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Panera Bread -- I like what I've seen. What do you think?

I've only been to Panera once or twice, but a new Panera has opened up in the Porter Square Shopping Center. I've like their soups and breads, haven't had much else. I tend not to support chains, but my understanding is that this one is local. What's the buzz?

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  1. Its headquarters are in Missouri....

    8 Replies
    1. re: LeoLioness

      And there are just under 1,500 in the country.

      1. re: manraysky

        You can't get more local than that.

        1. re: FoodDabbler

          I think I stand corrected! I wonder how I became so misinformed . . .

          1. re: somervilleoldtimer

            Speaking as one old-timer to another, the amount of incorrect information you pick up grows rapidly as you age. You start off as a youth knowing, as they say, everything. Gradually this knowledge is replaced by half-truths, damn lies, and statistics. If you're lucky, you'll know exactly nothing when you die. Most of us (myself included) will have entered negative territory long before.

            1. re: FoodDabbler

              Thanks, FoodDabbler - I needed a good laugh. Going to use this (if I remember that is, lol).

            2. re: somervilleoldtimer

              Actually, the top management work out of Boston or the Boston area. The chain got its start as St. Louis Bread, and has its corporate headquarters there. But, if I understand this correctly, the brains of the chain live in Boston.

              I disagree that the quality is poor. I've eaten at Panera all over the place and I'd say the quality is mostly OK, and occasionally subpar. As far as chains go, the place serves wholesome food, and you can buy really good bread there. I had a bowl of tomato soup there today for a late lunch, with a whole grain baguette. The soup is thick, richish and not too sweet. Their breakfasts have really improved in the last decade. I find their coffee good, especially the dark roast.

              The nice thing about Panera is that you'll have a total cross section of the community there at any one time. People bring their laptops and nurse coffee and dessert, or a meal, for a long time while they are online. Today I saw a gentleman sitting off to himself engrossed in a book. Some older teens came in as was finishing my soup. Often you see people doing business there.

              I truly wish I owned stock in the place. It occupies a unique niche among chain food outlets.

              The pastries are good too!

              1. re: sueatmo

                Wholesome? More like fast food crap disguised as wholesome through marketing.

                1. re: Gabatta

                  Well, it is certainly more wholesome that Hardees, McDonalds, and that ilk. The salads are better than most chain restaurant salads in my experience. The coffee is above average and almost always hot. They don't fry their food, bacon excepted. I can get an egg white sandwich on actual whole grain bread. (I request whole grain) I'm not sure how this sort of food is not wholesome. If you consider all of these examples unwholesome, then we just simply disagree.

      2. Definitely not local. Most of the stuff on the menu is miserable and overpriced, though I do admit to enjoying the BBQ Chicken Salad.

        10 Replies
        1. re: mkfisher

          Well. No. Most of the stuff on the menu is actually pretty good. The breads are better than the breads at my local bakery. The salads and sandwiches are fresh-tasting and made with care. Many of the soups are quite good. And my family enjoys most of the breakfast-type pastries and dessert-type pastries.

          "Miserable" seems a fairly harsh description.

          1. re: jmckee

            Depending on where you live you need to find a better bakery. I find Panera's breads uniformly flabby and uninteresting.

            1. re: StriperGuy

              StriperGuy, some areas of our country just don't have the bakeries we have here in the Boston area (and ours, in comparison to many other areas, could be better - but at least we have a choice). I do urge people, even if they only have a few in their area, to try to support those. I hate the way chains tend to squeeze out the little guy.

              The other thing I found out from my own experience (when I lived in a different part of the country where I didn't have the options I now have) is that, when you eat only at chains, your taste buds - well, they tend to get dumbed-down, lol. I honestly got used to food back then that now, when I taste it, I cannot believe I used to like it. (I will not, however, admit to posting a rosy review about a certain dismal, local bakery that produces horrid tasting sweets upon my immediate arrival back a few years ago... and giving other Chowhounds a bum steer!! Nope, not me....)

