Ode to Panera – thanks for the great office space.
Panera Bread currently operates four locations in the metro area. To find them, their contact info, and other great stuff, you can visit their website.
As I’ve said before, I much prefer local restaurants. But I’ve got to give credit when a chain restaurant really goes above and beyond. In the case of Panera Bread, I feel like I pretty much owe them some recognition considering that they’ve given me thousands of hours of great office space, virtually rent free.
You see, I’m actually at Panera right now, working on my laptop on their free wireless internet network. I like to get up early every day and get some personal work done before heading into the office. A while back, I was self-employed, and I’d spend even more time here, sometimes using their space for entire days at a time. Sure, I’d buy lunch here, but that’s a pretty good rate for 8 hours of rent. Especially when the rest of the time I’m just working and making use of free iced tea refills.
Since moving back to Oklahoma City, I’ve looked around for a local alternative to fill my early morning office / cafe need. But I haven’t found anything better than Panera yet. And here’s why:
Hours of Operation. Panera opens at 6am every day and stays open until 8pm or 9pm. It’s just hard to beat that availability. I have yet to find a local alternative that opens at 6am. The closest I’ve found is 6:30 and when you’ve only got until 8, that extra 30 minutes makes a world of difference.
Food. As opposed to Starbucks or other coffee shop options, Panera serves real food. And the food is great. The multitude of bagel options for breakfast are creative, made with quality ingredients and prepared well everyday by someone who must get here at 3am or something to get all of this baking done. Even better, if you’re around for lunch or dinner, there are great sandwiches, soups, salads and now some artisan pizza in the evenings. It’s nice to have a place that can satisfy at any time of day.
Free wireless internet. A few years ago, someone up at Panera headquarters must have made what I consider to be the most brilliant decision ever — to offer free wireless internet in their stores. It’s not only free, there’s even a support number to call if you have trouble (ask for the internet brochure). Now that’s service! A reliable, high-quality wireless network at no cost. This single offering has earned them my loyalty and repeat business and I’m sure there are many others out there who feel the same way. Way to go, guys!
Iced tea. Their tea is great, and they fill up two huge containers of it on their drink station so they never run out. When you’re officing at Panera, $1.50 or so buys you a whole days’ worth.
I’d love to find a local alternative that can rival these offerings for my morning ritual. If you know of one, leave a comment and let me know. But even if I find one, I doubt I’ll leave Panera completely. I’ll have to visit them at least once a week. They’ve just been too good to me.