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the panera muffin

Pmuffin1I visited the "Panera Muffin" this morning.

I'm calling it the Panera "muffin" because it's not a large store unlike the one I visit almost every Sunday, which I have affectionately named "The First Church of Panera" (FCP).

Let's just say... um... I was underwhelmed.

For several years now I've communicated with The Panera Company encouraging them to build one of their stores in Martinsburg, WV.  There have been several emails back and forth from two different people responsible for property development. One email sent to me from Panera said they couldn't find the right property -- so I sent them pictures of three properties available along the I-81 business areas of the town. They waited so long that those properties were quickly gobbled up by Mexican restaurants, a Chinese restaurant, and medical offices.

When I saw that they had finally decided on property next to the redeveloping shopping mall area in the town, I was overjoyed for like 3.9023 seconds.  When I looked at the area they had marked out for the store, I realized that there was no way we would get as nice a building as the FCP.

Pmuffin2As the building was built, I started calling it "The Panera Muffin" because, in a word, it is tiny.  It is now open. Nice building. It has a drive thru, but other than that... meh.

The lobby/order area is smaller than my living room. The eat in area would probably fit 75 people snugly; there were only a few booths and several tables and chairs. With the family and a few others in the area it already felt crowded.

When I walked into the store around 8:00 am, everyone was standing around wondering who was going to take my order. When making my order at FCP, the order taker would swipe my Panera card for me; at Martinsburg, the order taker asked for my card...then told me where I could swipe it myself.

I handed the order taker my $10.00 for what I wanted to purchase - two multigrain bagels with cream cheese - and she looked at it like it was republic credits (that's a Star Wars reference for those who might not be saavy).  She struggled to make change when I declined to "round up" my order total for their charity. (And unless you think me a total schmuck, I left the Muffin and drove to FCP for my "church time" and rounded up my order there...)

The person who seemed to be responsible for actually putting product in the bag appeared to not know where the bagels were. (For those who visit the place you'll understand...) Let's just say if the bagels were snakes, she'd have suffered multiple punctures.

Since the order preparer seemed to be confused, the order taker stepped in, grabbed my two bagels, dropped them into a bag, and turned to hand them to me. I reached out to grab my purchase and exit when the order taker stopped, looked at me, and said, "Ummm... I forgot your cream cheese." There I stood, hand in midair with no purchase. 

I watched as the order taker looked around frantically for the undercounter fridge holding the cream cheese, and I found myself wondering if she would remember I wanted plain cream cheese -- or if I was going to have to wait for her to milk the cow and process the product.  Luckily for me, she found what I wanted, opened up my bag, dropped the cheese in -- and then remembered I would also need napkins and a plastic knife to schmear it on the bready circles.

I'm chalking up the dicey customer service to the newness of the store. Unless a wizard comes along waving his wand and saying "Wingardium Grandiosa", the Muffin will stay a muffin...and that's unfortunate.



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