Five Reasons Why You Should Hate the New Panera on High Street

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So in case you didn’t know, construction is almost completed on a Panera Bread location right at the top of High Street, in what was formerly a vacant parking lot. Many students are ecstatic, considering the restaurants central location, easy accessibility from campus and fresh dining options.

Unfortunately, all of these students are terribly misinformed. The Panera Bread on High Street is going to devastate (I do not exaggerate) the local restaurant scene, and all of you should hate Panera and never go there. I’m going to tell you five reasons why.

1. It’s going to be expensive. We’re all broke college students here, no lie. Still, I guarantee the new Panera is going to be the busiest place in town for years to come, full of college students paying for soup bread bowls they can’t afford. Unless the place starts to offer student discounts, I’m going to argue it’s not worth it. If you want a cheap panini or coffee, you should go to Cafe Mojo or Jay’s Daily Grind, places where students are loved and pampered.

2. It promotes a chain-restaurant lifestyle. Let’s face it: people love chain restaurants. They’re familiar. Every one is the same. No matter where you are in the country, you can go into a Panera and get that same hipster dining experience, which is why people love it. The result? People miss authentic (and better quality) restaurants. If you want to be a hipster, why don’t you eat at Maxwell’s, where WVU English professors are regulars, all the food is made from scratch and all the salt and pepper shakers are made from handmade pottery. If you don’t ever broaden your horizons, you’ll always suffer from a fear of the unknown.

3. They refuse to let their statistically-underpaid bakers organize a union. Bakers at Panera work late nights to create “artisanal” breads for each day, but thanks to corporate budgeting, they’re paid less than other bakers across the country. These workers are kept to strict regulation and training standards, yet the average pay is about $10.45 an hour for this employee, while the median pay for bakers in the U.S. is about $11.27 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  And they won’t let their bakers organize in a union – more than once the arguments against the union have been religiously driven.  The legal battle has been going on for years.

So yeah, Panera’s donates their leftover bread to local charities, but they’re not really going the extra mile to take care of the community. After all, it seems like a cop-out: instead of throwing out our stale bread, lets give it to the homeless and get some good PR. The people who baked that bread? They have to watch out for themselves.

4. They’re trying really hard to disguise the fact that they’re a corporate profit machine. So everybody knows a health food craze is sweeping the nation, which is good. People should be healthier. The problem? With pretty lights and proto-Mediterranean meal names, they’re fooling us into a false sense of satisfaction. If you look closely, the food isn’t as healthy as it seems. Your desire to eat in a healthy, authentic, friendly restaurant is well placed, but Panera isn’t that restaurant. What kind of “authentic” restaurant promotes their “secret” menu in a freaking press release? And look at this: they’re pretending like this unique restaurant model, which is a huge PR stunt, is somehow sustainable.

Do yourself a favor and explore – authentic dining experiences are all over Morgantown. Get homemade Pad Thai at Chaang Thai, a muscle-car-themed burger at Tailpipes, or some old-fashioned fried chicken at Dirty Bird. Even though it’s a chain, you could stop by Pita Pit for fresh ingredients that put Subway to shame. Doesn’t get more authentic than that, folks.

5. We need to protect Morgantown’s business identity. Chains like Panera, CVS, Sheetz and others are threatening the small, locally (and often alumni) owned businesses that give Morgantown it’s identity. Morgantown is small but full of students from all over the country – chains have immense success because of their brand identity. Because of their power, a chain restaurant could topple the fragile balance that keeps Morgantown’s small businesses alive, yet these chains are given priority in real estate deals. As you read this, people are organizing to prevent a bunch of other chains from whitewashing our city into just another American strip mall.

Sign the petition, eat locally, and stay the hell out of Panera – not just for your own sake, but for all of us.

Photo from GuiltlessGourmet

Tyranny incarnate.

*Author’s note: I edited some parts this post to mention even more local restaurants. Follow the links and visit these locally-owned establishments!

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47 thoughts on “Five Reasons Why You Should Hate the New Panera on High Street

  1. Great, timely post Bryan. I’ll admit I was one of the misinformed students you mentioned. I love Panera, it’s one of my favorite places, but it’s honestly my go to place because I’ve never taken the time to go to any of the local places you mentioned. I was so excited for this new Panera to open downtown until reading your post made me think twice. I think it would have been cool if you would have added a map in your post pointing out some local businesses that offer similar things to Panera to help visually aid people about where the restaurants you mentioned are located.

