Customer Experience at Panera Bread
For the last year, I have been a regular Panera Bread customer. With my wife and I having increasingly busy schedules we, like many Americans usually don’t have time to cook dinner. Panera has a nice selection of soups and salads that work well for a quick evening meal. Panera rotates their soup selection daily, but provides a link on their website showing the soups of the day. That should make it easy, but only if the local restaurant consistently executes. As you may have guessed where I’m going with this, my local restaurant is only consistent at being inconsistent.
Tonight, my wife checked the Panera menu, saw they had a soup she likes and asked me to pick it up for her. I’m a nice guy and even though I’ll be up all night working on a presentation, I hopped in the car and went up to the local Panera. Walking in, I spied the soup menu. Conspicuously absent was the very soup that I wanted; a soup listed on their national website menu as being featured today. This is not the first time this has happened. In fact, my experience has been that the available soups in my local store frequently don’t match the website. Of course, there was only one cashier working at 6:00pm and there were 4 people in front of me. Being an optimistic person, I waited in line to confirm what I already knew.
NO SOUP FOR YOU!
When I asked the cashier, an innocent enough young man with the personality of a stump, if they had the soup, his answer was simply “No”. That’s it. So I got back in the car and drove 5 miles to the next closest Panera. Fortunately, they had the soup I wanted, but did not have all of Tuesday’s advertised soups.
Seems petty to make such a big stink about a $4 cup of soup, but imagine for a minute if McDonald’s was consistently inconsistent in having french fries or Coke available. What if Hertz was consistently inconsistent in having midsize cars? What if whatever company was consistently inconsistent in delivering an advertised product or service?
It wouldn’t take too many occurrences of missed expectations before you would stop being a regular customer. The next time I need a quick bite to eat, Panera will not be on the top of my list.
Consistent retail execution is difficult, especially across 1100 locations (including franchises), but it’s really important. I don’t know if the failure to execute consistently in my local Panera is representative of the overall chain, but that really doesn’t matter to me as a customer. What is clear to me is that Panera is not managing this little problem at my store and as I recently wrote, ensuring that the little things are done right (like having the soups listed on your website) is critical to driving loyalty.