In 2008, chef Linton Hopkins and his wife, Gina, of Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch Public House, partnered with Joe Best of Quality Wines and Spirits and baker Robert Alexander to open H&F Bread Co. At the time, the Buckhead bakery, located just up the sidewalk from Restaurant Eugene, was only 1,800 square feet. In 2016, it moved to its current, 50,000-square-foot facility on the Westside, where it continued producing—on a much larger scale—its much-loved artisan breads for restaurants, wholesale, and consumers, including a hamburger bun that has become as synonymous with Atlanta menus as Springer Mountain Farms Chicken.
Ten years later, the Hopkins no longer have any stake in the company that bears the name of their restaurant, and Best, the company’s president and CEO, is positioning it for an expansion that will add 16,000 square feet to the Westside facility, with construction beginning this month. In addition to the physical expansion, which will include a new gluten-free facility and a cafe, this new phase of H&F Bread will also bring notable partnerships with singer Zac Brown‘s Remedy Bakeshop, Bacchanalia and Star Provisions owner Anne Quatrano, and Local Three chef Chris Hall. They also purchased the defunct La Petite France bakery and will use that facility for additional production. Best is even considering rebranding “H&F” to stand for something else, such as “healthy and fresh.”
Best has been president or CEO of 12 companies in nine industries, including real estate and wine and spirits. After founding Quality Wine & Spirits in 2000, he says he grew the company to approximately $60 million in 13 years. (He sold the company in 2013.) To expand H&F Bread, Best first hired general manager Roger Hodge. Both shared a similar vision for growing the company, Hodge says, including improving automation in the bakery.
Another key component of H&F Bread’s expansion plan was the rehiring of acclaimed Atlanta baker Robert Alexander in 2016. Alexander was part of H&F Bread’s founding team and first made a name for himself in Atlanta by the European-style bread and pastries he made for the company; he had left to work at TGM Bread.
H&F Bread initially established a core audience for its artisan bread with its Peachtree Road storefront and heavy presence at local farmers markets. Over the years, the commercial arm of bakery continued to grow, as did the number of delivery trucks on the streets, until seeing an H&F burger bun on a metro Atlanta restaurant’s menu became commonplace.
Today, H&F Bread produces an average of 20,000 of its popular hamburger buns per day, in addition to other products such as hot dog buns and loaves of brioche, ciabatta, and sourdough. Many of those products are sold in Whole Foods stores across the Southeast and served everywhere from popular restaurants (Muss & Turner’s, Taco Mac, Victory Sandwich Bar, Iberian Pig) to burger spots (Yeah Burger, Bocado) to hotels (W Hotel, Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis) to Atlanta institutions (the Georgia Aquarium, Delta Air Lines, Emory University).
“That is really our forte—[producing] a very high-quality bread at a price that is virtually impossible for the competition to beat,” Alexander says. “That requires a lot of analysis, a lot of ingredient research and tweaking the most minute ingredients and ratios. I find it very challenging, but it’s much different than, let’s say, taking spelt flour imported from France and making another boule.”
In December, H&F Bread broke ground on the gluten-free facility that will house production for Remedy Bakeshop, Zac Brown’s new line of gluten-free, allergen-friendly baked goods such as chocolate chip cookies and breads.
As part of the company’s new phase of development, Best brought Quatrano and Hall on-board as consulting chefs who will taste, verify, and examine the bakery’s processes and products. “Annie knows and understands bread,” Best says of Quatrano. “If I can get Annie to say, ‘Joe, these are the best that I’ve tasted,’ or Chris to say, ‘These are the best burger buns I’ve ever had with barbecue or burgers,’ then I’ll know [we’re right]. I can sit in a room alone and taste [our bread] and think it’s great, but running it by different the top chefs of the city adds another degree of verification that we are delivering the best product.”
Another piece of the expansion is a restaurant, operated by Quatrano, named H&F Bread and Butter, and a retail bakery that will feature other local food artisans. Hodge says he wants people to be able to come in and get a fresh pie out of the oven, charcuterie from a local butcher, fresh produce, and a loaf of H&F Bread.
“[The expanded facility] will be a full-production environment where we’re producing probably 100 to 150 different products on a daily basis,” says Hodge. “We actually already have that production happening in the main facility, but we want to split the [production and retail] apart.”
Best says the facility will be fully operational in June, with the restaurant slated to open in early fall. Zac Brown’s Remedy products are set to launch on Amazon Prime Exclusive later in March.