Coffee meets bagel premium

The Home of the 4 Hour Investor Grade Business Plan. What’s the most cost-effective way to get cream cheese on your bagel? We visited six of the city’s coffee meets bagel premium bagel shops and crunched the numbers to find out.

Whether you were born deep in Brooklyn or moved to the city last month, “just a schmear” connotes a sense of taste and discernment. It’s the shibboleth of a citywide society of bagel connoisseurs. For the uninitiated, “just a schmear” is what you tell your bagel guy when he’s about to slap a half pound of cream cheese on your bagel. Just a schmear” means no, I’d like less than a quarter inch slab of cream cheese for breakfast. Because just a thin schmear is all a bagel really needs. New York bagel shops are notoriously generous with their cream cheese. But you pay dearly for it: adding cream cheese doubles—or more—the cost of your bagel.

Which is why I’ve always wondered if there’s a cheaper way to get your cream cheese fix. After all, bagel shops will gladly sell you a half pound of cream cheese to spread yourself, a handy feature for setting up bagel brunch spreads at home. So what if you bought your cream cheese on the side and spread it on yourself? Would you save or lose money by doing so? We set out to six of the city’s most popular bagel shops to see what their definition of a schmear meant.

However horrible Dunkin’s bagels are, they’re the inexplicable breakfast of choice for thousands of New Yorkers every day. Over three separate visits to each shop we ordered a plain bagel with cream cheese, noting prices for a plain bagel, one with cream cheese, and a half pound of the shop’s cream cheese. We then weighed the bagels whole and with the cream cheese scraped off to see just how much cream cheese each shop schmears on. At most bagel shops the bagel’s and cream cheese’s weights were pretty consistent, making it easy to take averages of each shop’s typical schmears.

From these numbers were able to calculate some interesting values: the premium you pay for ordering cream cheese on your bagel, how many bagel’s worth of schmears there are in a half pound of cream cheese, and how that price premium compares to buying cream cheese separately and schmearing an equal amount on a bagel yourself. We assume that you’d schmear on just as much as the bagel shop so we can isolate the premium you pay for having the service rendered in-store. 36 bagels for a cost of 89 cents each. 64 for every half pound of cream cheese. What if you bought a bagel from Murray’s every day for a year? And that’s if you schmeared on a regulation Murray’s amount of cream cheese, which to my taste is way too much. Schmear on less and the savings keep multiplying.