I am a pretty big fan of Panera Bread, their food is really good and somewhat healthy. Much better to eat there than go to a fast food place. I usually go there to spend the day working, mostly writing reviews for ThinkComuters or blog posts like this one. It is great to get out of the office and work from somewhere else, but the Panera that is closest to my house is just horrible. I think the only reason I still continue to go there is a good food, the fact that it is close to my house and the hope that they have fixed things. The location I am talking about is store #203499 located at 3401 Boulevard of the Allies in Pittsburgh.
So why is this location so bad? Well there are a few major factors that come into play that should be an easy fix for a company as large as Panera.
Available Power Outlets – This is huge. Many people like me go to Panera to work, whether its for a job or school (this location is very close to both Pitt and CMU campuses) and bring their laptop. Unfortunately not all laptops have super-long battery life. Even my Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro is about 5 hours if I have power saving mode on. This Panera location is quite large, by my estimation it can fit at least 100 people. In total there are four dual-socket power outlets for customers. One is in the private room, which usually rented out and another is sort of hidden by the bathrooms and you need a long power cable to be able to connect it to your laptop. So out of 100 possible customers you are only giving 8 the ability to charge their devices. Panera has to be the worst at this as every coffee shop and even bar that offers WiFi in Pittsburgh that I have been to has ample power outlets. Even the power outlets at this Panera are in rough shape. Here is a photo of the one that I am currently plugged into.
As you can see the outside housing has been broken off and just the bare socket is there. You may think that Panera would be fixing this, but its been like this for months! On top of that the bare socket actually moves and gets pushed into the wall when you plug your power cable in. I always feel bad sitting at the table closest to the power outlet and using it as people walk over and see that the table / outlet is taken and they walk away, many of them actually leave, or eat their meal and then leave! I have done the same thing many times, I can only work as long as battery life I have on my device. I don’t see why Panera cannot add more outlets to this location, Crazy Mocha and Delanies have outlets for pretty much every seat in their stores.
Limited WiFi Time – Panera the year is 2014, sure you are offering free WiFi, but you are limiting it?! When you connect to the stores WiFi you’re a brought to this authentication page.
It informs you that the WiFi is limited to 30 minutes between the hours of 11:30AM and 1:30PM. This pretty much guarantees that I will not visit this location between those hours. Sure I assume that this is their busy time and they do not want to overload their network, but why not do the customer a favor and have the hardware to support that many users. Many major retailers offer free unlimited WiFi in their stores, some of the majors include Starbucks, McDonalds, Subway and Dunkin Doughnuts. Even local places in Pittsburgh like Crazy Mocha, 21st Street Coffee & Tea and Delanies all offer free unlimited WiFi.
WiFi Coverage – As I mentioned this store is quite large and the WiFi coverage can actually be spotty and very weak at times. Where I am sitting now I am getting a very slow signal on both my Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro, iPhone and Amazon Fire HD tablet.
I am in the main area of the restaurant too! I am not exactly sure where the access point is in this location, but this is pretty bad. This Panera location offers outside seating which is great in the summer, but of course there is no WiFi signal out there at all. I think today the WiFi connection has dropped over 10 times on all of my devices. Again Panera why don’t you do something for the customer and add another access point for better WiFi coverage?
It seems like Panera could easily make some changes to this location to keep me and other customers coming back on a more frequent basis. This would cost very little money and improve customer satisfaction. When I want to get out of the house and work remotely all day I rarely go to this location unless I know I have a full charge on my laptop, extra USB WiFi dongle and I always go after 1:30PM so I am not locked out of the WiFi. Now not everyone is tech-minded like me, so coming to this location can be very stressful.