakery Café.

Today, The Works Bakery Café still reflects the early idealism of its founders. The company has run on the principal of the triple bottom line—people, planet, profit—since 1988. And it remains firmly committed to producing delicious breakfasts and lunches—good food for good people.

what we believe

  • serve delicious, healthy meals at reasonable prices
  • make our customers smile
  • support the communities where we work
  • learn and grow from our mistakes

what we do

  • support local suppliers and buy sustainable products whenever possible
  • demonstrate the importance of the 4Rs + C (reduce/reuse/recycle/rethink + compost)
  • share our food and other resources with charitable and non-profit organizations
  • encourage our staff to get involved in their communities
  • promote our cafés as neighborhood gathering places

how we sustain

  • non-petroleum lined, compostable hot cups
  • unbleached paper products
  • compost and recycle company-wide
  • refillable mug policy since 1988 (think of all the cups kept out of the landfill!)
  • founding member and active participant: New England Business for Social Responsibility and Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine Businesses for Social Responsibility
  • Green Concord founding member
  • Green Commute sponsor
  • support state-wide Green Up days, feeding lots of hungry volunteer
  • part of the Bike to Work initiative – just show the special decal on your bike helmet
  • Green Restaurant in the Green Mountain State status
  • Vermont Business Environmental Partnership member

who has noticed

  • Best of Business Award for our coffee, 2012
  • Monadnock Green Business of the Year, 2012
  • Forty Under 40: Outstanding Business and Civic Leader (under age 40)
  • Best of New Hampshire for bagels since 2002