July 23, 2013 by Carrie Mess
Dear Panera Bread Company,
You’ve lost a customer. Now most people wouldn’t offer to help someone out that they don’t like but I am going to be the bigger person here and give you a heads up.
On Friday I stopped into one of your stores to grab a bite to eat after spending the morning at the Dane County Fair watching the hard working 4H and FFA kids showing their dairy cattle. My mother-in-law was along for the ride and since the line was long and she needed time to pick out her sandwich before getting to the counter I grabbed one of your handy menus from a stand. That’s where I found this…
“All natural” and “Antibiotic free” chicken. Well Ok…. What exactly does that mean? I mean all chicken must meet the standards that the USDA has in place for antibiotic withholding, regardless of production practices. At first when I saw this I just started to shake my head. Another company using a label that implies that other choices are bad or dangerous is nothing new or earth shattering. I would have let it go, I mean labels like yours are a dime a dozen these days. But when I posted on my facebook page about it, someone informed me of your new marketing campaign.
Let’s talk about the marketing campaign that you launched along with your “All natural, antibiotic free” poultry. Mr. or is it Mrs. EZChicken?
She/he seems to be guilty of sloth. I mean who knew that they even made chicken sized hammocks? Of course chickens aren’t really out there holding up pharmacies to get drugs. Even if they somehow pulled off looking intimidating, chickens can’t get the pill bottles open. While you can order some chicken fingers with your fries, chicken thumbs aren’t on the menu. It doesn’t take a genius to understand what you’re really saying here.
I mean surely Panera Bread Company’s new campaign isn’t actually calling farmers and ranchers lazy?
Oh, I guess you are… … … That can’t be good for business! Who in the world would approve this message? This idea sounds more like one of those interns who gets pissed off and tries to take down a company via twitter. I mean really, who in the world would approve a marketing campaign that insults the very people that provide every scrap of ingredient that makes your product?
But wait you say, Panera isn’t calling all farmers and ranchers lazy! They are just calling the ones that use antibiotics lazy! I used antibiotics to help a sick calf get better last week, my friends the organic farmers had a cow with pneumonia and they gave that cow antibiotics to make her better. They had to sell her, but she lived. Does that mean we are lazy? Is it lazy to take care of our sick animals?
Panera, you might respond that your menu changes are in response to what your customers have asked for. If that’s the case, why are you only zeroing in on your poultry ingredients, why not the roast beef and bacon? By reading your menu I see the bacon is applewood smoked but was it allowed to roam free and forage for it’s food in it’s pre bacon state? Does your roast beef come from fluffy cows?
We’ll ignore that fact that if you checked the purses and glove boxes of the folks that stopped in your stores for lunch you would find a Walgreens worth of pharmaceuticals that would keep Brett Favre circa 1995, Lindsay Lohan, the ghosts of Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and Elvis feeling reallllll nice. After all, this isn’t about the people, it’s about the chickens! If you are in fact responding to your customer’s wants, why isn’t your chicken also “free range” or “cage free“? I bet if you asked the same customers that wanted the “all natural and antibiotic free” chicken how they wanted their pre Frontegra Chicken Sandwich to be housed they would have an opinion and you could add even more labels, length and description to your menu!
Today we got two lunches and paid almost $20 for them. Our lunches were tasty although one could argue that paying $20 for two sandwiches, a salad and a lemonade rather than making our own sandwich at home for a fraction of the cost is lazy. How much would a Cuban Chicken Panini made with free range, all natural, antibiotic free, certified organic chicken cost? How much are your customers willing to spend on lunch?
Let’s cut through the BS here Panera. Your new marketing campaign is a horrible idea. If you want to promote something that you think sets you apart from the crowd, this isn’t the way to do it. Biting the hand that very literally feeds you isn’t going to work out well for your company. Slapping some labels on your poultry products isn’t meeting customer demands, it’s creating fear over food and that’s not cool. My friend Janeal is a P.H.D. Meat Scientist and a Mom, she broke down the whole antibiotics in meat thing quite a while ago, you should read what she had to say in this post.
You’ve lost a customer, I doubt that I am the only one. Is that how you envisioned your new marketing plan to work?