  2. This is a fantastic post. It has a journalistic edge because it has the hard edge of a “scoop” that reveals things mainstream media are leaving out, as well as timeliness and great sources. However, it also encompasses a great blog post with your unique voice and strong opinion. I enjoyed reading, learned a lot and (as it should be with journalism) it made me rethink my own opinion.

  3. This post could truly give readers a new perspective on this situation. Not going to lie, I love Panera. Before reading your post, I had never considered how this chain downtown will effect Morgantown’s local business identity. Thanks for enlightening me. I’m actually reconsidering my feelings big time.

  4. Sorry, but I wish you had done more research before writing this post.
    Yes it’s not one of the mom and pop shops, but other than that all your reasons for hating it are incorrect.
    First, it will be one of the cheapest places to get a healthy filling meal for a college student. Have you ever been to Pad Thai or Tail Pipes? They have delicious food, but after tips it’s several dollars more for carbs and fat than my much cheaper salad at Panera.
    If someone wants to try something new, they’re welcome to try any of the other places on High Street but there is nothing wrong with a chain restaurant people enjoy. If the mom and pop shops suffer, it’s basic economics that says they will change their food/prices to attract the college students.
    While I will still enjoy my occasional gyro at the Mediterranean Market or Amaretto Nutella milkshake at Tailpipes for a treat, I’m looking forward to the cheaper prices of Panera and options of healthy soups and salads.

  5. Try locally (and alumni) owned Black Bear for fresh wraps, salads and other menu items that feature locally grown produce, local steak, tofu, and local craft brews. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in Morgantown. They’re all about our community. Terra Cafe, The Golden Finch, Tailpipes, and Clutch Wing Shop are also great local restaurants.

  6. I’ve actually never been more excited for a restaurant to come to the Downtown Campus. I worked at Panera Bread for nearly two years, and I loved it. The food is some of the best, and I always choose it over other restaurants, although I have tried many of the local spots. Also, $8 for a hearty, filling meal isn’t bad compared to some local places around town, as the comment above mentioned.
    Also, I am not sure your definition of “hipster” is spot on, haha. I don’t believe you need to eat food made from scratch and use salt and pepper shakers made from handmade pottery to be a “hipster,” nor am I under some false impression that I am a “hipster” for eating at Panera.
    To touch on the baker point, the baker that worked at the Panera Bread with me absolutely loved his job. When he came in, my mood was always lifted because of his high spirits and cheery mood. He didn’t seem to mind his pay one bit, and that was more than four years ago.
    I’ll agree that the food isn’t as healthy as it seems, though. I was often surprised by the calories and fat on the huge jars of mayonnaise and dressings, which I would use to make the food on the line on a daily basis. However, I literally like every single thing on their menu, so I don’t mind a few extra calories now and then.
    On the topic of freshness, we rotated every container of dressing, sauce, meat and vegetable every three to four hours, so the contents would not stick to the sides, dry up, etc., so our personal ingredients were usually fresh.
    Finally, I don’t believe your opinion of chains will truly affect the local business in Morgantown. Ma and Pa restaurants will still blossom from time to time, as they do in any other city. I’ll still eat at Tailpipes and Munchies, but the majority of my money spent on food will absolutely go to the new Panera Bread at the top of High Street.

  7. how about the Original Boston Beanery on High Street? It was started by a WVU alumni, and has been in the same spot for 30 years!! Still a great, local place to go!

  8. PANERA would like to thank you for your kind words . Yes we will continue to give the Students one of the cheaper filling and healthy meals that you have been used to enjoying. It is very good to hear you say that you LOVE Panera Bread, and we will strive to continue to make it one of your favorite eating establishments.

  9. Hi Bryan,

    I think you made some great points here, and some I was shocked to learn. I had no idea their bakers are statistically underpaid, which is always sad to hear. However, after reading this, I’m not convinced that Panera will be ruining the “downtown, mom and pop” feeling of High Street. If anything, I think it will bring a nice variety of options to downtown. I think options are what people are most interested in–you can walk down High Street and get nearly anything you want. I think it might be a bit of a stretch, however, to say that chains are ruining the identity of Morgantown. I’ve eaten at Maxwell’s before and loved it, but I also love having a Tudor’s on High Street, as well as Subway, Panera, and Coldstone Creamery.

    If anything, I think the dining options not only downtown, but throughout Morgantown, are what make it unique and different. I wish every small business in this town success, restaurant or not. There are several small shops on High Street that I love shopping in, but I love having other options as well. With this post, I think you did a fantastic job at exercising your voice and writing tone, as well as conveying some points I wasn’t aware of. I hope Morgantown can keep its small-city charm! Nice job!

