How Panera Made Me Swoon And 4 Brilliant Tips Brands Can Learn

To know me, is to know that I love Panera Bread. Like, we have become best friends since I became a stay-at-home mom and then decided to start my own business. When I needed to start taking some time for myself, Panera is where I snuck off to…sometimes to work (or pretend I was working), sometimes to just sit and enjoy a nice quiet breakfast or lunch by myself. It became my go-to place because being a work-at-home and homeschooling mom, sometimes I just need a change of scenery.

Fast forward to the magic that took place in my Twitter DM (direct message) last week. I could barely believe my eyes but it was a message from Panera that said, “Hi Christine! We’ve got a surprise we’d love to send you to say thanks for being a fan. Could you DM a mailing address?” Let me tell you, you would’ve thought I won the lottery or something with how excited I got. When one of your favorite brands not only reaches out to say thank you, but also follows you on Twitter, it’s major. And it made me take notes in a major way, so I wanted to share them here.

Below is a copy of the letter and surprise gift I received in the mail. Coincidentally, I came home from spending a few hours knocking out some projects at Panera yesterday, and this was sitting on my steps waiting for me.

Panera Bread - Christine St.Vil - superfan

Panera Bread - cutting board - Moms N Charge

So here are 4 brilliant tips brands can learn from Panera Bread:

1. Customer service is still key

Just check out their Twitter feed. I don’t know how many people they have on their team, but they are quick to respond to everyone, even the negative feedback.

And from personal experience, when they say they’re going to look into something, they do. A couple of years ago I tweeted out how sad I was because I drove all the way to Panera just for a pumpkin muffin, but I was told that they were out for the season. They responded asking me for location info (apparently they were not supposed to be out for the season), and I gave it not thinking anything of it. A couple of days later I went in to get lunch and low and behold: they were stocked with pumpkin muffins. #score They mean what they say.

2. Create an experience that keeps them coming back

Panera could’ve easily just uploaded a meal onto my Panera account. They could’ve just tweeted me “Hey, thanks for being a super fan” and left it at that. But they took it several steps further.

They reached out to me directly. They told me when to expect my package. I LOVE surprises so I was definitely stalking the mailman daily.

They actually respond back to individual comments and replies on social media. They make each person feel special and important. If a customer raises an issue or concern, they are quick to respond, apologize for inconvenience and let them know how they’re going to “make it right”.

Panera laptop - Moms N Charge3. Details are important…especially the little ones

Let me tell you: I pay attention to details. And I LOVE it when a person or company that I love does the same. This is hands down the best “thank you for being a fan” letter/gift I’ve ever received.

They could have very well just sent a thank you card with the meal card, and said “enjoy”. What I absolutely loved about this were the details and the personality of the brand behind it.

Now I squealed at the “over 8, 000 followers” bit…but when I got down to “caramel latte with extra caramel“…I done lost it! Why? Because that little piece of detail is important. It shows me that even though they probably have millions of customers and hundreds of thousands of followers online, they still pay attention to the details. They still want to make everyone feel like a VIP because they value us.

4. Personalize it

To take the customer’s experience to another level, they take time to personalize things. Whether it’s in a tweet or a letter like the one they sent me, they make it personal. Personalizing shows that you care. Personalizing shows that you’re not just a number in their over 300K Twitter followers and God knows how many daily customers.

Personalizing goes back to the details, and the experience and the customer service. When you have all of these qualities in a great brand, guess who’s going to continue to go back to them? I was a superfan before but I’m a total loyal and lifetime fan now.

What Panera Bread made me do was take a look at my own business to see how I can create a better experience for anyone I come in contact with. They showed me in this small gesture what it means to really care about your customers.

So I’ll continue to take my good eating self right on over to my little getaway for some good eating.

Dear Panera: Thank you for making this a top 10 on my list this year, and please keep doing what you’re doing to make customers like myself super happy!

Let me know in the comments below: what’s your favorite branding strategy you’ve seen used and, more importantly, what is your favorite Panera meal? 😉


This post was not sponsored in any way. I’ve been a longtime fan of Panera Bread and wanted to share my excitement and lessons in more than just an Instagram or Facebook post.

