Is Panera Losing It? These days its Caffeine, not Bread

By | October 28, 2023
panera kiosk

Panera Bread Restaurants 2023 update

October 28, 2023 — This is an opinion review of Panera by Craig Keefner.¬† Independent consultant and more times wrong than right (but sometimes right!)

I’ve always been a big fan of Panera Bread and in particular Blaine Hurst who led the company for a very long time was CEO.¬† Great service,¬† responsible company and relatively good value pricing. According to the Panera Bread website, their mission and purpose is ‚ÄúOne Panera for a Healthier and Happier World‚ÄĚ. This motto reflects their commitment to using high-quality ingredients while reducing their environmental impact, providing a welcoming space for guests to gather and break bread, and spreading generosity to communities, the planet, and their customers.¬† Panera Bread – Food as it should be.¬† Panera Bread. Bakers of bread. Fresh from the oven. A symbol of warmth and welcome.

I remember Panera 2.0 back in 2015.

Seems like things have changed since he left.

We have always gone to Paneras. My wife has very very few restaurants on her “sure, we can go there”.¬† Paneras is one. Others include Chick-Fil-A and Wendy’s.

I always take my camera phone in case some new technology is being tried. We are north side of Denver in foodie hot spot so we have a choice of anything.

Here is a chronology

  1. We parked. I noticed the three closest pickup spaces. One of which was missing its sign. I thought about parking there but didn’t ūüôā
  2. Walked in past the 3 kiosks
  3. Only us at the counter
  4. Noticed pretty messy counter + paper bulletin on lemonade
  5. She took my phone number but unless we use the app the loyalty program or points never work for us. I only use the app to look at the menu when we call in orders for pickup
  6. I ordered and then my wife started her order.
  7. She got halfway thru and then the clerk let us know her NCR terminal was frozen up so we needed to go to different register.
  8. At least NCR wasn’t in the midst of the ransom Aloha situation
  9. Our order total was around $41 for the two of us
  10. We got my wife order in but then clerk informed us they had no baguettes for the sandwich.
  11. We canceled the sandwich in a bit of frustration
  12. Order total went to $33 and I tipped a dollar.
  13. There were of course 4 customers behind us waiting to order by this time + one at one of the kiosks now.
  14. Little things build up you know….
  15. We looked to see if the fireplace was on (big cold front to Denver) but not yet.
  16. My wife got our order corrected at the window. They had it wrong on the receipt.
  17. She noted we didn’t get a buzzer (you can see them stackup up next to the old POS)
  18. No more delivery like 2.0 — these days you go to a rather tall counter and self-serve pickup. Not sure how people wheelchairs manage that or blind people.
  19. She ended up conversing with the customer who was behind us and each noting a bit disorganized
  20. Food was pretty good though my turkey chili had a bit of crunch to it (beans)
  21. Pretty spendy bowl of chili for $10. Didn’t even get saltines with it…
  22. Bags of chips are super small. We got those instead of baguettes.
  23. Reason for no baguettes?  My wife asked the staff and they said the baker had gone home and none left (5:30pm)
  24. We finished eating
  25. I stopped my the counter and asked the clerk nicely if we deserved a treat since our order on our receipt was incorrect (still listed baguette served e.g.). She wavered but then decided to give us a muffin.
  26. We stopped at table for kiosks
  27. In¬† the car my wife commented “not the best experience and they are getting pretty expensive to eat there”.
  28. I wonder if the kiosks knew about the baguette outage.
  29. The kiosk tablets (iPads) are engineered by Lilitab and Adam Aronson. Very good company (if you like using iPads for kiosks that is)


Here are some photos

Conclusions and Thoughts

  • As a preface Panera Bread is a private company so the usual execs angling for investment gains and bonuses is a bit different.
  • How in the world is 400mg of caffeine (Red Bull is 80) considered “Healthier and Happier”.
  • That is the equivalent of six expressos in case you need a reference point.
  • That borders on serving addiction, not health.
  • And they do have a somewhat disorganized coffee club for frequent drinkers
  • Panera Bread is being sued for an alleged death due to “spiked” lemonade
  • NO baguettes. The flagship “mascot” for the chain. Apparently, presumably some “we’ve doing that too” new AI-enhanced inventory systems neglected to update the stock versus usage levels. People like to eat between 5 and 7.
  • Looks like a mess at the counter with wires, separate haphazard components and stylus. Something from 20 years ago.
  • Recommendation — Invest in new and more attractive and efficient technology. It’s there, you just have to change vendors and spend the money. Kmart went out of business for failing to upgrade.
  • ADA — What were they thinking with the squares for pickup?¬† The marketing whiz people decided to go 19th century here aka cheap.
  • ADA — How high is the kitchen pickup window anyway. I am guessing around 60″
  • Portions have gotten smaller, prices have gotten higher
  • Some other data — I am almost 70 as is my wife — According to a 2018 survey by Statista, 19.17% of Americans aged 18-29 years visited Panera Bread in the past three months. Another source, Business Strategy Hub, states that Panera is perfectly positioned to target consumer demographic ranging from 25 to 44 years, which includes millennials who are the drivers of the consumer market.

Interesting Point of View from Panera’s Founder


Oct 24, 2024 from CNBC — Shaich hasn’t been so complimentary to other recent restaurant IPOs. He said at an Axios event earlier in October that salad chain Sweetgreen¬†shouldn’t have gone public until it was profitable,¬†the outlet¬†reported. (Sweetgreen hasn’t reported a profitable quarter yet, but executives said they think the company could break even for the full year.)

Shaich is less transparent about Panera’s possible IPO. Last year, Panera¬†called off¬†a deal with restaurateur Danny Meyer’s special purpose acquisition company to be publicly traded for the first time since JAB bought the chain. Earlier this year, the company¬†announced¬†it’s preparing for an IPO as it unveiled a CEO succession plan.

Author: Staff Writer

Craig Keefner -- With over 40 years in the industry and technology, Craig is widely considered to be an expert in the field. Major early career kiosk projects include Verizon Bill Pay kiosk and hundreds of others. Craig helped start kioskmarketplace and formed the KMA. Note the point of view here is not necessarily the stance of the Kiosk Association or