  10. well, no. i welcome any corral that keep those trash-tossin, high horse, VISA-armored fcukwits as far up at that end of High Street as they can teeter. regardless, this is not an article, it’s an Advertisement. Pannera is nowhere near ‘almost completed’, unless they have a levitation section – COS THERE’S NO FLOORS. and “Broke College Students’? How much of WV Student Loans go straight to Cool Ridge? i’d like to see a ‘local’s discount’, where you show an ID with a local address and get a discount. Next? ‘Maxwell’s” hasn’t been how it’s described here since July, and never will again. Have you been in the new Maxwell’s? They serve Red Bull now. That ain’t Maxwell’s, that’s “Max’s”. and those Pannera bakers are not crafting bread, they’re assembling pre-mixed and measured ingredients at stupid o’clock in the morning. Do yourself a favour and don’t start fights where they’ve already been done and over. We can mebbe still stop the Sheets, and hopefully that frakin Starbucks… but i doubt it. by the time we hear about it, the ink is long set.
    Finally, your ‘Tyranny Incarnate’ loaf pic is stolen from a site that encourages you to make ‘artisan bread’ at home, and provides recipes. google “irony”. Nice tumblr, tho. glad to know it’s here.

  11. Sounds like someone is butt hurt Panera is going to take away some business. Get over it and stop whining.

  12. A Panera opening downtown isn’t going to take the customers away from The Daily Grind and Tailpipes, but it will add new options. People that know and love The Daily Grind aren’t suddenly going to drop their well-pulled espresso for Panera. Equally, people who adore Tailpipes’ alternative burgers won’t be stopping into Panera for a run-of the-mill sandwich.

    Anyone who wanted Panera always has had the option. This just brings that option closer.

    And telling people they should hate Panera for a legitimate business venture is just stupid. Business brings business. Another restaurant, maybe more parking, means more customers for all of the businesses downtown. You say people who frequent chains are afraid of the unknown, but you’re the one who is fear mongering with unsubstantiated assumptions.

  13. The whoe concept of ‘mom and pop’ is flawed if you don’t know business. Most chain restaurants are franchised by local small business owners, meaning they merely pay for the brand that people trust. That money most certainly does end up back in the town, even if it is corporate owned (Morgantown’s property taxes). I agree with the earlier post citing very high prices for several of the local High Street shops. No need to attack corporate America. Most people don’t realize the concept of franchising.

  14. Oh….the dreaded chain anything….how horrible for downtown Morgantown. We once had Montgomery Wards, Woolworth, G.C. Murphy, McCrory’s and A&P…all chain businesses. They were not the demise of Morgantown…..nor will Panera be. Think you may be barking up the wrong tree on this one. And, by the way….Boston Beanery……it is a chain.

  15. I like The Grind and went there for years when it was Jay’s. The thing is, they know you and what you like. They are friends, locals, and real, while Panera is distant and corporate. I’ve been to Panera on the other side of town and like the food and baked goods, but it’s about like going to any other chain. Seems to me we have enough corporate to go around already.

  16. re: #1, i graduated in 2009, but for most of my college career panera was in the coupon books handed out at the beginning of every semester. their best coupon offered “get one pick 2 and get a second half off.” they also gave the same discount if you came in with a student section football ticket. my roommate and i ate at panera at least three times a week with those coupons. most students throw those coupon books in the trash, but they’re a goldmine. plus, if you sign up with panera’s rewards card and frequent it enough, you get free drinks/baked items all the time.

    re: #2, we ate at panera at least three times a week, but the rest of our meals (if not homemade) were almost always at the local morgantown restaurants (black bear, lavender cafe, maxwells, etc.) variety is necessary for a happy eater, and chain restaurants are a part of that variety.

    the rest of it i can’t speak to. i just don’t think a panera on high street is going to kill morgantown’s vibe. no one has complained about dairy queen on high street, and it’s been there for years.

  17. This some of the most biased garbage I’ve ever heard. I’ve lived here my entire and I’m a student at WVU. First of all panera is a bakery first and foremost and there is only two other bakeries I can think that are located near or around downtown: Daily needs and Nonna’s. Also I would like to point out that cafe mojo sucks and you should go to the blue moose instead. But mongering hate against a chain bakery, that is really not going to steal business from anyone downtown for the most part, is completely moronic. Just calm down and get off your high horse. Note I do tell people all the time to go to Pugs instead of Olive Garden because I think it’s way better. But there are chains everywhere in Morgantown and we still have all the local businesses. Hell there are two walmarts, which are actually terrible chains and I don’t see you bitching about them.

