Panera Bread Co. has decided to become one of the realest of the real in the casual dining, multi-state restaurant business: by 2016, artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives — you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. More and more Americans are watching what they put into their bodies, and Panera has found a way to massage stagnant sales and do good at the same time.
So if you live near one of the 1,800 Panera Bread Co. locations across the United States, what can you expect in the short and long terms? According to its new Food Policy, the St. Louis-based restaurant has made it clear that clean and simple ingredients are in, while chemically-engineered ones will be tossed. This has followed a trend by other popular restaurant brands, most notably Chipotle, to offer full menus that would once have been viewed as “health food.” This is also in contrast to the recent days of “diet,” “low cal,” “fat-free” and other weight-loss-oriented catchwords. This is a very subtle, but intentional and welcomed, direction.
Panera Bread: Kudos to You
This type of move often brings as much scrutiny as praise. Whole Foods Market, the flagship of all things natural, is facing legal actions due to its use of unnatural ingredients in the company’s own products. Also, Chipotle has been criticized for not already being GMO free (the restaurant has promised to meet that standard soon). Panera will have its work count in its attempt to not appear conniving or overly opportunistic in its decision to seek a natural route to success.
For instance, what about Panera’s relationship with one of the two biggest high fructose corn syrup pushers in the world: PepsiCo.? If they are fully making the move to serve what’s best for customers, then they would sever ties. If it is purely business, they will likely keep them on tap to fulfill demand (strange dichotomy, right?). It will be up to the bread-baking giant to determine the best move and the public’s perception of it moving forward.
However, we are so quick to point to the problems or potential issues in our world. Why not celebrate the fact that the people who enjoy Panera Bread will have a healthier eating experience? That’s what we are excited to see — a good life includes eating well and focusing on what your body needs or should avoid. Thank you for helping us get a little bit closer to good, Panera Bread!