Insider Tips From Panera Bread Employees That Most Customers Don’t Know
This article originally appeared on BusinessInsider.com.
According to the company's website, Panera Bread now boasts "2,000 bakery-cafés" and employs around 100,000 associates. Some Panera Bread employees work at corporate-run stores, while others work for franchisees.
Either way, all of these employees glean valuable insight into their store's inner-workings.
Here are a few things all Panera Bread employees know.
You can always try asking for a specialized order...
If you want an order tweaked at Panera Bread, it can't hurt to ask.
In a 2018 Quora post, associate trainer Ariana Dickerson wrote that calorie-conscious customers should ask for help.
"If you're worried about calories or how many just ask any associate, they'll grab their nutrition guide and help you create your perfect salad," she wrote on Quora.
Former Panera Bread employee Josh Benner took to Quora to make all sorts of suggestions, including asking for free granola toppings on fruit salads, requesting toasted sandwiches, and swapping the bread on certain sandwiches.
"Some sandwiches are on breads that just don't make sense," he wrote. "I'm looking at you turkey avocado on sour dough. Nobody should have to deal with the hassle of fitting that big sandwich on such a small piece of bread."
... and you can also ask for options other than the standard baguette side order
Not in the mood for one of Panera Bread's traditional side baguettes?
That's okay. You've got options.
"You also have the option of a sprouted grain dinner roll," Panera Bread catering coordinator Laura Biermann wrote in a 2018 Quora post.
What's more, associate Luis Torres wrote in a 2017 Quora post that customers also "have the option to pick two slices of any of the other breads we offer."
The bread is really baked in the store
At Panera Bread, the titular product is really baked at the restaurant. Individual stores receive daily shipments of pre-mixed dough.
"I do really bake the bread," a Panera Bread baker wrote in a 2015 Reddit AMA. "The bread is just mixed at a big factory and than transported to us every night or morning, so we can let it rise."
The baker added that Panera Bread employees bake all the breads — including sourdough, ciabatta, focaccia, croissants, and challah— the sweets behind the glass, and soufflés.
Likewise, the employee added that Panera Bread soups are delivered in bag, and then heated up into "this scary-looking thing called a thermalizer."
Another Panera Bread baker wrote in a 2013 Reddit post that "the final baked product was always baked during the night before" at Panera, and surplus product is typically donated to local charities.
You've got to be strategic if you want a bread bowl
Craving a bread bowl at Panera? Make sure you don't wait too late in the day to order one.
"We run through bread bowls really fast," a Reddit poster who said they worked as a baker at the chain wrote in a 2013 thread. "We prep them at around 10 a.m. or so, preceding the lunch rush. Then we run out at about four or five. Get there early."
Another Panera Bread baker wrote in a 2015 Reddit post that some restaurants run out of the product at the end of the day.
"We make as many as we are projected to sell that day, based on previous sales and trends," the baker wrote. "We don't sell any bread that we didn't make that day, so, if we over-bake 'just in case,' it will end up being a big loss."
Employees get some tasty perks
Panera Bread employees get a discount of anywhere from 50% to 75% off meals up to $10.
"Standard associate discount is 50% off your meal," a Reddit poster wrote in 2017. "The max is supposed to be $10, but I've never seen it enforced. Managers and caterers get a free meal."
"You have to use the discount around your workshift, though," a former part-time employee wrote in a 2014 blog post. "If you want to use your discount outside of work, you have to apply for an employee certificate that will get you 50% off any corporate store. You can give these certificates to friends and family as gifts."
A Panera Bread baker wrote in a 2015 Reddit AMA that they were able to "take home ten dollars-worth of food every time I work" at their restaurant.
At Panera Bread, breakfast doesn't last all day
It's not always breakfast time at Panera Bread.
According to a Quora post from Panera Bread associate Julissa Gonzalez, breakfast hours may vary between different restaurants.
"Primarily, we stop serving breakfast between 10:30 and 11 a.m.," she wrote. "Once 11 a.m. hits, we start serving all of the soups. Soups are unavailable before 11 a.m. because breakfast is being served still."
"Breakfast serving hours will vary depending on location, demand, and possibly whether or not the Panera in question is a franchise or corporate location," associate trainer Derek Bedell wrote.
"The Panera I worked at did have a designated breakfast time and a designated lunch time, but, from other posts I have seen on here, that might not be the case for all of them," former associate Emily Carver wrote on Quora. "We opened at 6 a.m. and we served breakfast only until 10:30 a.m., and at that time we started transitioning into lunch and stopped selling breakfast."
Don't try visiting Panera Bread on Thanksgiving or Christmas
Three current and former Panera Bread employees took to a 2017 Quora thread to reveal that Panera Bread is only ever closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"Hours will vary on region, and whether the Panera in question is franchise or corporate," Panera Bread associate trainer Derek Bedell wrote.