              I think it's comparable to people who are fortunate to live in a place where they can get the freshest local produce all or most of the year (grrr- I'm so jealous!!) - in comparison to our own four seasons market.

              1. re: threedogs

                Good point. I can get and grow a variety of produce year round, but I think we have one bakery, German, besides Panera's, within about 30 miles.I'm guessing 30 miles, but the one I know of is about 40 miles.

                1. re: Shrinkrap

                  Arrgghh!! I hate you! ;-) (no, not really - kidding here!)

                  If we had fewer bakeries (and places that sold delicious baked goods) and year round local produce instead, my hips would be considerably smaller, I think. Well, maybe not, since a good portion of said hips resulted from my home baked breads and pastries...

                2. re: threedogs

                  I've traveled pretty extensively in out of the way places in the U.S. If I lived there I'd probably bake my own bread. Heck, I do 2X a month in Boston.

                  But I'd never describe Panera as a decent bread bakery without qualifying that statement considerably along the lines of "good bread cause there's nothing else in these parts" etc, etc.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    Yeah, I bake - no, used to bake my own bread daily for a long time. Pizza was my go-to food, too. Only stopped because I needed to take the pounds off & I tend to not to limit my portions with those at home (and also because my large crew decreased, moving on to lives of their own). I did find out, though, when I lived in AZ that triple digit weather & baking bread just doesn't go together that well, even with an a/c. But then again, I really, really hate too much hot weather, so it was added torture for me.

                    We also had a shipment of Italian food shipped out from the Boston area because we couldn't find anything like our favorites out there (back then, at least). The shipping alone was astronomical - but oh, it was worth it! We missed our favorites so, so much.

                    1. re: StriperGuy

                      Fortunately, for me at least, I am not a fan of "bread", or carbs in general. For me, a huge waste of volume, preventing me from consuming more flavor, if I indulge,. What's so strange is, husband and daughter prefer carbs; son and I ,not so much.
                      How does that poem go?

                      Jack sprat could eat no meat, his wife could eat no lean....something about licking something clean....I LOVE fava beans, sugar snaps, figs; I love pork belly!

                      Maybe it would be different if we had better bread, but I just peel it off.

                      1. re: Shrinkrap

                        "Fortunately, for me at least, I am not a fan of "bread", or carbs in general."

                        Do not comprehend... this is some foreign concept way beyond me.... ;-)

                3. re: jmckee

                  Im sorry about the lack of a halfway decent bakery near you

              2. I live in the Seattle area and there is a Panera a couple miles from my home.

                As far as chains go, it is my favorite as there are decent, relatively healthy & low-cal options. I tend to get soup and salad combinations when I eat there.

                I live in a town that is 90% chain restaurants and the remaining 10% are either very specific ethnic restos that don't appeal to a broad audience or are just okay. When I go out with friends locally, I know that it is most likely that I will end up in a chain restaurant so am happy to have something better than Shari's, Olive Garden, Red Robin, Old Country Buffet, etc.

                Olive Garden
                8 Allstate Rd, Dorchester, MA 02125

                1. Not really 'local', no. I find most of their stuff to be bizarrely overpriced. Though there's few things more indulgent than their cinnamon crunch bagel with maple walnut cream cheese.

                  1. Here's the local connection -- quoted from the Panera's website:

                    Ron Shaich is the Founder and Executive Chairman of the Board of Panera Bread Company, where he previously served for over 25 years as the company's Chief Executive Officer. Shaich began his career in the bakery-cafe industry in 1981, when he opened a small cookie store in downtown Boston. Shortly thereafter, he combined his cookie store operations with a local bakery to co-found Au Bon Pain Co., Inc. In 1993, Shaich led Au Bon Pain's purchase of a 19-location bakery-cafe concept called Saint Louis Bread Company, which would become Panera Bread. Today, the Company operates or franchises over 1,450 locations in 40 states and Ontario, Canada. System-wide sales in 2010 exceeded $3 billion.

