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Top 10 Untold Truths of Panera Bread

35 years ago, Panera Bread grew from a single cookie shop into a chain of over two thousand bakery-cafes. These days, Panera employs ten thousand employees and rakes in more than five billion dollars a year. This chain of eateries is all about embracing change to meet the needs of customers. During the 80s, the company’s founder, Ron Shaich, owned a cookie store and decided to merge it with a bakery. The end result was Au Bon Pain Co. Inc. A short time later, he and his business partner, Louis Kane, who has now passed away, began to visualize a new direction, which included more than cookies and croissants. They wanted to sell sandwiches with upscale appeal. By 1991, Au Bon Pain Co., Inc. was successful enough to be traded publicly. In 1993, the company acquired the Saint Louis Bread Company, which had nineteen shops. By the mid-1990’s, a lot of people were looking for food that wasn’t typical processed fast food fare. Ron wanted to provide these kinds of customers with real food, which was served by respectful staff in a welcoming environment. He decided to re-brand the Saint Louis Bread Company as Panera and the rest is history. The chain of bakery-cafes was now poised to go national. During 1998, Ron realized that Panera was loaded with potential, but needed more resources. At this point, he chose to sell off his Au Bon Pain Co., Inc. division and put the proceeds into expanding Panera. His dream of turning Panera into a popular national chain came true. Panera is known for its wholesome foods, which are free of trans fats, colors and artificial preservatives. Salads, soups, sandwiches and baked goods at Panera are definitely comfort food. If you’re a Panera fan, you’ll enjoy discovering the Top 10 Untold Truths Of Panera Bread.

10. They Once Renamed A Soup At Chrissy Teigen’s Request

Chrissy is always outspoken on social media and food is one of her favorite topics. She’s a cookbook author, after all. When Panera asked the Food & Drug Administration to clarify what egg means in food for sale, because the bakery-cafe chain’s VIPs believe that only actual eggs should be labelled as eggs, Chrissy agreed with them. She then suggested jokingly that Panera should rename its popular Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Delicious Cream Times. Panera obliged and then proceeded to send Chrissy containers of Broccoli Cheddar soup that featured Delicious Cream Times labels! That was pretty funny and, of course, Chrissy tweeted about it. For a while, the company also changed the name of the soup at its official website. The name wasn’t changed at the restaurants. These days, Delicious Cream Time soup is called Broccoli Cheddar Soup again, but Chrissy can always remember the good times. Chrissy is still tweeting up a storm. 

9. They Were Once The USA’s Largest Provider Of Free Wi-Fi

You probably don’t know that Panera was, at one time, the biggest provider of one hundred percent free Wi-Fi hotspots in America. Panera was the perfect place for people with mobile devices to hang out. They could enjoy fresh-baked bread, other healthy fare, and free Web connections. These days, most larger chain restaurants do provide free Wi-Fi to customers, but that wasn’t always the case. Panera was on the cutting edge in terms of offering the ultimate in Internet connectivity to patrons. Naturally, the company still offers free Wi-Fi to customers, in addition to great food. to connect to free Wi-Fi at Panera, you won’t need to get a password or special code from a server. If you’re using a laptop while you’re at the restaurant, you will need to enable the wireless adapter on your computer. When it is enabled, access free Wi-Fi should be very easy. 

8. They Bake Their Bread Fresh Every Day

Panera is beloved in large part because of its fresh-baked bread. The restaurant chain bakes more bread daily than any other similar eatery. Skilled bakers make each and every loaf from scratch, using premium ingredients. Dough which is also made by Panera staff members is delivered each day in trucks, to each Panera location, and the in-store bakers take it from there. Panera is all about best-quality breads and this is one of the reasons why people get addicted to their food. Panera’s artisan approach to bread-making is something that discerning customers appreciate. Panera fans enjoy savoring bread that is aromatic, fresh-baked and made with the good stuff, rather than a lot of processed ingredients.

