Monday, July 30, 2012
The End Of My Love For Panera?
About a year ago, I noticed some changes but I chalked it up to the place having a bad day or being too busy. Some of the things I experienced were tables not being cleaned off, personnel not getting orders right or orders not being assembled properly. I continued to go, however, hoping things would get better.
But it hasn't. Yesterday at 3 PM in the afternoon, my regular place was packed. Every table was filled, which ordinarily would be a good thing for a restaurant, but when you took a look around you see that most people were on computers or in the middle of business meetings with clients or employees. Yes, Panera Bread has apparently become one of the places where small businesses like to hold meetings and individuals like to park for hours and surf the net. And this is at 3 PM on a Sunday.
The cashier who took our order tried to upsell us ["For an additional $1, you get so much more!"] even though we made it clear a couple times that, yes, all we wanted was a 1/2 salad. There were no water cups back at the beverage machine and we had to go searching for those. Then came the search for the table.
I finally found one but I had to wipe it off myself as there were zero employees circulating through the seating area. In the early days of the restaurant, one might see several employees cleaning the table tops and removing dishes and, in some cases, bringing out orders for customers. No more.
As we're sitting there chatting, I heard my first name yelled from the kitchen area and went to find out that our order was ready and the pager that the cashier had provided wasn't working. In fact, the whole paging system itself was down. So why did they give us...hell with it. Why ask? Naturally, one of the orders was wrong and we had to send it back but soon we were eating.
Last week we listened to telemarketers train their employees at the big community table in the middle of the restaurant on how to cold call potential customers and lasso sales. This week we watched a couple burly guys in logo polo shirts talking to a couple who appeared to be prospective clients or employees.
Despite all the above, the food is still decent and is a lot better for you than most other fast food restaurants. But the experience isn't the same. I've noticed similar problems at another Panera location in South Florida so it doesn't appear as though my regular place is an anomaly. I'm really hoping things get better soon but I have a nagging feeling that the Panera of old is gone forever.
Posted by Rick at 10:01 AM