Panera responds to my insanity, so I write back…


So after my last Panera-related post, I went a little goofy. I put a post on their Facebook wall

http://www.facebook.com/panerabread/posts/124723480954835

Found this part of that amusing:

…the corporate office (or in your case the corporate office for our franchise partner who operates bakery-cafes in the Pittsburgh area) reviews your email before contacting and working closely with the general manager to try to resolve the issue.

I also tweeted a few times…

…and got this DM from them:

Panera Breadpanerabread Hey, thx for sharing feedback through website. Sorry about your disappointing experience, our CS team is looking into & will be in touch.

Heh.

I got this email from the local general manager…

From: 3497 <panera3497@covelli.com>
To: [me]
Sent: Friday, July 29, 2011 10:50 AM
Subject: Contact Us

Dear Mr. Carroll,

I would like to introduce myself as Carrie Janota, the General Manager at the Greentree Panera Bread. I appreciate all your feedback and coaching. Your response will definitely help us with current and future training to associates, especially this time of year. The company has made several changes with menu items that you expressed in your comments. First, our turkey is now presliced so the consistency is different than when we sliced it in house. We also changed the recipe of our chicken noodle soup, which makes it all natural. Another healthy initiative we have taken is the removal of sauces on all cafe sandwiches. We offer packets of mayo and mustard at the condiment bar or you are welcomed to inform the cashier that you would like the condiments on the sandwich and we will gladly put them on for you. The “no onions” is our mistake and I would like to compensate you for a free meal next time you visit a Panera Bread. If you could please send me your address, I will gladly put the coupon in the mail for you. Again, thank you for your input, I use all issues as a learning tools for our associates.

Carrie Janota
General Manager

So, this is what I wrote back to them…

-餧馕馒-

Thank you Ms. Janota,

You certainly can address me as “Eric”, not “Mr. Carroll”. I appreciate your incredibly rapid and well-stated response to my experience yesterday. I was going out of my mind in disbelief. I would suggest that Panera spend more time asking/telling customers about changes, and less time advertising your catering services. I mean, really… on the pop machine, you’re advertising the catering service? What about a nice big poster that says… “WARNING: WE CHANGED THE TASTY NOODLES IN THAT SOUP THAT YOU LIKE, THE MEAT ON OUR SANDWICHES, AND HAVE DECIDED TO FORGO MUSTARD.” (Or even a nice traditional Coke or Pepsi logo?)

Boston Market is annoying/obnoxious with advertising their catering too. I get it. You guys cater. I know this. I’m here for dinner. You don’t need to advertise for a place that I’m already in. Imagine going into Walmart & seeing a sign in every aisle that advertises the stuff in the next aisle. This could get quote old quite quickly.

  • Attn: Panera – I don’t host any lunch parties or have a need for sandwich rings.
  • Attn: Boston Market – I can cook my own Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner.
  • Attn: Bob Evans – I can handle making my own lasagna or meatloaf.
  • Attn: Chick-fil-A – The only thing I’d do with a tray full of nuggets is eat them all myself.
Since you took the time to write, and you’re obviously concerned and well-written, I’d like to address my concerns & the new issues raised more specifically.

The Onion
– This is not a big deal. I generally don’t even say anything & just take the onion off myself. This is the first time I was ever asked “Lettuce, tomato, & onion?” in a Panera. So, I said “Lettuce & tomato, no onion please.” This is the only reason I took note. It also said on my receipt “NO ONION” – so the cashier took the effort to note it, and the sandwich-maker had to read & ignore it. Just odd. Again, this is nothing that should ruin one’s day.

The Turkey – I call shenanigans. Any foodie will tell you there’s a world of difference between lunch-meat turkey and the freshly-sliced real thing. Why would Panera decide to sacrifice quality like this? Does it save time? Does it save money? Certainly it can’t be healthier… isn’t pre-packaged lunch-meat loaded with salt & preservatives? Imagine my surprise upon looking at my $6 half-sandwich full of lunch-meat where I had expected (and previously received) actual turkey. Where was my warning of this upon ordering? I certainly didn’t get the proverbial memo here. At least there’s no confirmation of turkeys with gold nuggets in their gizzards and fine wine in their gullets. Although, I didn’t get a staunch denial.