                    Au Bon Pain Co
                    156 Church St, Pembroke, MA 02359

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Duster17

                      Shaich started ABP with Louis Kane (at the time in the healthcare business), who came up with tthe idea after seeing the bakery carts on the streets of Paris during a vacation. Began selling from a cart in Faneuil Hall. Or, something to that effect.

                    2. I think Panera completely sucks and I am bummed out a huge store is opening in Harvard Square (former Bob Slate location).

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Gabatta

                        The good news is that the actual Bob Slate's is coming back too.

                        1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                          Yes, I am happy they are not going away all together like the Globe store. There are enough crappy chains pushing local businesses out in this neighborhood.

                          1. re: Gabatta

                            I too am very sorry to see Free People and Panera replacing the old Bob Slate stores, but it is important to note that in the case of Slate and Globe Corner, rent didn't seem to be the primary issue. The Globe and Slate owners wanted to find new buyers so they could retire; Globe Corner had a very good relationship with Harvard, their landlord. I'm sure the profits of both were down with new online competition, of course, but that didn't seem to be the only issue. But I'll miss Globe a lot too.

                            1. re: hckybg

                              Replaced would have been more accurate than pushed out. If the business climate was better both places would have been sold or taken over by family. Bob Slate's couldn't even find a buyer at little to no profit to at least keep their employees working.

                              If stores like this have to go, I just wish they could be replaced by something better. The block of Mass Ave being vacated by Slate's will now be dominated by Panera and Qdoba :(

                              1. re: Gabatta

                                At least it won't be another Starbucks or a bank. I'm surprised that there isn't an Anna's in the Square. Everyother burrito chain is represented. I wonder if Au Bon Pain will be able to maintain two locations.

                                1. re: viperlush

                                  I would jump for joy if the location at the corner of Mass Ave and Mt. Auburn closed and something else went in there. Unfortunately, while it is not jammed it does a steady business. The location right in the square is somewhat of a flagship and isn't going anywhere.

                      2. There's one across the street from my office now and it's very popular, but I havent had anything I liked very much and it is "bizarrely overpriced."

                        Have to try that bagel and cream cheese though ...

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          I was actually thinking of the Honey Walnut spread on the Cinnamon Crunch. The super-cheesy Asiago bagel is pretty good, too.

                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                            I find the bagels there atrocious as far as a bagel is concerned. But they make some decent breads and the asiago bagels are pretty tasty as circular bread.

                            1. re: LStaff

                              That's a valid distinction. The bagels don't compare to anything you'd get in NYC or from a good bagel joint. But covered with crusty asiago cheese or a thick cinnamon crust, they're pretty tasty, nonetheless!

                            2. re: Boston_Otter

                              The cheesy bagel is my favorite, and I absolutely refuse to look up the nutrition values for fear I would have to give them up. Also, the cinnamon crunch topped with some chocolate goat cheese from Westfield Farms really works. Of course the only place I've found the chocolate cheese is online from Westfield.

                              1. re: Pegmeister

                                What is chocolate cheese? Is it cheese made chocolate, or chocolate made cheese?

                                1. re: FoodDabbler

                                  It's a chocolate flavored goat cheese. I first had it at Abby Park in Milton and then discovered I could order it on line from Westfield. My favorite dessert is a shortbread cookie, with a good dab of chocolate cheese, topped with a fresh strawberry. It tastes like chocolate cheesecake.

                                  Abby Park
                                  550 Adams Street, Milton, MA 02186

                          2. Check their website for the nutrition information, especially calories and sodium. I don't find any of the food worth it after a quick review.

                            1. You know, I now recalle that in addition to having soup and bread on one visit, on my second (and last)I visit I had a very delicious steak and blue cheese salad that had around 10,000 calories. Not counting the bread. But it was delicious. But i see what people are talking about!

                              5 Replies
                                1. re: Shrinkrap

                                  Okay, that was a massive exaggeration. But it was something like 900 calories, before the bread.

                                  1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                    My fave is the sierra turkey, and yes, where I live, Panera stands out from the chains and along side the ethnic ( mostly Thai and Mexican) places. I was really surprised to see the calorie count for the Sierra Turkey!

