I’ve been to Panera Bread a couple of times in the past 2 days and have noticed something that is really cool.
If you look closely at the name tags of employees, they not only have their names, but there is also a space where they can fill in something that they are interested in. One person had “my bicycle” on her name tag. Another had “the environment”.
The reason that I feel that this is cool is because it flies in the face of a deep issue in our culture framed within the concept of consumerism. It is rather quite normal for us not to even care about the name of the person who takes our order or who puts our food together. We simply want him/her to get our order right and to give it to us as quickly as possible.
In the process, we look through yet another person. We are satisfied with not truly encountering them as a human being, but rather a commodity form, a cog in the wheel of our next transaction.
So, Panera Bread says, “We actually want you to encounter a person. Her name is Anne and not only does she work for us and provide you with your order, she has a passion for the environment.”
This practice is encouraging to me and challenges me to not look through those who take food orders, who run the checkout at the grocery store or deliver a package to our front doorstep. Each person is a human being and have an existence that transcends the role they play in my daily life.
Three cheers for Panera Bread! Now, if they could only lower their prices a bit. [Insert Irony music here]