ST. LOUIS — In an effort to accelerate business, the popular sandwich chain, Panera Bread, plans to install computerized kiosks that will make ordering easier by removing from the equation the obligation to ‘catch-up’ with old high school friends who are working behind the register.
The company expects to add eight kiosks per restaurant and a rapid pickup bench for customers on the go. Each location will also include an escape hatch that leads to a sub-basement and a system of tunnels that direct customers safely away from unappetizing small talk about grad-school and the possibility of moving to Baltimore.
An electronic table tracking system will pinpoint where the customer is sitting. The customers will then have their food brought to them by an employee clothed in a hooded cloak, much like the ones worn by executioners in medieval times, so as to not stir up any embarrassing adolescent memories.
This change will not cut jobs, but instead move most of the Panera employees to the kitchen area, where they will focus on getting the orders right. And while the move mostly keeps those pesky shadows of the past hidden from your thoughts as you tear into your lobster roll sandwich, Panera has another strategy for guarding your ego—disguises.
“Why no, I’m not Steven from Tech Ed,” a masked customer might say, “I’m Baron Beard von Mustache!” The Baron is one of three “identity packs” customers can choose from and inhabit to elude their detractors from the lacrosse team, the others being “The Spectacled Bush” and “Dog.”
“The saddest thing about reuniting with high school friends while seeing them toil in a sandwich place on the weekend,” explains Joshua who graduated in 2008 from James Monroe High School in Fredericksburg, Va. and lives with his parents two blocks from the school, which is four blocks from the nearest Panera Bread, “is realizing that even they are better off than you.
“My life is deeply sad,” he added.
For those who prefer the conventional dining experience of choosing which soup to go with your pick-two combo while trying not to think of time as the subtle thief of youth, staring into the now wearied eyes of the girl you once had a crush on but were too nervous to ask to prom so she went with that guy Luke who recently died of a drug overdose on the way to Bonnaroo and left her as the sole provider for their child he named “Reznor”—at least two registers will remain open in addition to the kiosks.