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Panera Bread logoWe’re starting a new series/category of posts called “Atmosphere Design.” What I mean by atmosphere design is how a restaurant, shop, or office utilizes its space in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and suited to the place that it represents.

The first place I’d like to discuss for this series is Panera Bread, a bakery/sandwich chain that I visit a few times per week.

Panera Bread does a good job at appealing to the senses of its patrons. When you first walk into the place, you immediately notices two things.

  1. It smells really damn good in here – fresh breads, coffee and cinnamon smells stand out.
  2. The jazz music is very relaxin

What I really like about Panera Bread (besides the cinnamon bagels and French Onion soup) is that it’s a good place to get some work done. There’s plenty of seating (at least at the location at North Hills Raleigh), and you can choose between a booth or a table. Or you can sit in more comfortable chairs in front of a gas fireplace. And there’s outside seating. The only thing I’d change is for there to be more electrical outlets for people to plug their laptops into.

Besides appealing to your sense of smell and sound, Panera Bread is visually pleasing. Interesting cylinder-shaped lights hang above each booth, providing just the right amount of light to get work done and still make it feel relaxing. The walls are lined with interesting pictures. Does anyone know if they use the same pictures at every Panera location?

Some people may say the Panera Bread atmosphere is fake or manufactured, since it’s not a typical mom-and-pop or independent restuarant. I’d respond to those people by saying that every environment is manufactured…and some places do a better job than others. Don’t penalize it just for being a chain that’s good at what it does.

Panera Bread offers free wi-fi internet access, unlike Starbuck’s, which charges you to go online. No thanks, Starbucks. I’ll stick to Panera.

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 161 user reviews.

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One Comment, Comment or Ping

  1. I know they are obviously different chains, but since they are so similar I think it’s a fair comparison: In my experience, Panera Bread does a much better job at atmosphere than Atlanta Bread Company. My only complaint about the Panera I’ve been to is that they keep the thermostat at about -31 degrees in the summertime.

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