Weird Rules Panera Employees Have To Follow

There's nothing like a good soup and salad spot, especially as the weather grows colder. For many folks, the best place in their area to grab some delicious, filling food is Panera Bread. Panera brings together the filling, nutritious meals while combining the ease of fast food and the atmosphere of casual dining. The menu features not only wonderful breakfast and lunch options, but awesome baked goods that are fresh and delicious at just about any time of day.

Panera employees, like all fast food employees, work hard to provide customers with the very best in food and service. They do a lot of hard work and with a warm and welcoming attitude. That's likely because working at Panera is a pretty sweet deal among food industry gigs. On average, an entry-level restaurant staffer at Panera makes around $12 per hour, according to Indeed. The Panera career website also touts endless perks, from employee discounts to tips for hourly employees and paid vacation time for full-time employees. 

Becoming a member of the Panera team gives you access to all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making the breads, soups, and salads that customers rave over. In exchange, however, you may have to follow some rules you've probably never heard of before.

Panera employees can only use an employee discount at their home store

Panera Bread reportedly gives their employees some pretty sweet employee discounts. They get 65% off of anything on the Panera menu, per Business Insider. There are some restrictions on that discount, however.

One Reddit user noted in 2017, that their employer informed them that their employee discount can only be used at their home store. "Your discount does not apply at other stores because the discount is done by employee number and you'd have to be in their system," a team lead commented. "You can however purchase meal vouchers which are discount vouchers you can use at other stores or to give to family and friends."

In a more recent thread, another Redditor claimed that they were told they can only use their employee discount while working. Another user confirmed the policy, noting, "It [is] extremely stupid and not the way it works at any other company I've worked for. But it is true you don't get a discount on days you don't work."

Panera employees are supposed to give the customer their order in three minutes or less

Fresh food and fast serving times don't always mix, but Panera is somehow trying to master both. Employees aren't too thrilled about the emphasis on getting customers their orders in less than three minutes.

"This is impossible, especially with the influx of order coming in from online pick ups/deliveries/the registers/kiosks it's insanity," one employee lamented in a Reddit rant. "The managers just keep stressing how important the service times are on us, they don't care about anything else. I've seen numerous food safety violations daily because of this and we almost failed our last audit but all they care about is the numbers."

Another member pointed out that this problem, in the restaurant, is caused in part by having a minimal amount of employees working the line. "You can't cut your staff down to only 3 people during the peak hours and still expect every customer to receive their food in under 3 minutes in a restaurant that makes literally everything to order," noted another commenter. Yes, everyone's busy, but it wouldn't be a bad thing to cut your local Panera worker a little slack the next time your sandwich and soup order isn't in your hands at three minutes flat. 

Drive-thru orders must also be delivered in a limited time frame

It's not just dine-in and to-go orders that are expected to be completed in three minutes. A Panera employee expressed their frustrations with having to have drive-thru orders ready in the same limited amount of time.

"The drive thru expectations are unreasonable at best," the flummoxed employee vented on Reddit. "There's really no reason to bust your ass because management will never be satisfied. Having a vehicle out in less than 3 minutes when you are 7-8 deep and everyone is ordering hot sandwiches does not add up."

Other employees have had similar conversations and concluded that the food served makes the quick drive-thru model impossible. "Panera food, by pedigree of what it is, takes a lot more time to prep and get out the window, meaning it applies horribly to a drive-thru concept," another Redditor proclaimed. Additionally, with customers expecting drive-thru experiences similar to other fast food options like Taco Bell or McDonald's, you're more likely to have complaints about drive-thru service time.

The baked goods at Panera can't be displayed too perfectly

You may have noticed that no matter what time of day you walk into a Panera, it seems like their team has been hard at work for a while. That's an effect achieved, in part, by an always evolving, never perfectly staged baked goods case.

The Panera display is very carefully pieced together, as one Redditor detailed in their discussion of life as an opener. "One by one I'd grab each tray, pull out the pastries, and then set them up on their respective display according to the book," they noted. Now when it comes to bagels, Panera is strict about making sure its bagels are displayed rather casually. 

"I'd have to toss every bagel in its respective rack," the employee noted on Reddit. "Toss, not place – they were super picky about bagel arrangement. It essentially had to look like s–t in the display because that was 'authentic' and got pissed when I tried lining them up neatly – not even kidding."

Panera associates can't charge customers for certain substitutions

Most people know that when you're looking for substitutions and extras from just about any food establishment, you're going to have to pay extra. Some Panera employees have chatted online about how there seems to be no rhyme or reason for what they do and don't charge for when it comes to these customer requests.

If you're looking for a yummy sandwich but aren't feeling the recommended sandwich bread, for example, you can swap it for Panera's other offerings including ciabatta bread, a bagel, or a croissant at no cost (per The Krazy Koupon Lady). You can also substitute meat in salads and sandwiches for avocado at no extra cost, which comes in clutch for vegetarian and vegan customers. Just don't think that adding avocado is always free. Panera associates can offer a lot of vegetables to be added to dishes, but some of them — such as avocado — do require an extra fee. 

Panera employees are not technically supposed to take home old bread at closing

Panera prides itself in working with local charities near each of their stores to minimize food waste. It's an excellent policy, but employees have explained that it's often difficult for charities to find someone to come pick up food each night. As a result, sometimes a donation goes unclaimed at closing time.

"This policy may have changed, but it used to be that leftover bread was donated to different local charities at the end of the night. It was pretty frequent (and unfortunate) that the charities wouldn't come pick up the donation on their assigned nights, and local shelters wouldn't take it because they couldn't verify that someone hadn't tainted the food," a former employee explained to Refinery29.  "If I was closing and someone didn't collect the donation, I took it home with me instead, because I drove a pickup truck. Management was always okay with it."

Many employees have shared stories of what they've taken home with them, thanks to managers who look the other way when it comes to this policy. Some have noted, however, that it depends entirely on the manager and it's best to go about this the respectful way and ask management before taking anything. 

Manager and associate relationships are not an option at Panera

Most restaurants have a policy when it comes to employees dating. Many of those working in food service have found it can vary widely from chain to chain, and sometimes even from restaurant to restaurant.

Panera Bread is allegedly pretty chill when it comes to employees dating their coworkers, so long as no one is in management. "In my experience, the only thing really frowned upon are manager associate relationships and even then they only really just separate the working shifts," one employee shared on Reddit. They suggested the policy is because of concerns about people in authority taking advantage of relationships with people they manage.

"If they find that the manager-associate relationship is causing or will cause a bias then someone gets transferred out," the employee explained. "I always recommend keeping relationship[s] or fooling around info on the down low for gossip mill reasons."