Student finds Panera Bread out of price range

My first Panera Bread experience came in March 2012, while visiting Nashville. I loved it so much I even tried to recreate their French onion soup at home.

Naturally, I was thrilled when it was announced that Florence would be getting a Panera Bread. But, now that Panera Bread is serving the Shoals, how does it rate on the restaurant scale?

The atmosphere within Panera Bread is warm and inviting, though it’s also very crowded. The staff of Panera prides itself in being quick and efficient, and I’ve never waited longer than five minutes for my meal. However, I don’t like Panera Bread employees walking around and trying to take my plate before I’m done eating.  

The tables are usually very clean, and if they aren’t, the employees aren’t offended if you bring this to their attention. They go above and beyond the call of sanitation and organization.

Panera Bread prides itself in the high quality of their food, offering low-calorie, low fat menu options and making everything fresh upon order.

If you want filling food, I wouldn’t recommend ordering the sandwiches or salads.

The soups are definitely the best option if you’re hungry and in need of a good meal.

If you just want a light meal, the strawberry scones are good for breakfast and the bacon-turkey bravo and asiago beef sandwiches are the best for lunch or dinner.

The baked potato soup, broccoli-cheddar soup and French onion soup are all filling and flavorful and served with a baguette.

I could eat their soups every day, and they’re perfect for an anytime meal. The food definitely tastes fresh, and you can even see them making your food behind the counter.

The biggest downfall of Panera Bread is the price. For a bowl of broccoli-cheddar soup, a bakery item (strawberry scone), and a regular drink, it was $8.22. For a roast beef sandwich, a bakery item, and a regular drink, it was approximately $11. For many college students, that’s a very expensive meal.

For those of us on a budget, Panera Bread tends to break the bank and leave you hungry. It’s definitely a big negative in today’s economy.

Overall, I’d give Panera Bread a 7/10. It scores high for cleanliness, efficiency, and taste. However, some foods are more expensive than they should be, and the price is more like a sit-down restaurant than of a fast food venue.

They definitely stand out among other restaurant chains, and, who knows? Maybe they could influence a trend of fresher, healthier food in food venues around the Shoals and beyond.