Panera Wins Employer of Choice Award for Second Year Running

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With service industry employee turnover rates at an all-time high, Panera is managing to buck this trend by giving a voice to its team members, and empowering employees
With service industry employee turnover rates at an all-time high, Panera is managing to buck this trend by giving a voice to its team members, and empowering employees

Black Box Intelligence, a data and insight company focused on the restaurant industry, has named Panera its fast-casual Employer of Choice for the second consecutive year. The honor is based on reviews of workforce data. Panera received the recognition due to low employee turnover rates among its management and hourly workers. The employer also stood out for providing competitive compensation rates for employees, and its commitment to considering diversity, equity, and inclusion in its hiring decisions.

“When our team members are happy, our guests are happy, and we are focused on our employees’ experience through business training, education on leadership and life skills, ways to serve the community, and more,” said Kathy-Joe Payette, Panera’s chief people officer.

“We’re committed to maintaining our company as an employer of choice in fast casual and to ensuring Panera is a place of warmth, belonging, growth, and trust for all.”

Committed to Team Building

With service industry employee turnover rates at an all-time high, Panera is managing to buck this trend by giving a voice to its team members, and empowering employees to guide and shape the guest experience. Specifically, the bakery-cafe has implemented an innovative operating model as part of a menu transformation, shaped in large part by team member feedback. This new system “improves operator performance and quality, bolsters management retention, and fosters team stability, which results in a higher level of consistency and guest service within our bakery-cafes,” explained Debbie Roberts, chief operating officer at Panera.

Other examples include the Panera management team’s effort to promote internally when filling general manager positions, and investing in capability building, training, and recognition programs. The result is that the bakery-cafe has one of the lowest GM turnover rates in the restaurant industry. Team members stay in this position an average of nine years.

“At Panera, we believe our general managers are our most important leaders, and we aim to empower them to look after our team members who can in turn delight our guests,” Roberts said. To add to that delight, the nearly 40-year-old company has also made significant menu changes to enhance the customer experience.

A Whole New Panera

With an invigorated workforce ready to provide an exceptional customer experience, Panera recently unveiled an updated menu for its network of more than 2,100 locations in North America. Featured among nine all-new menu offerings are new and exciting sandwiches and salads, with more choices that cost less than $10. Twelve enhanced classics allow guests to boost the protein in their meals with added chicken and steak. Additional fan-favorite flavor options include ranch and balsamic dressings.

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