You probably wouldn't worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.
- Olin Miller
My daughters and I love going to have lunch at Panera Bread. It is part of a large chain that here in the Northeast also includes Au Bon Pain. I have really enjoyed lunches there, and have sometimes had dinner there. But lunch is their forte. They also are the place all day long for wonderful sweet snacks with tea and coffee, a Starbucks alternative with more food.
The way they have the "two for one" menu specials is awesome. They offer two of soup, salad, and generous half-sandwiches at a special price. These are great for those days when you want variety with your lunch and great taste. Their food always tastes delicious, and is organized to be ready quickly. It is also great for a fast lunch or dinner meal on the go. Their meals are always ready promptly and are meant to be collected at the front and taken to your table. Panera Bread is also a great choice for relaxed days when you want to sit down with a friend and chat at length.
What I like is the upscale ambiance combined with the great taste of the food at appropriate prices. Like Starbucks, Panera Bread has comfortable armchairs, tables with chairs, booths and high tables, imaginative architectural design and impressive lighting. Some branches, like my favorite one in the Nassau Pavilion outside of Princeton, New Jersey, have both indoor fireplace seatings and outdoor seating areas. It manages to be really welcoming every month of the year.
As far as food options are concerned, they are always mindful of the current diet obsession and were able to find low-carb breads when so challenged a few years back. Low-cal vegetable soup and sandwiches are always good for the diet conscious. They bring back favorite dishes to the menu and wonderful combinations of tasty ingredients.
One of their signature dishes is the soup in a bread bowl. The edible soup bowl can be eaten along with the soup inside. The soup gives a wonderful taste to the bread and gives you a very original meal to remember. It's a fun, light-hearted place to stop and have a cozy, light meal.
The Nassau Street branch in Princeton serves thousands of breakfasts and lunches to the visitors and parents attending Princeton University events. Wonder how the town managed before they arrived only a decade or so ago, although Au Bon Pain (in other towns) dates back decades.
Here is Panera Bread's website:
It is exceptionally helpful, chock-full of recipes and including full nutrition and calorie information on all their "cafe" dishes.
Panera Bread also has an important catering business, that I have made use of from time to time. As a very large, very organized and reliable cafe chain, they fill a niche for the lunch crowd. For a wide-ranging clientele from business to pleasure, Panera Bread has been worthy of its great success in a niche that no other chain can
match. It is a very successful national company that has had a successful stock offering, PNRA.