Editor’s Note: This is the second version of Too Fast Too Casual, a brand new overview collection where our National Writer-at-Large Kevin Alexander takes a close look at both traditional and up-and-coming fast-informal chains.
The growing rapid-informal fashion is defining how Americans devour these days. In this collection, we’ll look at the meals, history, decor, and branding of rapid-informal chains to see what those restaurants are definitely looking to do and where this is all going. I feel unfastened to read the primary one here and count on a brand new evaluation every Friday for the next few weeks.
“What is a Panera?” the older gentleman requested.
The woman at the counter stopped. “Excuse me?”
“A Panera,” he said once more. “Is it a kind of sandwich? Like a panini?”
“Oh,” she said, her face reddening slightly. “I wager… [pause]. I bet I don’t realize, sir.”
Alarmingly, I actually have thought about this change for weeks (also, I looked it up: It means “bread field” in Spanish). But in case you concept about it existentially, then the query posed through the René Descartes First Meditation fan in front of me in line wasn’t a bad one. I mean, truly — what precisely is Panera?
Where did Panera come from?
In the early ’80s, a newly minted Harvard business school graduate named Ron Shaich opened the Cookie Jar in Boston, then quickly found out most effective unsavory parents sold cookies earlier than lunch, so he added baguettes and croissants in the morning purchased from a failing French bakery known as Au Bon Pain.
Realizing many of his clients have been shopping for baguettes and meat from nearby delis for DIY sandwiches, he sensed a possibility and, alongside investors, purchased the Au Bon Pain bakeries and added a sandwich shop issue. In the ’80s and ’90s, Au Bon Pain grew right into a modest countrywide strength with over 250 locations generally focused on white-collar metropolis workers on lunch breaks. However, it started to stagnate. So in 1993, they purchased St. Louis Bread Company, a small Midwest sandwich/bakery chain with a greater expansive selection of bread and a much wider demo: the suburban lunch crowd.
To focus on what SLBC was doing, Shaich and his traders offered off Au Bon Pain in 1999, and, so it did not feel tethered to the City of Toasted Ravioli, renamed the chain Panera. The early aughts were — rhyme INTENDED — Panera’s Golden Era, as books like Fast Food Nation and docs like Super Size Me drove parents away from conventional fast food and into extra fitness-aware choices.
It helped that, at the time, Panera didn’t virtually have countrywide competition; or even nowadays, with 2,200 places inside the US, it would not have a clean, one-to-one rival (Dunkin’ No Longer Donuts is likely the nearest overlap, but even that feels tenuous). In 2017, Panera offered to European conglomerate JAB Holdings for $7.Five billion, and then, in a chunk of serendipity, repurchased Au Bon Pain, the very identical employer that at first bought Panera. Business stuff!!!
What is Panera seeking to do now?
On the wall when you walk into a Panera, there’s a black and white task statement, with the whole line: “We consider in raising, serving, and consuming food that is ideal and proper for you.” At the counter, as you peruse the sparkling blueberry desserts and the kitchen-sink cookies and the orange iced scones, a hand-painted signal tells you the whole lot turned into baked by using “Sergio H” and “Tammy S.”
The 20-ounce cups you are given along with your meal list off the teaspoons of sugar of their numerous beverages. When I ordered an absurd quantity of food for one, the female at the counter informed me I could sub out my bread aspect for an apple. All of this made me wonder if Panera becomes practicing a few new shapes of radical transparency so one can make you watched less about the giant business enterprise behind the shop and more approximately the human beings cutting bagels St. Louis-style in the front of you.
“It’s like an Apple industrial, except instead of a smartphone, it is macaroni and cheese.”
They truly do not appear to care if you hung around (in reality, I’m writing this from internal a Panera RIGHT NOW). The cubicles and huge tables experience like they ought to be in a complete service restaurant, and they offer loose Wi-Fi. The crowd every time I went was a mix of retired oldsters killing time with books, newspapers, and big-format Sudoku printouts; numerous people from places of work and retail jobs in the region; and ambiguous Wi-Fi junkies staring carefully at computers after their half-drank Madagascar Vanilla Almond bloodless brew coffee refills.
But what do they want us to think?
A nameless creative director at a flowery advertising corporation watches Panera’s advertisements and tells us what they need us to think.
“They’re all approximately the food. These ‘table top’ shoots are particularly uninteresting however serve their reason; that is why there is very little else to have a look at, and the uncommon performance is tremendous-cheesy. The client literally only cares about how the food looks, and the organization has given up on trying to persuade them otherwise. You’ll notice masses of comparable framings.
Quick cuts. Shot from directly above. The warm, innocent voice-over effectively offends no person. The tagline is obvious and easy. The ads display all types of distinctive eating scenarios (alone vs. Collectively, at home vs. At paintings), so it seems like they may be now not going for a particular crowd. It’s like an Apple business, except rather than a smartphone, it’s macaroni and cheese.”