Employees who know everything about the restaurant do have preferences from the menu, and it’s no surprise that their preferences include fresh-baked bread. One staff favorite is the Steak and Arugula Sandwich, which is meaty and filling, with a unique flavor profile. The Modern Caprese Sandwich is also a big hit, thanks to its tasty tomato confit and pesto. The Modern Caprese Sandwich is a meat-free option.  Employees also enjoy noshing on Tex-Mex-inspired Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melts. Every year, Panera sells roughly two hundred and forty million bagels and one hundred and fifty million bread loaves. To make all of this fresh-baked goodness, the company needs one hundred and forty million pounds of flour annually. 

7. Certain Menu Items Aren’t As Fresh As The Bread

While the bread products sold at Panera are undoubtedly fresh and wholesome, you shouldn’t assume that everything available at Panera is just as fresh. An employee who spilled the beans about Panera online revealed that the Mac and Cheese is pre-made and arrives at Panera locations frozen, in bags. It’s then heated up in a microwave or in boiling water. Also, a staff member has passed on a little tip about avocados at Panera. They are still nice and fresh around lunchtime, but tend to sit around for hours afterwards if unused in menu items, so they aren’t as fresh later in the day. For the freshest avocado experience, order this ingredient at lunchtime and avoid it further on in the day. Bear in mind that reports from employees may be true or false. They are generally anonymous reports, so there’s no way to be sure that they aren’t just stories, rather than facts. 

6. They Have A Community Cafe For The Needy

The Panera Cares cafe is a community cafe. It was created to help the needy. It’s a non-profit community cafe run by a public charity called the Panera Bread Foundation. The cafe addresses an important issue, which is hunger in the community. Statistics from The United States Department of Agriculture show that one in seven USA households have trouble affording enough food for household members at some point during the year. 

To help out, the team at Panera established a charitable foundation and then opened Panera Cares cafes, which operate via a “pay what you can” model. Each Panera Cares menu item has a suggested donation amount. This amount indicates the retail value of the menu item, which is based on the cost of operating expenses and the cost of feeding needy patrons who don’t make donations. Customers who don’t make the suggested donation amounts are limited to ordering one drink and entree each week. Those who can’t contribute to their meals may earn meal vouchers, by donating an hour of their time per week, as volunteers. 

5. Only One Community Cafe Remains Open

Of course, it is going to cost a lot to run these “pay what you can” community cafes. While most customers will be honorable, there are also those who may game the system. Plus, people with money to pay for Panera food may not want to eat with the neediest members of their communities. Because the cost of running Panera Cares cafes is so high, the Panera Bread Foundation had to close some of the cafes down. The truth is that Panera closed all but one down. Only the Boston location remains open. In the new year, in 2018, a Panera Cares cafe in St. Louis closed its doors. Two years earlier, a Panera Cares location located in Dearborn, Michigan shut down after six years in business. Initially, the Panera Cares concept was mean to be self-sustaining. Unfortunately, most of the cafes were losing money. The self-sustaining model just wasn’t working. 

There were issues with these cafes. They looked just like typical Panera locations, but some needy people found the experience of putting whatever money they could afford to pay into donation boxes, under the watchful eye of Panera clerks, to be degrading. Also, reviews posted online suggest that many people who do have money to pay full retail for Panera fare just don’t feel comfortable eating in these cafes, because they are seated alongside homeless people. While the concept of Panera Cares is noble and beautiful, it was a social experiment that couldn’t sustain itself. Hopefully, the Boston Panera Cares location will stay open.

4. Panera Gets A High Rating For Healthy Food

Panera was created as an alternative to greasy and unhealthy fast food. This is a bakery-cafe that definitely provides healthy options to customers. If you’re health-conscious and weight-conscious, you should consider ordering the the Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken or the Black Bean Soup. Other impressively healthy menu items at Panera include Steel Cut Oatmeal with Almonds, Quinoa and Honey, Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken and the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich. The Avocado, Egg White and Spinach Sandwich is also a good option. If you’re craving a turkey sandwich, order a Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT. All of this food sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s wholesome food that isn’t laden with artificial ingredients, major fat gram counts and high calories. It’s quite possible to eat healthy at Panera. The restaurant chain’s mission was to provide healthy choices for customers who were looking for something better for their bodies than fast food. While every menu item at Panera isn’t as healthy as the ones we’ve listed today, there are lots of healthy menu items to choose from.