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45 Comments

  • Reply
    T. Espinoza
    June 4, 2015 at 2:52 PM

    Yes to all of this! They’ve always been very responsive if I’ve had an issue and I love how interactive they are on social media. Plus, the food is great so yeah, fan forever!
    T. Espinoza would like you to check out…BBQ’s & Bass w/ Monster SuperStar {Giveaway}My Profile

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 4, 2015 at 5:13 PM

      Yes indeed! I don’t think people realize just how important it is when you pay attention to your customers.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Montague
    June 4, 2015 at 3:36 PM

    Great article Christine. I love company’s that provide great customer service also. I have only eaten at Panera Bread a few times (not for any particular reason). I will have to try them more often. One of my favorite Brands for customer service is Chic-fil-A. I have never experienced such consistently great customer service in any other restaurant. Only once was someone not “on point”. I asked her was she not feeling well and she said she wasn’t. And another time I was at a competitor and the voice through the drive thru was so positive and friendly I told him at the window that I thought I was at a Chic-fil-A. He said he used to work at Chic-fil-A. When a company trains their employees well, they will shine wherever they go. Kudos to both companies

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 4, 2015 at 5:12 PM

      Wow Cheryl! Thank you so much for sharing! I do love CFA as well, and can agree that their customer service is always great. And if there isn’t, you know something is wrong. LOL

  • Reply
    Shayla Boyd-Gill
    June 4, 2015 at 3:57 PM

    Yes!!!!! Panera gets a brilliant brand award every time. I love the customer experience. Anytime that I have had an issue, it has been addressed immediately. Great read!

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 4, 2015 at 5:11 PM

      Thanks Shayla!!! And yes, I agree. Their customer service is top notch 🙂

  • Reply
    Tameka
    June 4, 2015 at 4:00 PM

    YAAAASSSSS Christine, we know you love Panera Bread! So glad to see them recognize you! (Now how many points do you think you’ve racked up??! LOL)

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 4, 2015 at 5:08 PM

      LOL Yes, Tameka!!! Thank you lady! I don’t know how many points, but my belly will surely know when I eat those good meals 😉

  • Reply
    Rani Craft Robinson-Kiganda
    June 4, 2015 at 7:57 PM

    Panera is genius! They’ve brought new meaning to the word ENGAGEMENT! Lol LOVE IT!!
    Rani Craft Robinson-Kiganda would like you to check out…Women Entrepreneurs in Digital Media: Tameka J. HarrisMy Profile

  • Reply
    Krusheta
    June 5, 2015 at 6:16 AM

    Thank you for sharing this story. Customer service always wins my loyalty. Even if that means driving a little further or paying a little more. My time and money are precious, so I invest in companies that show they understand that. Ok – now I must have my Thai chicken salad and broccoli cheese soup with a mango smoothie for lunch!

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 9, 2015 at 10:50 AM

      I couldn’t have said it better Krusheta – I will do the same and drive further if it means stellar customer service. Now you’ve got me hungry! LOL

  • Reply
    Tara
    June 5, 2015 at 6:23 AM

    Um, I follow Panera and am there all the time! Where’s my gift??? LOL. That is obviously GREAT customer service and I’m glad Panera recognizes a VIP when they see one. 😉
    Tara would like you to check out…Three Truths Stepmoms Wish You KnewMy Profile

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 9, 2015 at 10:51 AM

      Bwahahaha Tara! You better tweet at them and ask them LOL. And thank you so much, I truly was humbled and overjoyed by this sweet gesture 🙂

  • Reply
    Josselyne
    June 5, 2015 at 8:45 AM

    That is so awesome. These are simple things that any business can adopt. I hope your new meal is yummy! Much deserved!!
    Josselyne would like you to check out…Interview with Lorraine of Lorraine’s Silk Flowers | Atlanta Intimate Wedding PhotographerMy Profile

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 9, 2015 at 10:56 AM

      Thanks Josselyne! I definitely am going to take these pointers and use them in my own business 🙂

  • Reply
    PATRICE M Foster
    June 5, 2015 at 10:00 AM

    My sister visit Atlanta from New York frequently and always dragging me to “PANERA” she has it bad not like I live near a Panera Bread store the drive 15-20minutes but to make her happy I would always entertain her habit. I can see why she like the breads they are tasty and I enjoy their pastries with occasional speciality coffee. Great article
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    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 9, 2015 at 10:58 AM

      LOL at “she has it bad”. I can definitely understand how your sister feels and I’m sure she appreciates you making that drive for her Patrice 🙂

  • Reply
    Olivia
    June 5, 2015 at 3:18 PM

    Wow! This is amazing, I love Panera Bread too but I had no idea that they put this kind of effort in, that is excellent! I agree with you 100% that customer service is key. It’s so funny..I am actually currently writing a blog about that very subject because I too believe that customer service is a key element to running a successful business! We can all definitely learn from them! Great post!
    Olivia would like you to check out…The Lady’s Guide Season Finale, Start Before You Are Ready!My Profile

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 9, 2015 at 11:00 AM

      I tell people all the time…customer service is what keeps me going or what keeps me away. I can’t wait to read your post Olivia 🙂

  • Reply
    Holly
    June 5, 2015 at 7:57 PM

    That is great that they sent that to you. I like Panera Bread. They have some great food and I really like their lemonade a lot! I have gone there to do work before a bunch of times.
    Holly would like you to check out…App of the Month: My TSAMy Profile

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 9, 2015 at 10:48 AM

      Yes, gotta love their fresh food Holly! One of my favorite drinks (besides my caramel latte of course lol) is their iced green tea…so yummy!