  18. How about five reasons why I hate this article.
    1. $8 is not an overpriced meal when a combo meal at Mcdonalds is $7. Panera coupons are on the back of student tickets for Christ sake and you’re bitching about them not having a student discount.
    2. Chain restaurant lifestyle? The fuck? Aren’t we all American and in a college town. Consumerism, Bro. It’s the lay of the land ’round here. Tell me you’ve never eaten at a chain restaurant in your college days and we can all declare you a freak.
    3. Also, what corporation ever says, “Yes workers. Please form a union against us.” Also every business is a “profit machine.” No comprende the point of a business?
    4. Morgantown’s smaller privately owned businesses do well because they market themselves as such and offer unique services, atmosphere, food, merchandise etc. There is already a Panera in Morgantown. If it were going to threaten small time businesses it already would be doing that.
    5. Is this really a big enough Morgantown problem to be featured on a blog? This isn’t even a Morgantown problem. It’s a basic privately owned .VS. corporation argument, old as basic business. Did you just need something to write last minute or has Morgantown suddenly become a Utopia with one of its most notable problems being opening another Panera? The problem isn’t Panera its this article.

    • I couldn’t possibly agree with the above any more. Don’t like Panera, great, then shut the hell up and don’t go there. It’s called voting with your feet. But Please God will all the hipsters and hippies stop bitching that there’s a “Corporate Takeover” downtown? Please.

      Why, in all this bitching, does everyone forget that : Subway, Dollar General, Cold Stone, Dairy Queen, Jimmy John’s, Boston Beanery, and BW3 – ALL CHAINS. There wasn’t a massive public outcry when any of those came in, and I’d be willing to be all the folks bitching about Panera and Starbucks have been to all of them at least once.

      It’s business, people. GET OVER IT.

    • I give you a cyber high-five.

  19. Drew, you are leaving out New Day Bakery just across the Walnut St. bridge in South Park. That place is amazing and you can get chocolate chip cookies bigger than your hand. Yum!

  20. Interjecting your “eat at Pita Pit” plug really killed the “mom and pop” part of your argument. You’re friends with the management, right? You’d think the ethical thing for you to do would be to exclude them – they’re a chain, after all. Besides, you didn’t bother to question the other existing chains on HS and how they’re hurting other businesses (if at all). Are all chains evil? Would it bet better if Panera were in the Mountainlair with nearly every other chain? It’s a fast-casual restaurant, and has comparable prices to restaurants of its kind (think Qdoba). Besides, “artisan” doesn’t equate to “healthy” – most people realize that bread makes you fat – except maybe Scott Pilgrim.

    That their bakers are statistically underpaid is probably your most valid argument, but it’s also sort of lacking. The pay disparity isn’t shocking, and bakers employed by a chain restaurant like Panera aren’t going to incur the same costs as, say, self-employed bakers. Plus, are fast food chefs and restaurant chefs expected to make the same pay and produce the same product? Panera’s pretty good, but its bread recipe is obviously formulaic.

    You’re vilifying a restaurant that really isn’t trying much harder than other restaurants of its kind to stay competitive and attractive. What about the Sheetz planned for Downtown? It’s forced out the Mountain People’s Cooperative, whose space was purchased by the University and tried to move into the space Sheetz has since snatched up. Isn’t that a tad more dastardly?

    • You had me until your misinformation about the CoOp.

      Yes. WVU Did purchase the CoOp property, but they are in no way, shape, or form pushing the CoOp out of their existing space. WVU has no use for the building, and is allowing them to remain, while paying rent well below current market value.

      Also, the CoOp was seconds from going belly up less than five years ago. The fact that they could even entertain the idea of buying a multimillion dollar parcel down the street is laughable.

  21. So the Subway, Dairy Queen, burger king, Pita Pit, Quiznos and Sabarro are legit, and this Panera is going to be end of quality dining in Morgantown?
    LoL.

