Letter to Get Better- Panera Bread

by - Friday, September 09, 2016

Panera Bread storefront
from mayefairtown.com
Hello Panera Bread,

We have been seeing a lot of each other lately; my mom lives on an island with no Panera, so when she comes to town, your salad and bagels are big treats for her. She love you so much that it is cute. Our family mostly avoids chain restaurants, but you are doing some things worth getting excited about- you have removed a ton of chemicals and fake coloring from your food, and hopefully other chains will follow suit. You talk a lot about "clean ingredients" and "transparency" in your menu, which can be rare to find at other chains. Honestly, I think things like your "No No List" is amazing for making your food look better (and your competitors' food look bad).

 I also love that when you eat there, you use real silverware and plates. That dishwasher is an awesome environmental investment, and you prevent tons of the waste other "healthy" fast casual options create. You even have compost and recycling bins (at least at our store in Seattle). You use paper bags too! In other words, most chains could learn a lot from you in terms of environmental responsibility in your everyday practices. And that is awesome.

That being said, I think we both know you could do better. Your biggest problem? Plastics

If you really want to promote "clean" eating, you have to start with the water. Do you know that by 2050 there will be more plastics in the water than fish? Gross. Do you know that plastics and the chemicals in them are probably already having an effect on our water and our health? Gross, right?

The good news is that companies like yours have real power to blaze a trail and make a difference. A few examples:

Baked goods- Your individual baked goods mostly come in paper bags (though I don't see it being recyclable), but your boxes have those little plastic windows. Why? Someone knows what they bought, and boxes without that flimsy plastic piece actually look more classy and "wholesome." If you lose the plastic, you won't lose much at all, but you will keep that much out of landfills.

Plastic Cutlery- When you get take out food, no matter what, they put plastic silverware in little plastic bags in every order. Well, we take ours home, so we don't need any of that, and I bet we aren't alone. When I specifically ask they don't include it, I throw them off, because there isn't even a button for that option, so they walk over to the kitchen to tell them.  Why not employ the "unless requested" policy suggested by the Last Plastic Straw? When I order, your employee asks me about my card, my sides, my preferences- why not just throw in "would you like plastic silverware?" at the end?

Plastic Straws- We all know that plastic straws are epically bad for the environment- the average person will make more waste with plastic straws than their cars in a lifetime. Straws are small enough that they are very difficult for clean ups, and they are horrible for sea life. Why not switch your straws out for something biodegradable like recycled paper straws? You could also do more compostable cups, but even the straw switch could profoundly improve your environmental impact as a company on the day to day.

Thank you for what you are doing, and I hope you keep it up. It's good for other companies to see you can be responsible and profitable, and your company can only benefit from pushing these goals further by eliminating or greatly minimizing the plastics you use everyday.

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