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Panera Bread: Discriminatory?

Covered by the Hinterland Gazette, "a source for thought- provoking social and political commentary on issues affecting the African American community and beyond": Guy Vines Sues Panera Bread for Racial Discrimination, Saying Co. Doesn’t Want “Black, Fat or Ugly People at Register”

Also covered by NBC10 Philadelphia: Panera Doesn't Want 'Black, Fat or Ugly' People at the Register: Lawsuit, subtitled "A Pennsylvania man has filed a lawsuit against Panera, saying it has a policy that keeps black employees away from the public eye. He's the second person to file such a suit against the restaurant."

The lawsuit hasn't been resolved yet, but this sounds pretty overt and pretty heinous. However, it might be a problem with the owner of the franchise, Sam Covelli, rather than with the company as a whole. The NBC article notes that "according to its website, Covelli is the fifth-largest restaurant franchisee in the country and develops and manages the franchise rights of nearly 200 Panera cafes in northeast Ohio, western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and West Palm Beach, Fla." So, if it's the franchise owner, it's still a widespread problem. If there is a systemic problem with Covelli Enterprises, then hopefully the parent company will do something about it.

Has anyone had experiences with Covelli Enterprises' restaurants or with Panera Bread in general that would shed light on this?

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vesta44's picture
January 13th, 2012 | Link | The closest Panera Bread

The closest Panera Bread location to us is in St Cloud MN and that's 45 miles away (never been to Panera, there's also one in Mankato MN and I never went to it even when I lived in Mankato). So I don't have a clue how they treat their employees, or if they even hire fat/black/ugly employees.
It's always struck me as an up-scale, yuppie version of Subway or Erbert & Gerbert's with prices to match - not a place I could afford to eat or one in which I would feel comfortable, so I've never felt the need to check it out.

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MReap January 13th, 2012 | Link | My "local" Panera is in La

My "local" Panera is in La Crosse, WI. They have a diverse bunch of employees (for SE MN/SW WI that is), probably reflects the local university population. The clientele is also diverse, esp. body sizes. Love the food, so I hope this is "only" the franchisee Covelli

pani113's picture
January 13th, 2012 | Link | I linked this article on

I linked this article on their FB with the comment that I will be watching for diversity in their staff. If I don't find it, they will lose my business. I am glad to hear not all Paneras are like this, but here in Chicago it would not surprise me at all if some were following those unwritten rules. I talk about lookism in my cultural diversity classes and many students have stories about how management codes applicants, if they are cute the aps are retained, if not they are thrown away or put in a separate file. Panera was not specifically mentioned, but many retailers on the Mag Mile and those kind of snooty places. The practice is alive and well in Chicago in general!

"Fat can be beautiful. Intolerance is ALWAYS ugly!"

Viola's picture
January 13th, 2012 | Link | I just read this story to my

I just read this story to my friend in Virginia, and he said they have fat people and ugly people at the counter all the time. So maybe just the thing about the racial discrimination is true. Smiling

I have only been to Panera twice, both in Virginia, and it's been awhile. I don't recall seeing any black people nor fat people working there the two times I was there. The people were generally young and slim. There are a lot of young people who work in retail, especially the food industry, and a lot of young people are slender. But you can see a different physical variety of young person from one chain to another. Generally speaking, the people I see working at fast food do not have the same physique or race as people I see working at hip restaurants or coffee shops.

When a restaurant is new and busy and trying to project a certain image, the servers all look a certain way. As time wears on and the restaurant loses popularity, you start to see a lot more fat and non-white food servers. Which isn't to say that there aren't non-white food servers in these restaurants at all, it really comes down to what kind of image a person projects. Even if someone is a very good food server with a good resume, if he or she doesn't match a certain look, that person will have a harder time landing a job. I've seen it too many times, and it makes sense since even if you don't have a policy of discrimination or unwritten rules, individuals have unwritten rules based on their own prejudices and societal influences.

I've always know the jobs that I was going to get after the interview, and I know that in part I got that job because what was seen as a negative in some situations was viewed as a positive. The last full time permanent job I had, at one point several months into it, one of the supervisor's told me they specifically wanted a woman for the position, because every time a man had it, there was the attitude that he should be doing other things. The person I replaced was a man who wanted a promotion or was going to go work in the warehouse until something better came along. Since they actively discriminated against women in the warehouse (not accepting applications from them, or throwing them away if they did come in), my boss knew I wouldn't leave to work in the warehouse. And the fact that I'm fat is a plus, because if you are fat and overqualified, people often get that, and know that maybe you aren't as likely to be leaving soon. Just my opinion based on my own experiences.

When Starbucks was first coming into the part of Northern Virginia where I lived, I went to a career fair in DC to get one of the coveted jobs. I didn't get hired. Later I went into that Starbucks to try it out, and everyone there was young, thin and attractive. The manager who had interviewed me kind of looked at me with recognition and seemed kind of embarrassed when I greeted her. But if you have your pick of good looking people, let's be honest, most people are not going to hire a morbidly obese person.

Bree's picture
January 13th, 2012 | Link | There's a Panera about ten

There's a Panera about ten minutes away from my home. I've seen black employees and Asian employees working there. The majority of them are young but I think it boils down to younger people are more willing to work in that type of environment because it's a job and the competition for open positions probably isn't as competitive as say, an office position.

And while Panera does have an image as an upscale "WASP" eatery, my local one attracts all kinds of customers. The elderly, families with children, business people, middle-aged, etc., of all shapes and sizes and colors. It's located in a town where people of all kinds of backgrounds live, so maybe region and population combined with a single jackass with a very discriminatory mindset are the major factors. (I live in Maryland BTW).

I've never felt uncomfortable in my few trips there. Sure, the prices are high but the food is pretty good and there are times when you want "fast food" that isn't the usual burgers/chicken strips stuff.

Tehomet January 15th, 2012 | Link | Sorry for the OT comment,

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