  • Reply
    Nadeen
    June 6, 2015 at 12:25 AM

    This is very cool! I also enjoy Panera and these are great lessons for a brand to learn! A restaurant I love in Atlanta and blogged about sent me a wonderful personalized Christmas gift and I was so surprised and delighted!
    Nadeen would like you to check out…Food Tour in Atlanta: Downtown Southern Food Walk!My Profile

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 9, 2015 at 10:47 AM

      Aww that’s so cool Nadeen! I love personalized anything so that’s awesome 🙂

  • Reply
    Stacie
    June 6, 2015 at 5:48 PM

    Panera is one of my favorite places to sneak off to as well! Their food is fresh and tastes good. The customer service isn’t bad either.
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  • Reply
    LaShawn
    June 7, 2015 at 8:08 PM

    Yesss to Panera! They have awesome customer service! I complained once a loong time ago and I received a gift card and so many apologies. And to me, it was just a minor complaint! But I love that they took the time to tweet and follow you!
    LaShawn would like you to check out…Saturdays ( A Photography Project): Week 13My Profile

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 9, 2015 at 10:46 AM

      Wow, that’s awesome LaShawn! It just goes to show how seriously they take their customer service.

  • Reply
    MJ
    June 7, 2015 at 9:49 PM

    I discovered Panera while visiting the South some time back. When they came to NYC I was overjoyed. The Asiago bagel is hands down my favorite item at Panera. Their customer service is always impeccable, the atmosphere is lovely and the food is always fresh. I love how they engaged you Christine. These are great tips for any small or large business to follow.
    MJ would like you to check out…Toyota RAV4 Car Review: Top 5 Tech Specs for Moms + Everyday Outings My Profile

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 9, 2015 at 10:42 AM

      I’ve tried a lot of things but haven’t tried that bagel yet MJ, so will need to get on that LOL And I agree – any business, big or small can learn from these simple tips 🙂

  • Reply
    Vashti (veepeejay.com)
    June 7, 2015 at 10:37 PM

    Absolutely brilliant! I love Panera Bread. I love how they went above and beyond and paid attention to all the little details. I try my best to do that with my audience. Girl I would have squealed so much so I share in your excitement.
    Vashti (veepeejay.com) would like you to check out…How Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone Changed My LifeMy Profile

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 9, 2015 at 10:41 AM

      Ha! Thank you Vashti! This definitely was the epitome of going “above and beyond”.

  • Reply
    Julian (@BoldFearless1)
    June 8, 2015 at 12:06 AM

    Just one more reason to love Panera! Despite having serious issues with gluten and dairy, I am still a HUGE Panera fan. To me their brand stands for a welcoming place to meet, fresh food, great service and awesome lattes! As a brand consultant, I give Panera an A++ for effort and am grabbing my notepad and taking notes… And so should every other brand that’s serious about creating loyal customers! Great post.

  • Reply
    Mimi
    June 8, 2015 at 2:54 AM

    I love brands that get Social Media. What an amazing touch. Now I’m craving my favorite Panera sandwich. Headed there tomorrow!
    Mimi would like you to check out…{Toyota Hybrid Prius Review} Top 5 Things a Mom Needs in a Compact CarMy Profile

  • Reply
    kara
    June 8, 2015 at 6:51 AM

    Christine, you don’t understand…I LIVE for Panera. I mean, LIVE for it. But I didn’t even think about following them online or even their customer service. Now that you brought it to my attention, I am going to do that right now.

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 8, 2015 at 2:05 PM

      Ha!!! I think I may have a slight idea how bad it is Kara LOL And yes girl, go follow and engage 🙂

  • Reply
    Kimberly
    June 8, 2015 at 9:03 AM

    Panera is absolutely one of my favorite places to eat. I love how they personalized your letter and appealed to your senses. Made you want to go out and indulge — at Panera of course. Great marketing!
    Kimberly would like you to check out…Faith is For The BirdsMy Profile

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 9, 2015 at 11:02 AM

      That’s exactly right Kimberly! I surely was ready to go right back there after I received it 🙂

  • Reply
    AJ
    June 10, 2015 at 11:46 AM

    Since I’m now unemployed I’m working on a branding strategy. Just placed first online order today and my favorite is Roasted Turkey Avocado BLT sandwich.
    AJ would like you to check out…My Inspiration: Decorating My SpaceMy Profile

    • Reply
      Christine St.Vil
      June 10, 2015 at 2:16 PM

      Hi AJ! I think having a concrete branding strategy is key. I actually haven’t tasted that sandwhich before so will have to grab it without the B 😉 Thanks for sharing!

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