The Lettuce & Tomato – Are Panera employees encouraged to look at the ingredients before placing them on sandwiches? Really, that’s all that would be needed to prevent the placement of brown lettuce & green tomatoes. A general rule of thumb could be “If you were going to make yourself a sandwich, would you use this?”

The lack of any condiments – Again, list this in the “things that would be nice to know before I placed my order, or at the very least as I was placing my order” category. I liked the previous dressing/sauce whatever you want to call it, and it was certainly different from the straight mayo or spicy brown mustard available by the drinks (& catering advertisement). Is this really a “healthy” option or a money-saving option? I’m reminded of the “removing one olive from every salad” story with American Airlines. It saved them a rumored $40,000. I imagine all of this no-more-condiments stuff adding up to a HUGE savings for Panera… but my sandwich didn’t get cheaper, did it? No passing along the savings? (I think Steak ‘n’ Shake has done this too… their salads used to be nice-sized with cherry tomatoes… now they’re small & have tomato slices.)

The mysterious thumbprint – The noted lack of condiments has me even more concerned about the yellow thumbprint that was on the top of my sandwich. I had just assumed it was some of the condiment that was supposed to go on the inside. I ripped this portion out of the top of my sandwich before eating, to the bewilderment of my eye-rolling yet tolerant-to-my-neuroses wife. This leads me to wonder what the yellow stuff on my sandwich was… if not mustard, was it some of her broccoli cheddar soup? If so, this is incredibly alarming because it could have easily been clam chowder… and I’m highly allergic to shellfish. How is soup on the sandwich board or my sandwich when it wasn’t even my soup? I suggest you educate your employees on allergens & cross-contamination. Barring all that… it’s just a little gross. That could have been a big yellow booger for all I know.

The healthy soup – Pardon me if I laugh at the “all natural” expression. While I understand the meaning, visions of a supernatural soup come to mind. Was the prior soup possessed by demons? The noodles certainly were homemade-looking and delicious. Were they the result of a tasty pact with the devil or an ancient spell? Did the ingredients float into the bowl themselves? I don’t know what the tiny paper-thin pasta squares in the new soup are, but they are a Ford Focus to the previous soup’s BMW 7 Series. They’re not whole-grain pasta, are they? I hate whole-grain pasta. If this soup was a state, the broth were the land-mass and the chicken bits & noodle-like squares were people… it would be Alaska or Wyoming. Do you see what I’m saying? (Actually, the noodles might be the people, and the chicken may be an endangered species living within that state… but I’ve already pushed that metaphor too far.) I’m not entirely sure if this is the fault of the soup-ladeler or the soup recipe. As far as healthy vs. tasty in soup, I suggest you look up news articles related to Campbell’s. They’re putting salt back into soup to boost sales. I see from your corporate Facebook page that this is apparently an issue that has ruffled some feathers. Perhaps a shift back is in order?

The rusty knife – Poop happens. Have the dishwasher look over some stuff. I’d throw out the rusty ones. This rust was quite prominent on the handle of the butter knife, in the details of the design.


Thank you for your time, I hope you can use my input to your advantage… for your team, and perhaps passed on to a corporate level. I’d like to respectfully decline a free meal. I don’t write these sort of emails in order to get free food… and I’m skeptical of any coupons/certificates flagging me as “oh, here’s that guy”. I may even be done with Panera bread for a while. Bedsides the potentially scary cross-contamination and general utensil-cleanliness issues, our philosophies don’t seem to mesh well. I don’t need you to make health decisions for me, I need you to give me quality meals at the prices you demand. Your new more healthy less tasty soup and lack of condiments disturbs me, and apparently your quality standards aren’t the same as mine at your current menu prices.

