Dear Panera Bread....What are You Thinking!?!

Dear Panera Bread Just West Of Cleveland Ohio Off Interstate 90,

What are you thinking?

Early this morning I was traveling along I-90 and decided to stop for an hour or so and get some work done on my laptop. Normally, I'd try to find a local coffee house with wi-fi, but alas, there were none to be found at my exit. So i chose you...Panera.

Big mistake.

Turns out, my kids must have been facebooking on my computer last night and my battery is completely i start the hunt for an outlet. Lo and behold, there are 3 tables with outlets right below them, so i pick a two-topper.

I proceed to unload my computer, work materials, and my power adapter. I plug into the outlet....oh, wait...the outlet has been weirdly blocked off and I can't even plug in.

On to table #2....same thing.

Table #3...ditto.

It's obvious that these outlets worked at one time, but they've all been disabled, the plugs have been installed at a weird angle, and they have all been painted black.

And, from the look of scratches on the black paint on the outlet, I'm about the 800th person who has attempted to plug in!

Now dear Panera, I understand why you want to do this...electricity is expensive and you need to cut costs wherever you can. I get it.

But, I am your TARGET CUSTOMER. I travel this way all the time. I'm always looking for a place to pop in and get a little work done.

You've just alienated me forever. I walked out without spending a dime and I'll never be back. Sorry.

I may have used 15 cents worth of electricity during my stay, but i was planning on buying one of your overpriced bagel / donuts, and a cup of coffee for about $3.00, of which your cost is well under a dollar.

On second thought. I'm not sorry. You chose to alienate a great potential long term customer worth hundreds of dollars in new revenue and you chose to save a couple of pennies instead.

You made the choice, not me.

Views: 152

Tags: Panera, computer, customer, service


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Comment by Rod Brant on January 8, 2010 at 12:12pm
Yeah, good article.

Love this comment made on that site:

"Ironically, earlier in the day Laura and I were discussing how rude some "wi-fi regulars" can be. I made up a little mini-manifesto:
(1) share power
(2) take your call outside
(3) be nice
(4) don't stare
(5) buy stuff"

I couldn't agree more.
Comment by Michael Biesemeyer on January 8, 2010 at 10:51am
An article in the SF Gate about this very issue:

For owners - some whose stores flourished from the tech boom and crashed when it busted - the latest wave of business can be too much of a good thing. Their tables are full of customers nursing the same latte for four hours, placing owners in the delicate position of playing coffee cop. In the age of Yelp, Twitter and Foursquare, customers know which cafes tolerate long stays and which post signs, limit Internet time or give them the stink eye.

Many cafes are trying ways to keep regulars and walk-ins happy. One in the Mission covered electrical outlets so laptop users would leave after a few hours. Another in Pacific Heights allots Internet time according to the amount spent on food and drinks. A third, Coffee Cat in Scotts Valley (Santa Cruz County), revoked its free Internet access, prompting regulars to defect and rant online about what one calls a breach of "coffee shop etiquette."

Read more:

Comment by Rod Brant on December 27, 2009 at 5:48am
So, Sam is essentially saying that he is OK with the sales prevention strategies in place at that particular Panera...mainly because they are big, and need to "balance the needs".

Sounds very similar to a bad government program to me.


PS- thanks for the effort Patti and Happy New Year!
Comment by Patti on December 25, 2009 at 5:46pm
Merry Christmas Rod- Here's the exact email I received from Panera regarding your issue:

-----Original Message-----
From: Sam []
Sent: Thursday, December 24, 2009 12:30 PM
Subject: RE: Contact Us [My experience at Panera Bread] --- MESSAGEID(94501) Tue, 22 Dec 2009 15:59:47 -0600

Dear Patti,

Thank you for passing on the comments you retrieved from a website you belong to regarding our free WiFi. We are glad to know that you enjoy our bakery-cafes and value our free WiFi service. The electricity expense is not a concern of ours. Frankly, we have had so many complaints from customers who can't find a place to sit at lunch time due to WiFi users monopolizing tables for long periods of time that we were forced to try to manage WiFi usage more effectively. Limiting WiFi access to 30 minutes during peak operating hours has been an effective solution in many bakery-cafes. Some bakery-cafes have also closed off power outlets to prevent electrical cords from becoming a safety/tripping hazard. It depends on what the management team feels is best for their particular cafes.

