Pros: Good training, Great scheduling, friendly staff and customers
Cons: Limited growth, occasional crazy customers
I started working for Panera around the age of 16. It was my first job.
The training was decent. I spent the first week or so watching videos and taking tests on a computer. After that, I was moved – more... onto "the line" where the sandwiches, soups and salads are made. I had a trainer walk me through everything until I was comfortable. Never once was I thrown into a situation or given a task that I wasn't first trained for and never once was I ashamed to ask questions when I wasn't sure how to handle a certain situation.
The hours were pretty good. I was a high school student at the time, so I was unable to work during school hours and preferred not to close on weekday nights, as I wouldn't get home until almost 11 at night leaving no time for homework and hardly enough sleep before school the next day. The managers were very understanding and would only schedule me for weekends. On weekdays that I WAS scheduled, I was not asked to start until roughly 4:30 P.M. (ample time to get home from school and change into my uniform) and was only scheduled to work until around 8:30 or 9 P.M. When it comes to requesting certain days off, I the managers were also very good. As long as I requested the day off within a reasonable amount of time (1 - 2 weeks before hand), I usually was given the day off.
The people were great. One of Panera's rules is "no jerks". This means everyone you work with is actually fun to be around. We did have a couple of "less than friendly" people sneak through the interview process and get the job, but they didn't last long. Despite leaving Panera almost 3 years ago, I'm still friends with a lot of people I worked with there.
The one downside to Panera was that there was little room for growth. I worked there for five years and always maintained the same number of hours. I was only trained to work the line and wash dishes despite my request to be trained in the bakery. This limited the total number of hours I was able to work in a week. The "pay raises" I also received while working there were less than significant. I started working for what was minimum wage at the time. When I finally got my first raise, it was only because minimum wage had gone up. This was the pattern for the next three or four pay raises. By the time I had left Panera, five years later, I was making more money, but only because the state of Illinois said they had to. My salary only went up when minimum wage did.
Customers are night and day. When I say this, I mean that their either the nicest people you will ever meet, or absolutely crazy. There's a lot of regulars that come in. You get to know their name. They get to know you. Often times we would have orders ready for certain customers before they even came in because they were so well known in the store. On the other hand, because Panera is on the more expensive side of "fast food", there are people that will go ballistic on you for the smallest reason. I once made a turkey sandwich for a customer and forgot to put onions on it. Honest mistake. Instead of coming up to the counter and saying "Excuse me, I think you forgot the onions. Can I please have some?" he walked up to the counter, asked for the "idiot that made his sandwich". I approached and asked if I could help him. He pulled out his phone, snapped my picture, and told me he was going to send in a complaint about me to someone higher and that he hoped I was fired. Needless to say, the managers understood that it was an honest mistake and that this certain individual must have just been having a bad day. Incidents like this should not reflect poorly on Panera, as you will deal with customers like this in any customer service job, but it does happen.
All in all, a pretty great place for a student looking for a part time job as long as your aren't expecting to be making huge amounts of money. – less