Pros: employee discount, great training program, willingness to hire minors, amazing coworkers, extremely flexible scheduling
Cons: lack of communication, rush times are fast paced, rarely give raises
When I first went through training, called Planet Bread, they said, "this will be the best first job you could have experienced. Once you leave us and go to another job, you'll realize how spoiled you actually were!" I know this is true even though I'm still employed. We are spoiled, although there are some negative aspects to the job.
I would like – more... to first say that I started when the cafe FIRST opened, so we were all new. If you have this opportunity, I highly recommend it! There are big differences between opening a cafe and starting in one that has already been up and running.
We started out with training, which lasted a week or so. The hours were non-negotiable (you could either come morning or night) and as a junior in high school (3 towns over) at the time, it was extremely difficult. One con, we were not compensated for this time. We did, however get a crazy amount of free food to take home (it was the food we practiced making).
Once you get that out of the way and are opened about a year, you go from staffing over 4 pages of employees to about 1.5 pages (about 30 total). By this time, everyone has gotten to know each other very well and we all act like family. This is where the opening a cafe aspect comes in to help because we all started at the same level.
They (the managers) try to cross-train as much as possible. This may look like a typical cashier getting trained on salads on a slow afternoon. That's always a fun way to switch it up and can be a pro. Every service person (includes cashier and barista) must learn dining room at some point. This is one of the hardest jobs, I think. This includes constantly cleaning tables and sweeping (carpeted) floors, keeping everything completely stocked, changing coffees every hour, and in my case, running food out to tables. My cafe was one of the test cafes that decided to do table service so every order needs to be brought out to the person's table within 6.5 minutes of the order being placed. If you're new, they'll most likely stick you in the dining room for a while until you learn the ropes. That is probably the most difficult your job will get as a service employee. However, line associates sometimes have to unload the truck when it comes which can take hours, depending on your cafe's volume and standing in the walk in (fridge) for hours at a time.
This job teaches you amazing customer service skills. We are reminded over and over again to do practically whatever it takes to make that customer happy before they walk out those doors to go home. Sometimes, this includes giving them a free cookie if their order was messed up and sometimes it may include a free meal. For example, if they have a to-go order and it has taken too long, offer them a free soda while they wait. If they don't like their sandwich, absolutely not a problem to get them a brand new one, whichever they would like. This is all part of the job. You must also be sincere for this part of it because if you sound like you're annoyed and offering them a free cookie, they'll think you're just trying to get them to leave. But if you really are sincere, and not just acting, they will see that you really do care and want to fix the mistake. We value that a customer will be just as pleased if a problem is properly corrected than if there were no problem at all. If you couldn't tell, we take customer service very seriously!
One con though, is the management. The individuals aren't bad (you will have that one manager who makes you dread your shift, though). The lack of communication between the managers is the issue. I'm not sure how often they are all in contact with each other but it shows that it isn't enough. Just today, there was a scheduling mix up at my cafe that I had already settled with one manager and the manager on duty today called me, totally clueless to the problem. Overall, the managers are very understanding and treat you like family. They recognize strengths and help you work towards fixing your weaknesses. We often get pins for having great service and during our evaluations (every 6 months), they go over what you are doing great at and what you can fix. Motivation is really good here, including sales contests (whoever can upsell the most gets a free meal/shirt/gift certificate), and sometimes our manager will buy us all Chinese food on a saturday night shift to let us know that we're working hard. At my cafe, we are having a huge cookout this month for all of our hard work and staying a "safe cafe" (not having any injuries for an entire year... we get compensated for this) The amount of motivation is a pro.
As far as advancement goes, if you want to move up, you will. Work for it and they will surely notice.
Employee discount is 65% in my location, which is pretty good. I've heard of fast food places giving only 10% off. My location's off duty discount is 15%!
One really nice thing that Panera has is called Helping Hands. It is an organization that it funded by employees. You can choose to have some of your paycheck go into a fund to help your fellow employees in need (I donate $1 every paycheck). This really helps a lot of people. I personally know one person who was homeless when he got his first interview here and the organization set him up with an affordable apartment. I also know one woman who couldn't afford her rent and was losing her apartment and the organization paid her rent for a few months, as well as giving her food. It really is like a huge family.
Now that I am almost 18, and the youngest employed since we've opened, everyone is sad to see me go off to college across the country and they are throwing me a birthday/going away party. If that doesn't show you how the employees really are, then I don't know what does. – less