I’d suggest taking some of the money saved from condiment rationing, smaller noodles, & catering advertising… and funneling it into a survey system to find out what your consumers want, or at the very least making signs or T-shirts that say “We’re holding the mustard unless you tell us not to!” or “New soup! Less noodles & chicken, but no ghosts!” It would also be money well spent on allergy training or buying new non-rusty silverware. Do you have any corporate contacts whom with I could perhaps take up this discussion?


Supernatural soup supporter,
-Eric

?sretac arenaP taht wonk uoy diD .seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

-餧馕馒-

I for one can’t wait for a reply.

Panera Bread (Scott Twp. Greentree Road) on Urbanspoon

35 responses to “Panera responds to my insanity, so I write back…

  1. Like

  2. Awesome!
    You speak for the people.

    Like

  3. Are there people in Panera uniforms circling your place, or are they just hiding in the bushes. Way to put it on them. All natural and skimping are not synonymous

    Like

    • Yeah, I don’t know if I want any of them to have my address. I think I have a rouge angry comment on my last Panera post.

      Can you email me a coupon that I can use at a different Panera location? Maybe one that still makes unhealthy, tasty, & possibly more expensive noodles?

      I don’t understand how they think that they can sell cheap under the guise of healthy. How stupid do they think people are?

      Like

    • Oh yeah, did you know that Panera Bread caters?

      Like

  4. I think it’s hilarious that they made the change to make the soup “all natural” and “healthier,” yet the change from fresh turkey to lunchmeat turkey has the opposite effect!
    Restaurants only do things to increase their bottom line. They don’t care about your health or your happiness. Cook your own food, and if it comes out half-assed, you’ll only have yourself to blame! (Oh, and it will NEVER cost $6 for a turkey sandwich!)

    Like

    • Yeah, I thought everyone knew that lunch-meat isn’t exactly healthy or all natural? I think the move for the soup was “more broth” and “less noodles” and just cheap cheap cheap.

      I do definitely enjoy cooking my own food, but sometimes time lends itself to grabbing a quick meal. I’m finding it harder & harder to find acceptable places to grab a quick meal.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds the food for the value ridiculous. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just a super cheap-ass.

      Like

  5. If you have the time to email this poor girl a novel, then you must have no life. People advertise everywhere, that’s how all business works. That store does not choose what logo goes on their soda machine also. The turkey has always been the same. They never had actual turkey. It is still sliced just packaged for a fresher taste. The mayo and spicy brown mustard at the stand is the same thing they use to use as well! It is not the stores fault they have new chicken noodle soup. Panera is suppose to be a healthy place to eat, it is not Wendys.I do not understand why you are bent out of shape over food! ITS FOOD! at least you eat! if this is the only thing you worry about then good for you man!

    Like

    • Seems like you have some insider info. Do you work at Panera Bread? If not, how do you know that they don’t control what goes on the pop machine? (Yes, that’s “pop” in Southwestern PA, not “soda”.) Perhaps they have some choice. I don’t know for sure. Do you? I would like to think that as a manager, some trivial things like that would be up to my discretion.

      I understand that advertising is everywhere and that that’s how business works, but it’s annoying. Did you know that Panera caters?

      Clearly, I understand that the soup thing is a national change, and not the fault of the local store. Apparently it got enough people’s proverbial panties in a bunch to warrant Dan Kish posting a message on Facebook. I see there’s now a Facebook group titled Bring Back Original Panera Chicken Soup.

      How do you know that the mustard is the same? They used to tout it as some fancy proprietorial concoction. Was there false advertising all along? More importantly… if they’re not using it on sandwiches now, then how did it get on the outside of my brown-lettuced, green-tomatoed overpriced half sandwich?

      The turkey before seemed much more fresh to me… and perhaps you don’t understand freshness. Re: “It is still sliced just packaged for a fresher taste.” Turkey sliced in the store would be more fresh than prepackaged turkey sliced at the factory (or wherever they do such things) then shipped to the store.

      If my post seems like a novel to you, perhaps you ought to invest some more time into reading. I see that you have subscribed to my blog, and started to follow me on Twitter. Thank you for such devotion! I’m on Facebook too if you’d like to find me there. I also responded to your comment on my other post. I’m glad to see that you’re a fan!

