Panera isn’t worth the money



$11.52 for tomato soup, half of a grilled cheese sandwich, bland chips, a watery Dr. Pepper and a stale chocolate cookie is far too much to pay. Panera has raised their prices to the point that it’s almost cheaper to eat at iHop.

When first waltzing into Panera, the menu appeared to give me my money’s worth. Soups and a side costs only $4.99. But once I received the food, I realized that I’d been bamboozled. Sides consists of bread, chips or an apple, all of which don’t have much protein and won’t fill me up. Soup was never meant to be a main dish because after eating it, I’m generally still hungry. After eating my soup for the first time, I sat back against the booth and realized I’d just wasted five dollars. I was still hungry. When they first opened, Panera’s bagels were 85 cents, now they are $1.44, including tax. Panera’s prices keep rising yet my stomach isn’t getting any smaller.

If you want to go to Panera and actually leave full, I’d suggest the Pick Two option. I love tomato soup, but in no way is it delicious enough to spend five dollars on it alone without regretting it. The Pick Two option gives customers the chance to get two different items at a lowered cost, yet their Classic Grilled Cheese paired with their Creamy Tomato Soup is still $7.99. This is is far too expensive. Add on $1.79 for a medium Dr. Pepper, and the total cost comes out to be $10.68. An optional 99 cents for a cookie drives the cost up to $11.52. Panera creates the illusion that I’ll get my money’s worth, but with all the extra costs, I end up paying a lot more than I’d expected.

There’s nothing like slurping on a bowl of tomato soup. I’m not much of a soup lover, but I eat tomato soup on a regular basis; I love it. However, spending any more than a dollar for a bowl of tomato soup is outrageous. Panera’s soup is tasty, but no more delicious than the can of tomato soup that I have at home for only 99 cents. Plus, canned soup gives me at least twice as much as Panera so I can usually get two meals out of one can. There’s nothing special about Panera’s soup that’s worth paying extra the money. While yes, their soup tastes good, that’s it. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t great, it’s good. It tastes like normal tomato soup. The only difference between Panera’s tomato soup and the grocery store’s? Over $4.

Since I am a vegetarian, I do appreciate that Panera has plenty of different options without meat. Their Black Bean soup and their Garden Vegetable soup are both delicious options, but I usually stick to my favorite soup: tomato.

Their Classic Grilled Cheese is nothing compared to my mom’s. I imagine grilled cheese as gooey, stringy cheese coming off lightly toasted bread, yet Panera’s grilled cheese shatters this picture. The cheese tastes like disgusting plastic smothered by bread. Half the time the cheese is burned, and the other half it tastes like the sandwich was made a couple days ago. Even with the Pick Two option, the grilled cheese still costs four dollars. This price isn’t ridiculous, yet it is still over priced.

The cookie I paid 99 cents for was literally as hard as a rock — I hit it hard against the table and it didn’t even crack. I still ate it only because I have an undying love for chocolate. I never cook, but I think I could have made a better cookie at home without any help. Either they left the cookie in the oven for way too long, or the cookie had been sitting out for over three days. Whichever, I wish I hadn’t eaten it.

The kids menu, however, seems more worth the money. Only $4.19 for peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a GoGurt? Sure, I may not like yogurt much. Regardless, it’s still a good deal.

Though the prices may be outrageous, somehow this hasn’t stopped me from going to Panera. Their food isn’t worth the money, but the atmosphere is something I don’t experience at any other restaurant. Thankfully they don’t play the obnoxious music I’d find on 96.1 or 94.1, and play more light rock, alternative and the occasional jazz music. There’s always a fireplace with comfortable furniture to cuddle up with, and if that’s not your style, there’s never a shortage of booths and tables. With free WiFi, I could stay there for hours, and usually do. The workers never rush me to leave and the temperature is not too cold, yet not too warm.

Panera also gives back to the community. At the end of each day, Panera donates their unsold bakery items to local food commissions for underprivileged families. They also participate in the Scrip fundraising program, which helps raise money for non-profit organizations.

Though their food may be overpriced and not that great, the atmosphere and community involvement keep me coming back to Panera.

Hailey Stolze
Website Editor-in-Chief