                                    Wonder what the pad see ew, pork, "medium", or the three "tacos especial," al pastor or carne asada register.

                              1. Well, their breakfast sandwiches do have an actual egg on them. With a recognizable yolk. So they have that going for them, which is nice... :-)

                                Seriously though, if i'm in the mood for/ have to have a mass-market bfast, I will go to Panera if possible because I know that egg is not toooo far removed from its mother.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: gimlis1mum

                                  Question of the day: Does a Caddyshack reference sufficiently counteract the negativity of the rest of the thread?

                                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                    Not all of us have been negative. Some of us (OK, I) have just been silly.

                                  2. re: gimlis1mum

                                    I do appreciate the actual egg. The pre-formed egg patty found at Dunkin or Breugger's really grosses me out. I used to go to the Finagle a Bagel in Coolidge Corner on Sunday mornings for a breakfast sandwich -- you could see the people crack actual eggs. Panera's breakfast sandwiches aren't as good in my opinion, but the eggs go a long way. And I like the breakfast power sandwich, which is one slice of bread cut in half, egg, ham, and cheese for 340 calories. More than I usually devote to breakfast, but it's not going to ruin a day of healthy eating either.

                                    1. re: CarolinaGirl06

                                      I totally agree about the preformed egg patty! It is without taste or texture. My local muffin shop, Magnificent Muffin in Teele Square, makes a pretty good fried egg and cheese on a English muffin. But I wish they offered whole wheat muffins . . .

                                  3. I do like Panera's breads, they are a lot better than the "stuff" from a nearby bakery. The Apple Walnut Muffins are really good!

                                    1. I might go to Panera about once a week for lunch. They have the calories posted right on the menu. I avoid the sandwiches because of the high calorie counts. But, the calories for most salads are reasonable and I like several of them.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: pemma

                                        At least they're posted on the menu so people can make an intelligent decision. I know someone who used to work at the 99. We decided to look up the nutritional values - takes a little searching, but we were shocked at the zillion calories & fat, esp w/their salads.

                                        Most of the smaller restaurants can't afford to have their foods analyzed - but honestly, none of us know what we're eating unless it's listed.

                                        Getting on-topic - I don't generally eat at Panera, but have had their circular asiago breads in the past (I like that reference by the OP better than 'bagels', lol). Can enjoy them if I don't think of them as trying to be passed off as bagels. I have family members who really love their stuff.

                                        If I'm going to waste calories, I'd prefer to choose something else - which usually, for me, means a trip to Chinatown, lol - or my once-a-year treat of fried clams. However, I can understand that many might not have that option, esp. when trying to get a lunch during work hours.

                                        1. re: threedogs

                                          "Infinite Breads" is another term that would work.

                                      2. The one recent Panera experience I had this summer was trying their lobster roll. Which was delivered initially with almost no lobster, there was essentially the meat of one claw for $12.
                                        I had to go back and say seriously? The manager apologized profusely.

                                        Then the gave me a second well lobstered sandwhich which was essentially flavorless and the lobster was refrigerator-rubbery. Too long in the fridge.

                                        Sorta can't understand you guys devoting so much time and energy to discussing Panera, which is, after all, essentially a crappy chain, emphasis on crappy.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: StriperGuy

                                          Come on Guy.....I can't understand how you could even order a lobster roll from Panera and think that it would taste good. I think the issue is two fold, the can it came out of and too long in the fridge.

                                          1. re: Infomaniac

                                            I know, I know, even as I suffered through it I was whacking my forehead "WHAT was I thinking, WHAT was I thinking?"

                                            1. re: StriperGuy

                                              Plus, now I know to steer clear of the lobster roll. It's a good deed you've done, Stripey

                                          2. re: StriperGuy

                                            Well, you did join in, apparently having read the whole thread. And we're glad you did! Because now I can let you know that I started this thread out of real curiosity, not having lots of exposure. I suppose I could have just gone a couple of times myself and chosen different foods and compared calories, etc., but this is more fun.