Panera Bread is the largest provider of free WiFi in the nation and we are simply looking for solutions that will balance the needs of all of our customers. We hope you will understand why we need to do this and will continue to enjoy our bakery-café and our free WiFi.

Thank you again for contacting us. We appreciate your business and value your comments.

Customer Comment Coordinator

This email may contain information which is privileged and/or confidential. If you are not the intended recipient, please notify the sender immediately via return email, then delete this communication and all copies. Please do not copy, forward, or disclose the contents of this email. Thank you for your cooperation.

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Tuesday, December 22, 2009 4:00 PM
To: ContactUs
Subject: Contact Us [My experience at Panera Bread] --- MESSAGEID(94501) Tue, 22 Dec 2009 15:59:47 -0600

This message was submitted through the Contact form on

Comment by Rod Brant on December 22, 2009 at 6:38pm
More evidence of the Cano curve in action:
Comment by Jeffrey J Kingman on December 22, 2009 at 2:15pm
I would be interested to know what the "lurkers" here on FohBoh think about this.

Many of my work days I spend part of the time in favorite coffee houses (the ones with electrical outlets; I don't need internet as I have a national wifi attennae with Comcast). I make certain that the owners get to know me, that I drop a little cash and that I tip. I also plug them on the street and on the social web. Granted, these locations are independents.

I think if you went to Panera's Facebook site and posted this right on their wall, you'd likely get a response. If anything, it would be interesting to watch how they respond to a dissatisfied "former" customer through socialmedia. If you don't get a response, let me know - I know someone who knows the C-Team at Panera.
Comment by Patti on December 22, 2009 at 2:09pm
I just submitted this whole link of chat to Panera Bread & asked them what they thought of what happened to Rob - obviously he feels very bad about his experience there. They didn't meet his expectations. They should probably know they are offending potential business.

I think if he'd have gone in and sat down & there were never any outlets there wouldn't be an issue here. I wouldn't have a restaurant that offered internet, but this isn't about me - We'll have to see if they contact me or Rob - I am interested in their take on this. I'll let you know if I hear anything.
Comment by Michael Biesemeyer on December 22, 2009 at 1:53pm

For some reason, your post keeps sticking with me. I totally understand your frustration with Panera. They decided, at least in that particular outlet, to alienate the guests who are there to plug in. Their solution was drastic and borderline punitive. It's too bad that they didn't take the time or care to think up a win-win solution.

I hope that you have the time and inclination to contact their COO and let him/her know how disappointed you are. Perhaps they will be motivated to make some changes.

Comment by Rod Brant on December 22, 2009 at 11:59am
Here's what I know:
- They had a ton of empty tables, so they apparently needed my business,
- i wanted to spend money,
- They made it very difficult for me to stay due to the system, rules, procedures, etc. they decided to put into play
- I left.

So, I guess their rules and systems worked to perfection, didn't they?
Comment by Patti on December 21, 2009 at 9:56am
The family restaurant I ran back in the 70's & 80's had campers even without free internet- I am with Michael - restaurants want your business to come in & have some of their refreshments get refreshed & pay & then GO - not to stay warm or bath in their bathrooms or use their electricity - Rob if you are in the restaurant business I can't really understand all of your indignation with Panera - we're all just trying to make a buck- I never could understand the cafes that offer the internet - What were THEY thinking? - the cutest little cafe here by the college used to let students camp - they just went out of business & they were always packed - but 2 hours & one cup of joe doesn't pay the bills- just my humble opinion. Patti




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