So after my last Panera-related post, I went a little goofy. I put a post on their Facebook wall…
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:
panerabread Hey, thx for sharing feedback through website. Sorry about your disappointing experience, our CS team is looking into & will be in touch.
I got this email from the local general manager…
From: 3497 <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, July 29, 2011 10:50 AM
Subject: Contact Us
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.
So, this is what I wrote back to them…
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,
?sretac arenaP taht wonk uoy diD .seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI
I for one can’t wait for a reply.