What’s it Like to Work at Panera Bread?

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Working at Panera Bread offers a unique and rewarding experience, as it combines a fast-paced environment with a strong commitment to quality and customer satisfaction.

At Panera Bread, employees experience a supportive work environment that emphasizes teamwork, quality food, and outstanding customer service.

We’ll dive into the different aspects of what makes working at Panera Bread a valuable experience for someone just starting out or someone who wants a Panera-oriented career change. 

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A Brief History of Panera Bread

Ron Shaich and Louis Kane founded Panera Bread in 1987 under the Au Bon Pain Co. This was a cafe and bakery that prioritized having artisan, fresh bread available alongside salads, soups, and sandwiches. In 1993, the company acquired the St. Louis Bread Company with a location in Kirkwood, Missouri in 1987. This acquisition kicked off an expansion plan that would eventually lead to the formation of today’s Panera Bread. 

In the late 1990s, Au Bon Pain Co. sold other divisions to focus on the St. Louis Bread Company, and this is where it rebranded to Panera Bread everywhere outside of St. Louis. The company experienced rapid growth through a mix of franchises and corporate-owned stores. Today, there are more than 2,000 Panera Bread locations across Canada and the United States. 

The company focuses on offering healthy options and having a strong commitment to quality. They source preservative-free, natural ingredients, and they’ve dedicated themselves to improving the nutritional value of each of the menu items. This chain was one of the first to have voluntarily disclosed calorie counts next to menu items, and they took steps to offer protein-rich and plant-based choices to appeal to a wider audience. 

What to know more about coffee company histories? Check out Keurig coffee company’s history in our article here. 

The Panera Bread Work Environment

Now that you know a little about the company itself, what’s it like to work there? You’ll find a quick intro to the work environment below. 

Fast-Paced, But Nurturing

Panera Bread is fast, casual dining, and during peak times (12 pm lunch, 6 pm dinner) this demands service speed and efficiency. Employees have to adapt to a fast-paced environment, ensuring that customers get their orders quickly while maintaining high-quality standards. Despite the focus on speed, Panera Bread offers a very positive atmosphere, giving all employees resources and support to help them thrive. This balance allows employees to develop their skills while feeling appreciated and valued. 

Emphasis on Teamwork and Communication

Collaboration is a pillar of this company’s work environment. Employees all get encouraged to work together, communicate, and support each other to create a better customer experience. Effective communication is key to coordinating tasks, addressing concerns, and maintaining a positive atmosphere. By promoting open communication and teamwork, Panera Bread brings an environment where employees can develop strong interpersonal skills. 

Opportunities for Personal and Professional Growth

There are several opportunities for professional and personal growth at Panera Bread. The company has comprehensive training programs that allow employees to develop their skills, learn about different business aspects, and grow. They also encourage employees to take on new challenges, explore other roles, and look for promotions. 

Considering working for another coffee company? Check out our guide to working at Dutch Bros here

The Roles and Responsibilities of Panera Bread Employees

Your role and responsibilities will change, depending on the position you take when you work there. Below, you’ll find out what front-of-house, back-of-house, and managerial positions do during a typical shift. 

Front-of-House Positions

Front-of-house employees are the ones who have the most interactions with the customers.

Barista

Baristas get tasked with preparing and serving cold and hot beverages, including tea, coffee, and smoothies. They have to know the drink menu and ingredients, and they have to be able to customize drinks to suit customer preferences. They will also work to maintain their work area’s cleanliness, following food safety standards, and restocking supplies as needed. 

Cashier

Cashiers will greet customers as they come through the door, take their orders, and process any payments. Cashiers play a crucial role in ensuring every customer has a positive experience by giving them efficient and friendly service. Also, cashiers will have to help maintain an organized and clean working space while helping with other routine front-of-house duties as time permits. 

Many Paneras now have self-order kiosks to help reduce cashier's workload. Because I'm an introvert, whenever I go to Panera I use the kiosk, but I see many people still order at the counter with the cashier.

Dining Room Attendants and Busser

The dining room attendants and bussers have to keep the dining environment comfortable, clean, and welcoming for customers. They sanitize surfaces, clear tables, and ensure the entire dining area is well-stocked with napkins, utensils, and condiments. Both of these positions are instrumental in creating a positive customer experience. 

Front-of-house staff, especially baristas, and cashiers, have to know the proper lingo to ensure they get customers’ orders correct.

Back-of-House Positions

The back-of-house positions aren’t as customer-centric, and employees in these spots tend to interact with front-of-house staff, instead of directly with the customers. 

Baker

The bakers are responsible for producing the signature pastries and fresh bread the company has a reputation for. They follow exact recipes and baking techniques to create high-quality items. Bakers have to manage their time effectively, pay close attention to detail, and adhere to food safety standards. 

Line Cook

Line cooks prepare the menu items to fulfill customer orders, according to company standards and recipes. They ensure the food reaches the proper, safe temperature, plate it attractively, and serve it quickly. Line cooks have to work well while also working fast, keep their work area organized and clean, and follow food safety guidelines. 