                                            1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                              I know, I know, could not resist chiming in.

                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                I bet you can advise me about scallops at Pescatore in Ball Square, which is where I'll be eating this weekend. I think I'm in the mood for scallops and pasta. Any suggestions?

                                                1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                  Hmmm, scallops and pasta, that really is a good question. Nothing comes to mind, but that is also not a dish I order frequently (clams and pasta yes). Perhaps another hound could chime in...

                                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                                    I got homemade fusilli with lobster/scallops/shrimp. The pasta was quite nicely made -- firm and intriguingly twisty, but the dish needed salt and some more of the white sauce. Good fried calamari to start.

                                          3. Paneras tend to be franchised, with a couple of groups having rights to a territory. The franchisees are local, at least around here.

                                            I don't know how much each franchise group is involved in operations but I know one guy, who now has a bunch of them, bakes bread every Tuesday (or Wednesday) night with the bakers.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: lergnom

                                              McDonald's is often franchised too, and often the franchisees are local...

                                            2. Panera's success is in their marketing, not their food unfortunately.
                                              Their breads are generally ok but pricey, some of the sandwiches are palatable (but again, on the expensive side for what you get).
                                              The soups, however, are miserably bad. The worst.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: The Professor

                                                The breads taste like Wonderbread compared to any of the real artisan bakeries in Boston.

                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                  For a man who doesn't think Panera is worth discussing (although one whose credentials are sullied slightly by the admission that he once ate a lobster roll -- lobster roll! -- there) you're certainly getting quite enthusiastic all of a sudden.

                                                2. re: The Professor

                                                  The coffee is reasonably decent for the price. Probably my single favorite thing about P-Biddy.

                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                    You don't like the resto's sammies? Even the brekky veggie sammie?

                                                    1. re: Fibber McGee

                                                      eehhh, they just alrizzy, McGizzy. Aint nothin compared to that fine hizzlenizzle coffee.

                                                    2. re: cowboyardee

                                                      I hardly ever order the coffee here in Winchester, VA. However, I do find a Panera in Pennyslvania making decent tasting coffee; i.e., drinkable, I should say, and the times that they have been brewed listed on the pots seem to reflect the taste thereof more accurately.

                                                      Paneras breads or pastries are just OK, but I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to buy them.

                                                      I don't like to buy pastries that are in 'open' pastry cases.

                                                  2. The only thing I like at Panera is the Bacon, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich (The BOMB!) and the Mac and Cheese (so Overpriced though)....

                                                    1. Yes, it began here in St. Louis, where it's still known by a slight variation of its original name (The change is so minor most folks don't recognize a change.) We can smile and feel like it's local. It's a mixed bag, good soup sometimes, one of the few tuna sandwiches I care for besides my own, killer pumpkin muffins, and after all these years, we've just discovered the breakfast s'wiches, which put everything but White Castle to shame with their cooked-to-order eggs. Coffee is better than diner coffee, if not quite good coffee-house quality.

                                                      1. The Cobblestone is fanatastic!

                                                        1. Our office orders from Panera for lunch meetings pretty frequently. It isn't my favorite, but there are a couple of soups there I like and that are relatively healthy, so I'll usually get a 1/2 sandwich/soup combo.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: jujuthomas

                                                            My boss LOVES panera and we get lunch from there frequently. Usually I get a salad (thai chopped chicken) which is OK. Today I felt like a grease bomb and ordered a cuban chicken on foccacio. Boy, it was awful. Bland, too many sweet pickles, yuk.

                                                            1. re: tcamp

                                                              i keep ordering the same darn turkey sandwich - with meat that is WAY too salty. next time I have to remember to try something else... I'll probably skip the chicken cuban, thanks for the tip. ;)

                                                          2. I think Porto's is a cut above and much preferred because they have my favorite potato balls.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                              1. re: happybaker

                                                                OP claims he doesn't usually support chains. Panera is more of a chain than Porto's which has about 3-4 stores, all fairly local.

