What is it about Panera?
If you think you’re going for good food–fuggedaboutit!
Ditto an Internet connection.
Seriously, why does anyone eat at Panera?
The food is terrible.
The service is thoughtless.
It’s drab, if not dirty.
And the promised wifi is more of a concept than a reality.
Could I be the only person in America that’s never had a good experience at Panera?
The first time we went, it was in Connecticut for breakfast. I don’t even remember what I had, but Frank ordered a bagel with lox and cream cheese and got something that was unlike any bagel he’d ever seen (and not in a good way).
More recently, I met my partner in HudsonValleyEATS.com in the one in Poughkeepsie near Adams. There were three people standing behind the counter. One man helping a customer, the other two chatting.
When the man was finished, I went up and asked for an iced tea. “$2.91.” I handed him the money, he handed me an empty plastic cup.
“It’s down on the end.”
“Nice profit margin.”
Took a walk down to the end, found the iced tea, ice, lemon and sugar. Grabbed a lid and a straw, did all the work. Took a sip.
Yesterday, I got suckered into another Panera rendezvous, this time at a different Poughkeepsie location.
The place is crowded and none of the vacant tables have been wiped down. Ugh.
Grab some napkins, wipe down a table, get in line to order food (none of which sounded appealing, but I’m really hungry).
The guy behind the register has to look up the Frontega Chicken panini I asked about.
Smoked chicken, mozzarella, tomatoes, onions, chipotle mayo, basil. This is from the photo on Panera’s site:
Sounded about as interesting as the others so I ordered it, “no onions,” and a cup for a drink (see, I’m learning).
The top photo is what I got.
A mud-grey plastic plate with cheese glued to a piece of corrugated paper, LOTS of onions and a couple pallid bits of chicken.
There were black stripes on the bread to make it look like it had been put in a panini press, but the corrugated paper made me think the panini press was more like a microwave…
Because I was hungry, I ate the half-sandwich, hating myself for putting this absolute junk in my mouth.
And the so-called wifi? The whole time I was trying to eat the sandwich, we could not pull up a single page from the web.
We left totally disgusted. The place was dirty. The food was inedible but I was starving. The iced tea once again needed a return trip for more ice, but I just dumped it.
“Food as it should be.”
Please, let’s hope not!
If you are a Panera fan, please tell me what it is that you like about it. It won’t bring me back, but I am really curious.
Update: Found this in my bag afterwards:
So sad that I missed my free treat…
It was in the Harrisburg, PA area. I think I would like blood orange iced tea. The lemonade was too sweet.
Thanks Sharon! It’s definitely a popular place and they’re always busy.
Just out of curiosity, where was the one you were at? Blood orange must be the flavor of the moment (although I always think of it as being a fall/winter thing). I just had a blood orange iced tea at an event on Sunday which tasted better than it sounded.
I was just at Panera yesterday. I have to agree with your statements about the wifi. I had blood orange lemonade to drink. It sounds better than it tasted. However, the french onion soup was one of the best I ever had.
I really enjoyed reading your blog! My kids like Panera so I occasionally take them. I found the food to be fair, but they have definitely cut down on staff as much as possible (our Panera in Paramus, NJ has iPads set up for ordering.) I suspect that they are best at selecting good locations because the place is always crowded.
Maybe it’s a NY thing, but the first one we were at was in CT…
If I moved there, I’d be 2000 pounds from eating Graeters ice cream!!
When I lived in the NYC area, I hated Panera for the same reasons you do. For some reason, it’s a whole different experience in the Cincinnati area. Clean. I have a fave salad that’s always good. Wifi works like a charm.
Maybe you should move here!