Prep Cook

As the name suggests, employees in this role have to prep ingredients and put dishes together for the line cooks. They cut, wash, and portion fruits, vegetables, and proteins, and they prepare the dressings and sauces. They will make sure the kitchen is well-stocked with fresh ingredients to enable the cooks to prepare and serve items. 

Management Positions

Finally, any employee who wants more responsibility and to deal with the administrative side of the job may seek a management position. There are three main ones at Panera Bread to consider. 

Assistant Manager

Assistant Managers support the general manager by overseeing the particular restaurant’s operations. They will create the staff schedules, perform inventory management, and help with the hiring and training process for new employees. They also help ensure that all company procedures, policies, and standards get followed while making sure the location reaches performance and financial goals. 

General Manager

General Managers are responsible for their particular location’s success. They oversee every aspect of the restaurant’s operations, including financial management, staffing, and customer satisfaction. They set performance goals, work closely with employees to create a positive work environment, and ensure compliance with company procedures and policies with the goal of creating an exceptional customer experience. 

Shift Supervisor

Finally, Shift Supervisors oversee the location’s daily operations during their shifts, ensuring that the restaurant runs effectively and smoothly. They manage staff, address any issues during the shift, and delegate tasks. They also play a critical role in upholding Panera Bread’s standards for food quality, customer service, and cleanliness. 

The Panera Bread Training Process

Panera Bread is a company that believes in setting employees up for success from the start. They have a very detailed onboarding process that includes general orientation, hands-on training, and shadowing experienced employees. During the initial training phase, employees learn about the company's history, expectations, and values while getting practical knowledge about their role, customer service standards, and the menu. 

Ongoing Training and Skill Development

Panera Bread features ongoing training opportunities for all employees, including e-learning modules, workshops, and performance feedback to help team members stay up-to-date with industry standards and improve their skills. Employees can use these opportunities to advance to higher pay and more advanced roles with greater responsibility.

Opportunities for Cross-Training and Advancement

This company encourages all employees to explore different responsibilities and roles inside the company. Cross-training allows employees to gain a well-rounded understanding of the business as a whole, discover career paths, and develop new skills. By having cross-training opportunities and advancement, Panera Bread helps employees grow professionally. 

The training process sets employees up for success and creates a great customer experience, but how does it compare to what Starbucks does

Benefits and Perks of Working at Panera Bread

There are several perks and benefits that come with working at Panera Bread, and a few of the biggest ones include: 

Competitive Pay and Benefits Package

You’ll get competitive pay and benefits when you work with this company, including tips, hourly wages, and performance-based bonuses. Full-time staff may also be able to get health insurance, vision and dental coverage, and a 401(k). 

A cook at Panera won't make as much as one at a regular restaurant, but also will not be under the same type of pressure and workload that a regular restaurant line cook experiences every night.

Employee Discounts and Meal Perks

Panera Bread offers discounts to employees on catering services and menu items. Additionally, there are meal perks available during your shift, allowing you to try some of the food or beverage items. You’ll be able to use them to save money and connect to the brand.

Flexible Scheduling and Work-Life Balance

There are flexible scheduling options, with some locations being more flexible than others. This flexibility lets employees accommodate their personal commitments, like family or school responsibilities while being able to work. 

Commitment to Community Involvement

Panera Bread is a company that commits to being involved in the local communities they serve. They have several programs they run or assist in, including: 

Day-End Dough-Nation Program

This program showcases Panera Bread’s dedication to giving back to the communities. At the end of each business day, any unsold items from the bakery get donated to local food banks and charities to help ensure that nutritious, fresh food gets to those in need. This program is a great way to help reduce food waste, and it contributes to Panera Bread’s mission to make a positive difference in the local communities. 

Panera Cares Initiatives

The Panera Cares Initiative is another way the company shows how committed they are to the local community. This program encompasses a range of programs aimed at helping address food insecurity and providing support. They partner with nonprofits and local food banks to donate fresh, leftover items at the end of the day. 

The Panera Bread Culture

Overall, employees report that Panera Bread has a positive culture that is very welcoming and supportive. They focus on: 

  • Core Values and Mission: Emphasizing a welcoming environment with high-quality food items, Panera Bread commits itself to serve employees, customers, and communities with respect and integrity. 
  • Sustainability and Environmental Responsibility: The company has a heavy focus on sustainability, including minimizing food waste, responsible sourcing of ingredients, and reducing energy consumption.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Panera Bread sets up an inclusive, diverse workforce with the goal of every team member feeling empowered, respected, and valued. 

Conclusion

Working at Panera Bread can give employees a rewarding, unique experience in a supportive but fast-paced environment. By embracing the core values, focusing on collaborative teamwork, and committing to excellence, employees have many opportunities to grow their skills and contribute to Panera Bread’s success.

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