  22. I rarely go to them but I think the Panera-ites will stick to them that can afford it but I just bumped into the owner of Jay’s the other day and it wasn’t open…he said many townies are scared to come to town and this may give them a perk to be seen and go — the Panera – ers will be at Panera — other locals will know to stick to local places that are better like Jay’s — best chicken salad and not corporate. Will be a headache — but support local stuff…

  23. First of all….
    Panera as a whole does not under pay bakers. It is franchise paneras that set their bakers pay rate. a majority of bakers in corporate panera make more than managers make. plus they get frequent bonuses.
    Also, yes panera is expensive but they do serve quality food with fresh ingredients. and last time I checked local restaurants aren’t cheap either
    Panera does give a lot back to communities, have you heard of Panera cares cafes? They give out food for free! If you haven’t you should really look into them, Panera has opened 3 and plan to open more.
    all paneras donate the leftover bread to LOCAL CHARITIES! .
    They do not accept tips, the boxes in front of registers of coins, 100% of the money goes to local second harvest groups to feeding those in poverty!
    … Yes I agree buying local is great.
    But, don’t preach that panera is a such a terrible corporation because they do a lot of good more than a majority of corporations
    Panera does not hide the fact that they are a corporation.
    They aspire to be a part of the community.. and that is all. not to close local businesses by fronting that they are a small business.

  24. I think the real shame is that a second Panera is opening instead of bringing a new option to Morgantown: Two Mario’s, two Brown Bears-all this doubling up of existing options tells me there’s room for something different. Whether it’s a new indie or a new chain, just let it combine quality product, atmosphere and service. And the author loses all credibility calling Panera a ‘hipster restaurant.’ I’ve been to Williamsburg (Brooklyn not Virginia): Hipster Capital of the Universe. I can assure you there wasn’t a Panera in sight.

  25. Just a heads up… It’s no longer Jays daily grind, but The Grind WV. But Rich is still there everyday, brewing up his wonderfully, tastful lattes, just as an owner now. Also they’ve added a ton of new things to their menu!!

  26. The local businesses need to step up their game. Competition is a good thing. Downtown Morgantown needs some new businesses, corporate or not, to breath new life into it. If you are a local business owner, get with the program and produce a superior product. Crying about new stores only makes the consumers think you have an inferere product, and need protection to survivie.

  27. I’ve enjoyed many different restaurants downtown–there are definitely some great ones! But I will say I will still go to Panera when all the other places don’t offer WiFi or are even open on a Sunday night.

  28. The city should have provided more oversight on how the Panera building was situated on the lot. They should have required the end of the building to be set back even with the Masonic Lodge next door. With the building sticking out it will be visually disruptive. Seems like a small thing but small things make a difference.

  29. This person definitely voted for Obama. Who cares if it’s a chain? Who cares if it’s expensive? Who cares if it’s going to “devastate” the local restaurants and coffee shops downtown? (Which it won’t). People have something called responibility (Broken apart: Ability to choose their response). If one thinks it’s too expensive, they won’t go there. They will choose a less expensive local restaurant or eat at home. Who cares that it is a chain? “Big corporate America” trying to scheme again the locals of Morgantown and poison them with their chain food? Completely childish and irrelevant to cite that it’s a chain, and irrelevant to claim they are trying to disguise they’re a corporate profit machine. Newsflash: EVERY COMPANY THAT HAS EVER EXISTED HAS A GOAL OF CREATING VALUE FOR CUSTOMERS AND MAKING MONEY NOW AND INTO THE FUTURE. Last point of my rant about this union bologna… working at Panera is one’s own free will. If one doesn’t like not being able to form a union, they should bring their baking talents to one of the local Morgantown restaurants you speak of. I’m sure they’d be thrilled to higher you (and probably pay less.) This article is the reason why our country is the way it is – shame on the writer.

    • …i voted for Obama, and i fail to see the significance, aside from that i understand the difference between “Hire”, and “Higher”.

  30. I have to say I don’t know where you get your information from because I am a baker at panera and definitely don’t make $10 and hour I actually beat the $11 you say is average I have been there 3 n a half years and they treat us very well also the employees make above minimum wage and “stale bread” bread isn’t stale 18 hours after it’s baked neither are the cookies,pastries,muffins,bagels and umm anything that’s not sold when people cone to get donations at least the people who made the bread have a job and can buy food. The people receiving the donations are mostly homeless and jobless so instead of bashing panera we should use a little common sense before posting faulty “facts”

  31. There is nothing stopping all the places you mention from making a better product than Panera. If they do that, they will have no problem keeping and expanding their customer base. Competition is never a bad thing in business.

  32. Well, you got people’s interest! Lots of detail, a few claims that might need some stronger support, and you might want to take that note about Pita Pit (if it’s legit). Feel like writing a follow-up?

  33. Pingback: Morgantown Problems | What Should We Build on High Street? (Anything Other Than a Starbucks)

  34. Pingback: Morgantown Problems | New Beginnings for the Morgantown Problems Blog

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