Why Panera Doesn’t Get It

Now that I am co-starting a company with a college friend, I have no office to drive to every day. So, to mix it up and keep myself fresh and focused, I am rotating through working at home and working at Starbucks, Panera, Borders, and anywhere else I can find with WiFi and good coffee.

Today, I am at Panera. A few moments ago, at 11:30AM, I was dropped off the network (it took me a moment to figure out what happened) and had to do their silly little reconnect thing to get back on. The screen informed me that I only have 30 minutes left. That during the lunch hours they only allow 30 minutes online.

This is, put simply, very short-sighted on their part. I would have sat here until early afternoon when I have commitments elsewhere and continued working. And I would have bought lunch and likely a snack as well as the day wore on. But by kicking me off WiFi at noon, I am forced to leave. They lose a lunch customer and they lose me wanting to use their place as my office away from office and thus they lose my business.

I can think of a few reasons why this policy makes sense to them. Perhaps they want to make sure that there are enough open seats for the lunch rush by ensuring turnover. But if that’s the case, the argument holds little water. They certainly aren’t hurting for people coming in at lunch and if they lack tables for all of them, then those people will get take out. How often do you see people look in, not see tables free, and then leave? Maybe at a restaurant but at a Panera? I doubt it.

And I think they lose more business by being hostile to workers like me who likely to spend more money over the course of a day than someone who just comes in for lunch.

Oh well. I have food at home anyway that needs eating. And tomorrow when I go out to find a place to work, you can bet it won’t be Panera.

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