Yvette Cao says her family business, Cao Bakery, has weathered economic setbacks before. But the coronavirus pandemic is another matter entirely.
"When the hard times hit, we've never been superaffected," Cao says. "If there's a hurricane, we're back at it in a few days. But this is something completely different. Instead of baking five pans of bread, we're down to two. We're frying less croquetas. We've had to adjust."
Still, Cao and her family wanted to offer a gesture of support to their loyal customers.
So they decided to give away loaves of freshly baked Cuban bread on Mondays, because eating is a small, good thing at a time like this.
"Bread is a comfort food and a staple, so we felt it's the smallest thing we can do," Cao says, adding she chose Mondays because people tend to dread the day even in the best of circumstances. "This is a way to brighten the start of the week."
The giveaway commenced quietly a few weeks ago, when each of Cao's 11 locations handed out about 50 loaves. They're now up to 80 loaves per location.
There are no strings attached to the Monday freebie — no purchase necessary, no social-media post or hashtag to share, no secret word to whisper. The only requirements: The offer is good while supplies last, and you must ask for it in person — no Uber Eats or Postmates.
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"Just walk in and ask for a loaf of Cuban bread. As long as we have a loaf, we'll give you one," Cao promises.
Of course, customers are free to purchase croquetas, pastries, sandwiches, and a cafecito or two while they're at it. Cao assures that staff members at every store practice safe distancing procedures and don't allow more than five people inside at a time.
"We're going to keep doing this until we're back to normal," Cao says. "We haven't put an end date on it."
For a list of Cao Bakery & Cafe locations and hours, visit caobakerycafe.com.