Panera offers cozy atmosphere

Lindsy Breese and Lindsy Breese

Junior marketing student Courney Pollock rushes inside after her last class of the day. Instantly, she is greeted with the warm smell of freshly baked bread. Grabbing a fresh-brewed coffee and bagel, Pollock snuggles up in a leather chair next to the fireplace.

“I love the atmosphere here,” she said. “Sometimes I come here to relax and unwind after classes are over. It has such a nice ambience.”

This opportunity to relax and enjoy the experience is the key to success for Panera Bread, the bakery-style cafe recently opened on South Main Streer in Bowling Green.

“We try to be a sort of oasis to our guests,” manager Michael Bick said. “People can come ina and relaz; it’s never too busy in here. We want the m to feel like they can unwind and have good food at the same time.”

Panera’s Cozy Corner has leather chairs, softer lighting, a coffee table and a fireplace secluded in a corner. It offers privacy and relazation for guests that would like to unwind.

“There are very few times that this corner is not occupied,” Bick said. “Students and other residents get a chance to catch up on reading or studying while they enjoy freshly baked goods.”

Beyond the atmosphere, Panera offers unique customer service. Not only are guests greeted with the warm smell of freshly baked bread, but they are greeted with warm smiles as well.

“We take a lot of time training associates in customer service,” said Vicky Minor, director of marketing. “We are sensitive to our guests, not customers needs right when they walk in the door. We try to find out what kind of day they are having or mood they are in.”

And customer service doesn’t stop at the door for this company either. Panera Bread focus’ on the needs of the surrounding community.

Locally, any food that is left over is donated to churches, food kitchens, and shelters. The Bowlin Green store donated bagels and sweets to Red Cross volunteers and provided snacks to donors during the busy blood-donation push after the terrorist attacks.

Panera is also actively involved in university projects. The local store provides food at a discount to some Bowling Green State University organizations, which they turn around and sell for a profit.

“We try and maintain a close-knit relationship with the university,” Bick said. “We are in a college-town and we enjoy having the college kids in our store.”

Panera’s business style has reaped benefits for the bakery. Nationally, it was the fastest growning chain in 2000, enjoying sales of over $200 million.

Since opening in June, sales ahve increased steadily in Bowling Green, Bick said.

“Once we unlock the door, we are inviting guests in,” Bick said. “We treat them as you would if you were inviting someone into your home. When you have people leave from your home, you want them to be happy and full, right?”