                                                            1. Love Panera. Used to frequent them all the time when I lived in Michigan. Unfortunately they have no locations in AZ (although they bought out our local chain Paradise Bakery a few years ago). Whenever I am in a state w/ a Panera location, I always have to make a trip or two.

                                                              Must haves: pumpkin muffins, cinnamon crunch bagels, Asiago roast beef sandwich w/ extra sauce.

                                                              I usually bring back a couple dozen pumpkin muffins to keep in the freezer whenever I need a fix - did that while on vac in FL last month, in fact :)

                                                              1. I have to give two thumbs up for Panera.

                                                                No, they are not cheap. BUT - my mom has severe food allergies, and all Panera's have binders where the staff can instantly look up ingredient lists for you. This makes the difference between my mom being able to go out - and breathe - or not.

                                                                Plus they do have a decent range of calorie options. The broth bathed soups are not scary and the salad choices are good.

                                                                1. They are not cheap - half a sandwich and a cup of soup for around $7-8. The sandwiches have gotten smaller we all think at work.

                                                                  Their raisin bread is good though, the honeywheat is pretty good but again not cheap for a loaf of bread.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: smartie

                                                                    "The food is terrible, and such small portions."

                                                                    1. re: hckybg

                                                                      "Everything our parents said was good is bad. Sun, milk, red meat... college. "

                                                                  2. As vegetarians, my husband and I are very fond of Panera's, due to their presence in many a food wasteland. They have some reliable and decent veggie options, which we really appreciate, especially in parts of the country where we otherwise might be eating french fries and ice cream for dinner (sometimes a good thing, admittedly).
                                                                    I pretty much always get their mediterranean veggie sandwich, which is surprisingly flavorful and delicious for a chain. Some of their salads are also surprisingly decent. It's not super-low calorie, but neither myself nor my husband need to worry about that sort of thing yet. I'm also on the low blood pressure side, so sodium just doesn't even enter the conversation.
                                                                    Also, having lived in Boston for 6+ years now, anytime I get out for paying less than $8 for a sandwich, I am perfectly content.

                                                                    1. Ok, I am eating their cinnamon crunch bagel right now and it's a bad bagel, besides the crunch part.

                                                                      Im only gonna eat the top half. Partly because it tastes like it came froma Pepperidge Farm factory in Iowa. And also because the bottom half is covered with onions.

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                        "Im only gonna eat the top half. Partly because it tastes like it came froma Pepperidge Farm factory in Iowa. And also because the bottom half is covered with onions."

                                                                        OK, I'm sick right now, and that officially really grossed me out - and made me laugh at the same time. Nothing like a good smattering of onions on one's cinnamon crunch bagel...

                                                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                          Lols. I enjoy the cinnamon crunch bagel and the crunchy sugar bits. Although perhaps it would be better with poppyseeds or sesame.

                                                                          I actually am in the pro-Panera camp, and have been since I knew it in the Midwest as East St. Louis Bread & Bakery. I used to eat a soup and sandwich there every week - fast, reasonably delicious, fairly priced.

                                                                          I do think the sandwiches used to have better bread and chips, however. And I believe the sandwiches are getting smaller as well. But it's still a safer bet for me than a random shop or restaurant.

                                                                          1. re: windycity

                                                                            When Panera first opened here in Winchester, VA, for some short time they had a wonderful poached salmon sandwich on the menu. I was informed later that that was only on their opening weeks/months. That set me up for disappointment to come.

                                                                            1. re: Rella

                                                                              Salmon has been a seasonal thing, sometimes showing up in summer.

                                                                        2. I generally don't like chain restaurants. That being said, I love Panera. I can't believe all the people on here complaining about the calories and nutrition, I like the fact that they even tell you. Also, there are options in all ranges. Most of the salads are pretty low ( i love the asian chicken salad) and they are generously portioned. I like the bagels...although I agree with the previous poster who doesn't like to refer to them as bagels because they are nothing like an authentic bagel. They are still tasty and serve a purpose.