3. They Posted Calorie Counts Before Other Eateries Did

Panera was a trailblazer in terms of providing customers with calorie counts for its menu items. The bakery-cafe chain offered this important information to patrons long before most restaurant chains did. These days, people are a lot more informed about calorie counts in food than they used to be. Many people are on special diets, such as Keto diets, and want calorie counts, in addition to full nutritional information. Panera delivers by being completely transparent about what’s in the food that it sells. Since this company is all about wholesome food that isn’t filled with unhealthy ingredients, the company has always been proud to share calorie count information with its customers. Panera may have started a trend, as it’s rare nowadays for an eatery not to share calorie count information. Panera was also the first restaurant chain to share whole grain content information with customers. Also, in 2004, Panera removed antibiotics from their chicken supply and started a new, Clean Food program in 2016. Panera’s open and honest approach to informing customers is admirable. 

2. There Are Higher-Calorie Options On The Menu

Yes, you can go low-cal at Panera, but you don’t have to. If you’re looking for more calories, you will have no trouble finding something to order at this bakery-cafe chain. Some menu items look deceptively healthy, but have more calories and fat grams than you might expect. One example is the Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken. This salad has five hundred and seventy calories, plus thirty-four fat grams, seven grams of which come from saturated fat. It also has five hundred and eighty milligrams of sodium and thirty-six grams of carbs. You’ll get twenty-nine grams of protein when you order this tasty salad. While the chicken used in this menu item is raised antibiotic-free, this salad with chicken and apples is not the healthiest Panera option. 

Another menu item with a fairly high calorie count is the Cinnamon Crunch Bagel. It contains four hundred and thirty calories, seven grams of fat, 4.5 grams of which comes from saturated fat, three hundred and eighty milligrams of sodium and a whopping eighty-two grams of carbs. If you put a topping on your Cinnamon Crunch Bagel, and lots of people opt for cream cheese toppings, the overall calorie and fat gram count is going to soar even higher. What’s most unhealthy about the Cinnamon Crunch Bagel is its sugar count. It contains thirty-two grams of sugar. That’s the equivalent of eight teaspoons of white sugar. Sure, there are times when it’s fun to indulge in foods that aren’t as healthy as other menu item options. When you want a treat, on a cheat day from your diet or just to indulge and live a little, you can opt for Panera menu items with more fat, calories, salt and sugar. However, it’s always good to know which menu items are not diet-friendly. If you want a low-calorie option at Panera, you should avoid the delicious Mac and Cheese, too. New England Clam Chowder and The Italian On A Hoagie Roll are also not the healthiest options for weight-conscious customers. 

1. Small Fountain Drinks Are Refillable

One interesting fact to be aware of is that the small fountain drink at Panera is an awesome deal, because it’s refillable. If you usually order bigger fountain drinks, scale back by going for a small. You may refill it if you’re still thirsty when your cup is empty. While free refills are available, the company believes that patrons need nutritional information about these drinks. Panera management want customers to know just how much sugar and how many calories may be lurking in their fave soft drinks. This is why Panera became the 1st restaurant chain to post sugar and calories counts right on their soda machines. The founder of Panera says that he’s not anti-soft drink and has a warm relationship with PepsiCo. However, he believes that customers need nutritional information so they can make informed choices. 

Now that you know the top ten untold truths of Panera, you’ve got the inside scoop on this delightful bakery-cafe. There is a lot that’s impressive about Panera, from its charitable initiatives to its transparency about nutritional information to its fresh-baked bread. Panera does offer healthy choices, along with some high-calorie, high-fat menu items. Whether you want the healthiest fare or something more decadent, you will find it at Panera. This restaurant chain’s exponential growth proves that it really delivers for its customers. It’s a great option when you don’t want deep-fried fast food from burger or fried chicken joints. 

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