      I don’t mean any disrespect to the general manager at the local Panera. I have not called her work ethic or personality into question, which you have so hastily done to me. I have just made observations of how her staff prepares food, and asked if there was a corporate contact to which I could pass along corporate-level concerns (like complaints about the incessant advertising and “issues” with the new soup). I’m sure she does a fine job, even if some employees can’t effectively tow the line.

      I understand that Panera isn’t Wendy’s. I’m thankful for that. Actually, you’re making my point for me. Thank you! I expect a little more quality-wise from Panera than I do from Wendy’s. From Panera, I want tasty soup… not to be (literally and figuratively) spoon-fed cheaper food under the guise of healthy eating, and quality sandwiches.

      I’m not “worried” about this. I just feel compelled to be a voice for the discerning yet thrifty (ok, cheap) consumer. I do have real problems, but as far as real problems go… they’re not that bad.

      As you implied, time is valuable. I appreciate that you took the time out of your day to comment on both of my Panera related blog posts. Perhaps you will also feel compelled to comment in the future.

      P.S. – Check out this link: The It’s vs. Its page (I am worried about your grammar.)

      Like

      • No, I do not work at Panera Bread. I just feel bad for people who work in the food industry, they don’t mean to make you upset, half the time they are more upset over the issue. I use to work with food before and I knew someone a couple months ago who worked at a Panera Bread.

        Like

        • I don’t feel bad for people that work in the food industry. They have a paying job. Not everyone has that luxury. Not everyone is in love with their employment, but it doesn’t negate the fact that you’re getting paid in exchange for doing something to the best of your ability. If the best of your ability is brown lettuce, green tomatoes, and an errant sloppy thumbprint… perhaps you should rethink your employment opportunities and let someone who will appreciate the job work in your place. If you feel that making sandwiches is beneath you, I suggest trying to find other employment.

          I have held some shitty jobs… from general janitorial duties like cleaning toilets, to assembly line manufacturing, to construction labor. These are all somewhat mindless soul-sucking career choices. I put effort into all of them, because at least I could hold on to the fact that I was going to do a good job so I could take some pride in sparkling toilets or well-built rear-projection televisions.

          I’m always polite to anyone when I’m ordering, and when I’m being served food. I would suspect that anyone with a sense of decency would do the same. It always clenches my anus to hear people talk down to food service employees. While I have never worked food service, I do understand the plight.

          Like

  6. Absolutely hilarious… And true! Great post, am truly laughing!

    Like

  7. Hey. I’m looking to have a party and was wondering if anyone knows of some good places that cater?

    Like

  8. Whilst I am on my search for a great catering service I must input that Panera BREAD constantly runs out of bread by mid-day/dinner time every time I am there. It is quite hard to have my bread bowl soup without the bread holding the soup in place.

    As for the sandwiches, well I am sure they run out of bread for that too, though I wouldn’t know because I have always felt a simple sandwich was well overpriced. The only soup I’ve had there was the broccoli cheddar (in which they consistently run-out of as well).

    Recently, I have gone in there and the manager was working. I knew to ask if they had any bread bowls before ordering knowing they probably did not (again, it was only around 4pm). She told me they ran-out, but offered me two baguettes to compensate. I also ordered a delicious smoothie like I always do. One of the workers made my smoothie and by the time it was handed to me, one of the cooks broke the news to me that they did not have any of the broccoli cheddar soup left. (Surprise! Surprise!) They told me the wait would be about ten minutes, so I decided to sip on my smoothie and wait in a booth. I am not sure how much time passed, but it was definitely over ten minutes and my smoothie was demolished. I had multiple people apologize to me and even allowed me to choose something from their bakery for free. All in all, the service was wonderful, but why on earth do they run out of bread so much!? I also have to ponder why they run out of soup as well each and every time I am there.