                                                                          I also want to mention the smoothies. I LOVE the black cherry smoothie and get one for at least once a week. 290 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and they are so good and very filling. I little on the expensive side, but I tried making them at home and they weren't as good and didn't cost too much less to make once I bought everything.

                                                                          And finally, for the regulars, you can get a free panera card and every 3rd or 4th visit you get something free. It helps offset the cost. I think it's pretty decent quality for the price and convenience and I like all the options.

                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Bobannon

                                                                            Well stated, bobannon. I completely agree.

                                                                            An additional reason I like Panera is their policy on donating food. To the needy.they intentionally overstock all of their bakery items for two reasons: 1) so customers can walk I at five minutes to closing and get any item, and 2) so they have ample product to donate to local food banks.

                                                                            I dont know if every Panera does this but the ones in area all do. I have been the donations coordinator to get product picked upat closing and delivered to the local food bank the next morning. Typically it fills my trunk and Imost of my back seat. You sbould see theappreciation of the food bank's clients when they receive Panera bread and pastries. No cmplaints from them, that's for sure.

                                                                            I'm sure they get to write it off but it still costs them money and effort to

                                                                            1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                              I'm glad you posted this, jlhinwa. I don't know if this is the policy of the Paneras around here (Boston area), but knowing this certainly makes me appreciate them, that's for sure!

                                                                              1. re: threedogs

                                                                                In St. Louis, they've changed one of their stores (across from the county courthouse) to a pay-what-you-want/can, as a part of their charity work, thinking that some of the people who have to be at the courthouse may be...impoverished. (I promise you, it's not for the lawyers....) The last I heard, they were just breaking even, with some folks paying full price and others less.

                                                                                  1. re: lemons

                                                                                    There is one of these pay-what-you-can in Portland, OR too, I'm told.

                                                                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                      Re the Portland outlet, unfortunate tale here from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

                                                                                1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                                  Ugh...sorry for the typos! I was typing that from my cell phone.

                                                                                2. re: Bobannon

                                                                                  Today I had a free coffee which I had declined the last trip there, but this time she said there was fresh coffee coming up. I decided to use my free panera coffee. Confirmation-confirmed that I still cannot drink this coffee. At Hagerstown, MD, it's a different story, the coffee is decent.

                                                                                  Got some attitude with a person behind the counter when I showed her the 'blackened' lettuce sticking out of the sandwich. On the other hand, a nice person came and told me when the when the coffee was up.

                                                                                  Tired of trying to find a quick place to eat when I'm hungry. Putting up with "dog bark coughing," by other customers -- which, of course, has nothing to do with Panera - 'tis the season already, I guess.

                                                                                  Tuna salad sandwich good enough, and the greek salad is good, IMO>

                                                                                3. I like Panera enough to keep a MY Panera card in my wallet :)

                                                                                  The Mediterranean sandwich, breakfast cheese souffle bakes, tomato-basil loaf, Christmas Panettone and coffee bar are on my rotation at least once a month. The My Panera card's even provided a few freebies. I could make all of the items I enjoy at Panera from scratch but every once again I like when someone else welcomes me to the counter, prepares my food and doesn't mind if I run my laptop at "their office" for a hour.

                                                                                  Panera keeps a clean shop and I enjoy enough of their baked offerings to stop in.

                                                                                  1. Yesterday, I walked past the Boylston St. Panera on my way to get a Souper Salad salad and there were two fully uniformed Panera employees laying on the sidewalk, like on their sides, relaxing with a friend and some cigarettes. They were about 10 yards to the left of the Panera entrance and outdoor seating area. They were laughing, smoking and being really obnoxious.

                                                                                    Sorry, but that'll make me think twice about going there again.

                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                      Same here, but a lesser scene. Three girls 'acting up' hanging out in front of the drinks machine. I felt one was particularly goofy -- next time I went, she was making food.

                                                                                      1. re: Rella

                                                                                        Last time I went to the Porter Sq. Panera, I had to flag down an employee behind the counter; they were all just sitting around giggling and talking about how drunk they'd been recently and how much they didn't want to be there today. Great way to make customers feel welcome!

