MENU INFORMATION…I love how restaurants place calories on the menu. The more fat and caloric information the better and I say a positive trend in the food industry.
FREE SAMPLES…Sometimes, Panera’s employees will walk around customers’ currently relaxing with sandwich or dessert free samples. Of course, it may entice you to order that at some point during that particular visit or the near future. Look, if I’m at the restaurant for 2 hours using their Wi-Fi drinking coffee and enjoying a bagel, I have no druthers about an employee asking me if a want a sample. It’s an effective way of exposing customers to some of their product offerings. It’s a soft sell and often successful.
REWARDS PROGRAM. Because I’m a regular at Panera, their rewards program is something I appreciate too. I have my card on my key chain and they swipe it every time I order something. It’s an Ok program especially if you’re a regular because you can quickly earn points for some free bagels or coffee. To get something or earn points at a restaurant I’d normally visit is a good deal in my mind.
STORE AMBIENCE…I visit many Panera restaurants over the last few years and those restaurants with the meeting rooms are doing something right. They could host networking groups, small business groups or birthday parties. I’m not sure if they can be reserved, but having that option in that type of restaurant certainly might pay off. If they are not being used, they can simply be used as an extension of the restaurant.
I feel more relaxed in Panera and less at a Starbuck’s. At Caribou, I have to ask for a refill. At Panera, I just help myself. Often, I have a cup of coffee and a bagel, use their Wi-Fi, and relax. Often, I’ll get another cup of coffee and be productive.
HOW DO WE GET CORN CHOWDER ON THE MENU? Please Panera, consider adding the corn chowder on the menu. You had the corn chowder on the menu a few years ago and I miss it dearly. I’m vegetarian so I solely order the vegetarian soups and even though I don’t usually tire of the vegetable, black bean or tomato soup, having more variety is something I’d recommend.
BREAD, CHIPS OR AN APPLE? I think it’s great that Panera offers you the choice between bread, chips an apple. Options empower the consumer! Sometimes I choose the bread or chips even though I know I should regularly choose the apple. A few times, I’ve opted for the apple even though the cashier was not aware of the variety. This might be a good idea for the cashier to know the apple variety to help anticipate that question.
A few months ago, I had lunch with a few co-workers who grabbed Panera lunches through the drive thru. The one co-worker opted for the apple even though it wasn’t the best-looking apple – even for a hungry office worker. It was quite small and green and red and wasn’t exactly the perfect way of ending one’s lunch. They joked about the size of the apple. Unfortunately, they were not regulars at Panera. One co-worker convinced them of Panera so they choose the salad. Because they were quite unfamiliar with Panera, I hope the apple issue does not dissuade them from giving Panera another shot in the near future. Even though it’s a great idea to provide that option, you can’t forget about execution.
RESTROOM RENOVATION AND REDESIGN…At the Vernon Hills Panera, I recommend renovating both restrooms. They need a makeover. While they renovate, for the men in particular, they may want to consider enlarging the restroom and provide more facilities – especially considering the type of restaurant and amount of traffic they receive.