    I choose to eat Panera at a fairly consistent basis because I love their fresh, seemingly organic and delicious food despite the price. The atmosphere is always great, too (other than it feeling like it is subzero in there in the summer and yappy teenage girls squawking about Twilight and fakely giggling obnoxiously loud). If I wanted ghetto trashy people, processed and chemical-filled food, and everything carelessly made, then I would go to McDonalds. It would be of great dismay if I discover Panera going down the shitter myself.

    Like

    • Good call! Bethany & I used to dine quite frequently at the Panera in Oakland on Center Ave. They were quite frequently out of bread bowls. Especially on a cold winter night, nothing is as comforting as a bread-bowl of their broccoli cheese soup. I can confirm that they also run out of sandwich bread. I have had my Smoked Turkey Breast on bread other than the prescribed country bread when they were out of that. It is funny that Panera Bread runs out of bread.

      Sounds like the Panera Bread where you dined was all-about service. I bet they cater! At least they addressed your needs, apologized for the wait, and then compensated with the free bakery item. That is stellar service. Perhaps you should call ahead next time, so the soup will be ready when you get there? Ha ha. Thanks for sharing a positive Panera story!

      If you’re ever in the mood to be angered and bewildered, try the McDonald’s on West Liberty. You will leave a broken soul-less shell of a human being.

      Like

    • The reason they run out of bread and other food items is that nothing is made fresh at the restaurant. It is all pre-packaged and shipped to each store. My stepson was an assistant manager for Panera.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Have some comments here on FB

    Troy

    All I have to say is I never liked Panera. They were always kinda sorry in my opinion.

    Ryan Luko

    I have also been disappointed with Panera Bread lately. It seems that as their prices increase the quality seems to decrease. Maybe I’ve just been paying closer attention to the quality since the prices are so ridiculous.

    Like

  10. No reply from this letter. Color me disappointed.

    Like

  11. Pingback: So, do you guys cater? | World (and Lunar) Domination

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  13. Pingback: New Catering Advertisement Opportunities! (for Boston Market & Panera Bread) | World (and Lunar) Domination

  14. Employees have no idea how long it’s been since you’ve gone to a Panera. You said it’d been a while, and the changes could have been made months before your trip. I am a Panera employee, and I do think you deserved a clean and accurate meal for your money, but we cashiers cannot spend 5 minutes interviewing every customer asking them how long it’s been since their last visit and informing them of every change made to every menu item. I have had customers in the past say “I haven’t been here in, like, 2 years, has anything changed?” A good employee should be happy to answer your questions.

    Also, you’ve been blaming Panera bread as a company for your poor service, but you need to hold the individual employee responsible for their sloppy behavior and give them an opportunity to fix it. Customers think that employees are mad when they have to re-make your food, but we are way more mad when you go home and tell your friends not to buy from us without giving us an opportunity to fix such a simple issue. We would rather re-make your food than lose your business. No customers = no profit = no hours = no money for me

    Like

    • Interesting insights… I do hold the employee responsible, but I hold Panera responsible for training and monitoring the performance of said employees.

      Maybe a sign replacing one on the counter where you wait for your order that says “Hey, we cater!” with one that says “Hey, we changed the soup.” would be good… and perhaps a sign that says “You have to ask for mustard now, unless you want it in a thumbprint on the outside of your sandwich.” would be good instead of the catering advertisements on the pop machine.

      Mind if I ask how you found my blog? This is an older post. Did you read the precursor? It’s somewhat important in understanding all this: The Great Panera Bread Swindle

      On the flip-side, heck out my most recent (pleasant) Panera adventure here (towards the bottom): Boston Market ups the pressure… (a.k.a. What now, Panera Bread?)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! As you’re an intelligent Panera employee, I’m interested to hear your thoughts on my other ramblings. Do you still work there? Do you want to accept the challenge?

      Like

  15. Dear Overly Flambouyant Douchebag,
    You are eating at a [relatively] fast food chain that hires high schoolers at minimum wage. Ever hear the term “you get what you pay for.” Take it to heart the next time you feel like wasting 30 mins of your life bashing some store manager and suck a dick.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: All we wanted were some crayons. | World (and Lunar) Domination

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