Things are getting complicated. Today was the last day to use my Panera Coupon. I had tried to use it previously, but was then informed it was a mobile coupon, only good for mobile orders. Previously the in-store kiosks had counted as mobile orders, but not this time.
That doesn’t mean the order had to be take-out. It just means I had to order it from my mobile phone. So today, the last day to use my $5 Panera coupon, I walked in, helped myself to water, sat down at a table and went through the process of ordering my broth bowl via the mobile phone.
I do realize that margins can be slim in the restaurant business, but involving personal electronics presents another layer of complications. Heading out the door to go to lunch, I realized my phone was almost out of battery charge. It crossed my mind to change my plans, but being the last day for the Panera coupon, I headed back inside to fetch the portable charger. It was also on its last bar of energy, but none-the-less, that would be enough to get to Panera to use my coupon to get my broth bowl (which are very good by the way).
I guess it’s not that big of a deal. Obviously I am willing to make the shift for $5. But lacking a coupon, I’d rather order from a person. It just seems as if things are being set up so I can go to lunch and never have to say a word to anyone. What good are “third-places” if communication is void?
Only at Panera, while the food is good, I have a frequent desire desire to avoid communication because I know I could encounter a “robot” reciting similar corporate phrases to each customer. “A server will bring your food to the table. We’re glad you’re here,” or something along these lines. Instead, today I received an email telling me to wait at my table and a server would bring my food. Thanks, Panera.
I don’t mean to single out Panera, I love to try to say “Be Well” at Walgreen’s before the employee does. California Pizza Kitchen was using table-ordering devices long ago. I would prefer companies just try to hire people who say nice things, or at least extend normal courtesies naturally, not because its part of their job.
Perhaps this is a passing fad. Maybe it isn’t. I’ll likely keep ordering at the counter unless Panera continues seducing me to use the phone or kiosks with generous coupons.