Good Goes Social: How Panera Bread Got Customer Service Right When It Didn’t Even Have To

Aug 23, 2012

By Christian Williams, Social Enterprise Specialist, The ThinkTank for Nonprofits

I’ve been a huge fan of Panera Bread for a little over a year – ever since I got hooked on their macaroni and cheese. I’ve never tried their clam chowder though (I’m not much of a clam guy), but it must be good from what I’ve heard – and just as good as a Panera Bread store manager’s idea of customer service.

Panera Bread took the Facebook community by storm earlier this month when Brandon Cook posted a story of his dying grandmother’s request for Panera’s clam chowder. The story explained his effort to get the clam chowder for his grandmother regardless of the fact that it wasn’t a Friday (the only day of the week that Panera sells clam chowder.) The young man contacted his local Panera branch and was put in touch with a manager named Sue, who went out of her way to get clam chowder to Brandon’s grandmother.

His mother, Gail Cook, soon reposted the story to Panera Bread’s Facebook page, and the story went viral from there. Since the story was posted to Panera’s page on August 8th, the post has gotten a whopping 760,263 likes.

32, 643 comments have also graced the heartwarming post. Most of the comments include an outpouring of support and well wishes for the ailing grandmother as well as many messages of thanks to the Panera Bread manager, Suzanne Fortier, for her selflessness and willingness to assist a customer in need. Many of the comments are from college-aged students like the younger Cook, which makes me even happier.

My take on it:

We all love a good news story. But when a customer goes out of their way to tell that story themselves because they were so greatly impacted by it, it means so much more. Brandon Cook didn’t need to write about his experience at Panera Bread – just like Suzanne Fortier didn’t need to go out of her way to make a single serving of clam chowder for an ailing woman.

The actions of both Brandon and Suzanne show that doing a little can do a very long way, especially when it comes to communicating good deeds through social media.

Now, every time I eat at Panera Bread, I’ll always associate the experience with feelings of kindness and the joy of one human helping another. And that feeling is addictive, just like Panera Bread’s food don’t you think?

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