Panera makes news by not discounting its bread


In times like these, people: they want quality, not quantity; and they'd rather stick with reliable businesses no matter what the price. The company that survives? It'll offer plenty of valuable perks; customers in the know are happy to pay more for good service with the extras.

Wait: huh?

That's what competitors are saying in a mix of horror and awe as bakery/coffeeshop chain Panera Bread continues to fill tables with customers, cheerfully paying the same for the same bread, pastries and sandwiches as they did when times were good. The company is reporting that same-store sales rose 2.8% in the first 27 days of the third quarter, and is predicting more growth across the board -- operating profit, average customer check, and number of transactions -- for the quarter. And according to the Wall Street Journal, this is because the company is offering quality products and "bucking industry trends" by refusing to cut prices. Loyal customers point to the free Wi-Fi, a perk Panera has long offered its customers.

The CEO's statements may not make him any friends among his customer base. Ron Shaich says that he's "focused on the 90% [of Americans] that are still employed." Well, fuzzy math aside -- 10% unemployment rate does not mean that 90% of the country has a job, it's far less than that (here's one explanation, which doesn't even count those who are unemployed by choice) -- this is sort of insulting.

Originally published