Panera Employee Exposes Bagged Soup In Viral TikTok

We've been down this road before with Panera, frozen food, and an employee with a TikTok account and an urge to expose their employer. In 2019, a Panera worker ended up regretting her decision to post a TikTok video that went viral. It gave a behind-the-scenes look at how Panera's macaroni and cheese goes from frozen to hot on the customer's plate in a matter of minutes (via USA Today). The TikToker said Panera fired her for bringing so much negative attention to the chain's food. The video has been watched 7.6 million times.

Not quite so viral but still racking up the views is TikToker Dylan Smith's video from August 28 showing that Panera's soups are frozen, too. Three days later, this latest Panera exposé was getting thousands of views an hour and had been watched more than 260,000 times. (Smith's more Panera-friendly TikTok from the same day, showing off a new grilled macaroni and cheese sandwich, was quickly approaching half a million views.) It's too early to know whether Smith, a college student, jeopardized his employment at Panera. But the chain that touts its "clean, freshly prepared" food on its website knows about Smith's indiscretion. The Daily Dot ratted him out when it reached out to Panera for a response.

If Olive Garden makes its soups fresh, why doesn't Panera?

Coincidentally, a commenter on Dylan Smith's viral Panera soup TikTok said almost the exact same thing as a comment on the mac and cheese TikTok from two years ago. A commenter described the macaroni and cheese as "glorified hospital food" (via USA Today). Smith, meanwhile, pinned a comment he received that read, "Panera is expensive hospital food."

Panera explained during the mac and cheese controversy of 2019 that it freezes its soups and its mac and cheese because the chain doesn't use certain preservatives, and it wants these menu items to remain consistent across thousands of locations. Some Panera customers in Smith's comments didn't mind frozen soup.

"I had a friend that worked for Panera and for my birthday she bought me a bag of broccoli cheese soup," TikTok user @riojade913 said. "It's my favorite! Best bag ever!" Another TikToker asked some of the haters in the comments, "Y'all really think the soup is cooked from scratch at every store?" Some of those haters clapped back, saying that's how they do it at Olive Garden. (The Italian-inspired chain's website confirms it.) "OG don't have bags of soups," TikToker @shottiisfire91 commented. "Panera does and more expensive. Yikes."

Smith's TikTok stunt may be a good way to go viral, but commenters warned him it's also a good way to get fired. "I will keep you updated," he told his concerned commenters. "Panera is my part-time job. I work another job full time." Let's just hope Smith keeps his phone in his pocket at his other job.