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Panera Bread is an establishment that doesn’t abide to the certain rules society has put on the image of a “fast food” restaurant, traditionally run by a cook who wishes to serve food as healthy and delicious as it would be if it came from his grandmother’s kitchen (Gelles 2). Panera, since 1987, has worked towards serving clean, fresh food in a clean, wholesome environment, making huge advances in the fast food industry. With over 1900 restaurants in the U.S., Panera Bread has proven to be one of the most health-minded restaurants in the world.
Founded by Ron Saich in 1987, the first Panera, formerly known as St. Louis Bread, opened in Kirkwood, Missouri. A few years later (1993), Au Bon Pain, an American fast bakery and café chain headed in Boston, Massachusetts, bought the St. Louis Bread company, and in 1997, renamed the restaurant to Panera, meaning “bread basket” in Latin. In 1999, all Au Bon Pain establishments were sold (apart from Panera Bread), and the company was renamed after the restaurant (Warshaw 2). The reputation of Panera began to grow in the early 00’s as did the number of restaurants built. In 2006, Panera Bread was named as the top performer in the restaurant category for one-year, five-year, and ten-year returns to shareholders. In 2010, Ron Saich transferred his job as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to Bill Moreton, and in 2012, the company announced they would share the title of CEO to show the significance of their partnership and commitment to Panera. As of September 2016, there are at least 2,024 bakery-café’s in the U.S., Canada, and the District of Columbia.
Ranging from young children to the elderly, the warm atmosphere attracts people of all ages, races, and classes. The setting inside of the restaurant, usually including a fireplace, carpet flooring and couches, makes people feel welcomed into the home of Panera. Panera has spent their years advertising an image of clean, fresh food. In 2014, Panera advertised they would remove artificial flavors, sweeteners, preservatives and colors from artificial sources from all the items on the menu in their restaurants and from the shelves of their grocery stores by the end of 2016, all the while still keeping prices reasonable. This was known as the “Food as It Should Be” campaign. As of June 2015, up to 90% of all ingredients used in the food is natural. Techniques include digital and display content, billboards, radio advertising, national TV and cinema spots. More than $25 million of the chain’s estimated $90 million annual media budget was used for this campaign. “I think we’ve done a phenomenal job, our supply chain guys and our staff, have done a great job of finding unique solutions,” says Christopher Hollander, the chain’s head of marketing. (Fishman 2).
With any successful company, the behind the scenes work is as important as the buying customers. Over 47,000 employees work for Panera, half of that number working full-time. The staff is most commonly made up students and people in their early to middle adults, with exceptions to the management and executive office. The hiring process is easy, with many online sources saying they were hired on the spot during their interviews. The average hourly pay for a cashier starts at $8.86, a Line Cook at $9.68 per hour, and a Baker’s average pay is $12.09 per hour. A 401(k) is offered after a one year employment, and paid time off for all full-time associates. Medical, dental, vision and life insurance are also available. The working environment varies depending on what your position is; a cashier’s working environment would be clean and tidy and organized, while a bakers could be clean but messy from making food fresh in the kitchen. Panera’s reputation for homemade bread means that a kitchen covered in flour is a high possibility. An anonymous current employee states “My typical day was completing my tasks, and interacting with coworkers and customers. I learned how to cooperate, communicate, and have fun in a work environment while completing my tasks. My managers were amazing: they always took a personal interest in your life and really became your friends.” (glassdoor 1) Panera has a 3.7 out of 5-star rating for employment.
Many American’s like to keep track of their calorie intake, and although Panera was the first restaurant to display calories on every one of their menu items, many people don’t realize how much they should really eat. After a long list of websites and personal reflection, I calculated my daily calorie intake to be 2,915 calories (keep in mind. I’m overweight). The last time eating at Panera Bread, I remember ordering the You Pick 2 (Menu 3) special (Half Salad, Half Sandwich, Cup of Soup, Small Mac & Cheese or 1 Flatbread) and got half of a Roasted Turkey, Apple & Cheddar Sandwich (360 cals), and a cup of Broccoli Cheddar soup (260 cals), along with a glass of Plum Ginger Hibiscus tea (0 cals). I also grabbed a Wild Blueberry scone (470 cals) on the way out. This equals to 1,090 calories consumed. If I hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning or had a very light dinner that night, my calorie intake would be okay, but if I had eaten all 3 meals of the day that day, I most likely went well over my calorie limit. Panera, although healthy, does have an issue with high calorie bakery items such as the scone I ate. Through eliminating all the unnecessary additives, they leave in many items that are high in calories although natural. It is up to the person eating whether it is more important for them to eat in low capacity of calories or to eat foods without artificial preservatives or additives.
Panera Bread has proven to the public that it is possible to have food that is healthy but also delicious (Saich 1). As they continue to pursue the idea of 100% clean food, they still offer an environment safe to people of all ages, whether a paying customer or a staff member. And in my personal opinion, the food is still dang good for not being plagued with what makes fast food restaurants have that satisfying taste. Panera Bread stays true to their beliefs, serving “Food As It Should Be”.
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