I discovered a Panera Bread near my home in Las Vegas several months ago while I was searching for cafes where I could hang out and work. As a freelance writer and blogger, I love places like this that offer good coffee, delicious fresh-baked bagels, free wifi and power outlets so that I can sit and write for more than 45 minutes (my laptop battery life sucks!).
So I was thrilled when I found the Panera Bread on West Lake Mead by the 95 freeway here on the west side of Vegas. It has everything I want in a “writer’s café”, and it’s just a few minutes from my home.
It was perfect!
Except that it wasn’t…
Panera Management Could Use A Refresh
I’ve written literally hundreds of articles dealing with business topics like management and marketing. Hundreds. I’ve also had a few supervisor jobs, been self-employed for several years and have started several micro-businesses myself. I’m not a business expert or a success story by any means, but I’ve learned a thing or two about how to run a business.
One thing that I’ve come to loathe is any manager or employee who makes excuses and accepts problems rather than fixing them, and that’s what I’ve experienced at this location.
At first, I came here every day, sometimes early in the morning and sometimes late at night. I enjoy their hazelnut coffee mixed with decaf (I’m trying to cut caffeine…a little), and their food is good too, but after coming here a dozen times or so, I stopped.
Out of the 10-20 times I came here, I experienced the following problems:
- My cup was FILLED with coffee grounds – twice!
- They were out of decaf or out of hazelnut, and I had to wait 15-30 minutes (yes, as a blogger I actually keep track of dumb shit like that) – 3 different times!
Oh, also, when I brought the coffee grounds issue to the attention of a manager/supervisor after it had happened to me on two separate visits, the manager smiled and said that it was because the coffee had just been made and that the first couple of cups poured always have grounds in them – and then he walked away.
So this is a KNOWN problem, yet instead of fixing the problem, the managers brush it off and make excuses?
Now, I’m not a coffee snob or a whiner, and I normally wouldn’t give a damn if the manager had said something like, “Sorry, we must have forgotten to dump out the first few cups. Here, let me get you a fresh cup” or something like that. But to tell me that you know about the problem and are able to fix it, yet you don’t do anything about it just tells me that you’re a pretty lousy manager.
This wasn’t just a few coffee grounds swirling around. Every swallow of coffee was literally gritty. And management does…nothing.
Panera Bread Versus Starbucks
Do you know how many times I’ve experienced coffee grounds in my cup at Starbucks?
Try take a guess.
I’ve literally spent THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS on Starbucks coffee over the years, drank THOUSANDS of cups of coffee from them. Guess how many times I had coffee grounds up in there?
Come, on. Play along.
I’ve NEVER ONCE encountered massive quantities of coffee grounds in my cup of coffee at Starbucks. Maybe a few grounds on a rare occasion, but never so many that it was undrinkable.
Now, maybe it does happen from time to time at Starbucks. Maybe some of you have come across that. That’s understandable. But I’ll go out on a limb and say that it ALMOST never happens. Why is that?
Maybe the managers at Starbucks know how to manage, and they fix problems instead of just blowing them off with a friendly smile?
If you are a manager at Panera Bread, and you KNOW that the first few cups of coffee will be filled with coffee grounds, then why the hell don’t you train your employees to dump the first few cups whenever they make a fresh batch of coffee?
Problem solved, right?
Well…not at Panera.
To their credit, the employees do seem to be well-chosen and well-trained in providing friendly service. I will give them that. That was noticeable on every single visit, and I appreciate that, so kudos to their managers for making good hiring decisions and for training their new hires well to offer friendly service.
But good customer service isn’t just about being friendly.
Good customer service is about solving problems, not blowing them off and making excuses.
As writer and consultant John C. Maxwell is famous for saying, “Everything rises and falls on management.”
So come on, Panera.
Get your act together.
Oh, and before I forget…what’s the deal with customers having to wait for up to half an hour while you brew a new batch of coffee? After getting annoyed and getting my coffee elsewhere for the past few months, I decided to resurrect my morning Panera ritual to come here and write, and what happens? You’re out of f*cking hazelnut again. It’s not even 9:00 am and you’re out of f*cking hazelnut. How long will I have to wait for hazelnut this time?
So I took my half cup of decaf and sat down to write this little rant.
14 minutes later…hazelnut.
Wanna guess how many times I ordered coffee at Starbucks and had to wait 14 minutes to get it?
Chris Desatoff is a blogger, cartoonist and gamer. Check out his blog at ChrisDesatoff.com
All text and photos copyright Chris Desatoff 2017