Panera Bread Catering lunch boxes have always been one of my favorite options for a working lunch in the office. Over the years, I’ve personally enjoyed getting the sandwich, side dish and cookie, with the quality bread and ingredient combinations that go beyond the basics. To me, the quality food experience helps set the tone for a good meeting.
A few days ago, I suggested Panera Bread for our working team lunch. Since we are in a large office building in Century City, in the heart of Los Angeles, and there is a Panera Bread located only 1.3 miles away, it never occurred to me that having lunch delivered from Panera would not be possible. I shared the online menu with my team and asked them to choose their order. My colleagues eagerly picked out the sandwich choices that appealed to them like Whole Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT or Whole Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich. As a pescatarian, I was hoping for a tuna sandwich, but that option was unavailable, so I had to settle for a Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich.
I went online to place the order to have it delivered for lunch. Unfortunately, the online ordering experience was not smooth, and the ultimate solution was not sustainable for me to use Panera going forward for office lunch catering.
First, I tried to log on with my Panera Rewards card, as the website suggested. But the technology just didn’t work, so I selected the option to order without creating an account. It was a frustrating and time-consuming user experience.
Next, I attempted to place the order using the catering section (which seemed to make sense), and the total of the order for four sandwich lunches without delivery was around $45. After selecting the items, I went to the shopping cart to check out. At this point (probably ten minutes in), I was surprised with a message indicating that the minimum order size of $200 was not reached and therefore I could not place the order. This minimum is at odds with website copy reading:
“Menus for every event, big or small. From an office meeting for 10 to a corporate conference of thousands, we have menus for every occasion and dietary preference.”
“The right meal for your group. Whether it’s customized boxed lunches for a few…”
More transparency about the minimum order size would have been helpful. In the end, there was not a choice to pay a higher delivery fee for a smaller order.
After more searching, I learned I had to place a new order to pick up at the store, which required leaving work in the middle of the morning to go get the sandwiches before our meeting started.
Before finalizing the order, I thought about using a third-party delivery provider, so I reached out to a former colleague who now works at Uber Eats. Uber Eats recently completed an agreement to deliver for McDonald’s. He mentioned that while they’d love to work with Panera, Uber Eats has yet to reach a financial agreement with the restaurant chain. A quick review online did not reveal any other delivery competitor who is allowed to deliver Panera in the Century City Los Angeles area.
Having exhausted the other options, I placed the order for pick up the day before and planned my work morning around the pickup mission. After taking an Uber to and from the store ($12 round trip), the rest of the experience was good. A pickup bag was waiting with my name and order. And the food was excellent (though I still missed the tuna).
A friend of mine in the restaurant industry provides insight into the business of catering and delivery:
“There are enough examples of pizza delivery companies to know that it's best to have your own delivery system. Otherwise you'll be giving up 15 to 30%, which is a huge cost. Minimum order sizes of $150 to $200 are pretty standard for catering, and most restaurants don't charge for catering delivery.”
However, competitors appear to have made small-order scenarios work. Corner Bakery will deliver four lunch boxes to my Century City office. And speaking of pizza delivery, I had the opportunity use Domino’s Pizza Tracker for a different business meal and was delighted by its precision and specificity (not to mention the delivery was made two minutes early).
In 2018, we’re bombarded with choices for food delivery, whether from grocery stores or restaurants. Panera really needs to develop a better solution to compete, because, for now, I’m sad to cross this option off my team lunch list.