                                                                                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                          I encountered this sort of thing at another chain that I'd not seen or noticed since living in CA decades ago; I thought they had gone out of business.

                                                                                          But in this case it was the bus-boy who was spitting out the f-word with every swipe of the towel. Then he was talking to himself (I suppose he was hoping everyone would hear him); things like "I don't have to do this job, with a rant of cussing.) Pretty darned scarey. I had my eye on him because it was alarming, and he was doing it all over the cavernous restaurant. Definitely won't be going around that restaurant ever. I find this the fault of the people who hire.

                                                                                          1. re: Rella

                                                                                            I doubt he was doing that in the interview.
                                                                                            I'm not sure this is only a problem at chain restaurants, though.

                                                                                            1. re: Fibber McGee

                                                                                              Yeah, Ludo on Ludo bites comes to mind!

                                                                                              1. re: Fibber McGee

                                                                                                My mistake: I should have said:
                                                                                                I find this the fault of the people who hire AND FIRE.

                                                                                        2. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                          Weird because to me the saving grace at the Panera on Comm Ave (near St. Paul St. and my office) is the staff. They are of course likely to be undergrads at BU so that may be a factor. My last fave employee left to go to med school. But they know our names and what we like and are always friendly and helpful which is why so many people in my office go to Panera when there are plenty of other chains in the neighborhood offering mediocre overpriced food.

                                                                                        3. Question: Is the snarlingly negative tone of many of the responses here simply "It's a chain I hate chains" parroting?

                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: jmckee

                                                                                            Answer: (to the best of my ability) I think the snarlingly negative tone (as you perceive it) is the result of two things. One, possibly different managers make for different results in each Panera's.

                                                                                            And two: if one lives in an area where there are lots & lots of independently owned places, the natural result from the competition is better quality in that area. With better quality available, then one ends up feeling really negative about chains (with their mostly poor-quality, processed foods). In a densely populated area, then there are (sometimes) lots of decent competitors w/in a short distance to choose from & many times the products are far superior to the crap sold in chains.

                                                                                            That said - there were a few things I've tried at Panera that I felt were pretty decent - but I haven't felt the need to buy anything at one for a long time.

                                                                                            1. re: threedogs

                                                                                              I've been to Panera twice. The first time the staff were incredibly gracious -- much more so than even in some fine dining experiences! I saw how full it was, started to leave, a young staffer so graciously welcomed me in a found me a seat, and took my order and brought it to me, with the most charming way about him -- not sexy, just charming. I was undone with appreciation. The food was fine. Second time, staff was normally fine, food was fine, I had a hefty, caloric salad but I knew it before I ordered, which I appreciate! It was good, salty and fatty because that's what I wanted, also pretty tasty. I could have gone the non-fatty salty route also. Bread was good too.

                                                                                            2. re: jmckee

                                                                                              Not for me. I really think their food is terrible, and I've tried it again and again. I also resent that they pitch themselves as some kind of "healthy" alternative when nutritionally, much of their food isn't any healthier for you than fast food unless you leave A, B, C and D off of it and get XYZ on the side, which you can also do at a fast food place. I had a peanut butter sandwich there that had less than a teaspoon between the pieces of bread. Soups that have been so salty or over-herb seasoned I had to throw them out. Chewy, spongy bagels. Incredibly salty salad dressings and sandwiches. Mind-blowing fat and calorie content on some menu items. I avoid eating there at all costs. If I'm going to have a fat/calorie/salt blowout, I'll just go to a regular fast food place and pay less.

                                                                                              1. re: jmckee


                                                                                                I eat at chains at lunch with regularity and would eat at Panera all the time since it's the closest restaurant to my office save the food truck.

                                                                                                Its that it's overpriced, calorie laden and mediocre.

                                                                                                And the onions on the cinnamon crunch bagel.

                                                                                                But that employee lying on the ground in uniform smoking 50 feet from the entrance sealed the "never again" deal