A Letter from Panera Bread’s C.E.O.: Our Dining Rooms Are Open (So That You Can Break Up with Your Significant Other)


To Our Community,

The past year has been a truly tumultuous one for us all, what with the global pandemic, an election like no other, and so much economic uncertainty. I hope that you and your loved ones remain well in this unprecedented moment. Even in the worst of times, Panera Bread has been here to provide you with fresh, hearty meals. Also, a convenient location to break up with someone.

As new challenges arise, we respond together. We stand with you, and we continue to be inspired by you every day. We understand that you look to us and other fast-casual dining establishments for your self-esteem, your emotional strength, and your moral compass. And we take that responsibility seriously. That is why we pride ourselves on serving bland, lukewarm food to distract you from the crushing existential dread that accompanies ending a relationship with someone you don’t particularly like but have kept around for seven months too long, so that you wouldn’t be utterly alone. At Panera Bread, we know a little something about codependent relationships—our beef supplier hasn’t responded to any of our phone calls in weeks.

Now that our locations are finally open, we can get back to business. Our real business, I mean. The business of providing a physical space in which to end your relationship. Much like Barnes & Noble’s rebrand as a public bathroom, Panera Bread is now, first and foremost, a neutral, well-lit place to have a depressing conversation. Plus, you get an apple.

It’s been a long year—most of it spent stuck inside doing puzzles, baking lopsided pies, sewing Baby Yoda oven mitts, and telling all your friends that you’re “really getting into wine” as a cover for your burgeoning alcoholism. Breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend is way too fraught when the only place you can do it is your studio apartment or the Port Authority Bus Terminal. That’s why Panera Bread is opening dining rooms in select states, with limited capacity and social-distancing measures in place—to help you move on, to heal.

Unlike at other restaurants, at Panera Bread, diners pay before they eat, so you can haul ass when the crying starts. Customers love picking aimlessly at our hearty broccoli-cheddar mac and cheese as they ready themselves to finally rip that Band-Aid off. We bake all of our bread in-house, but you don’t care about that, do you? You just want a clean, safe place to tell your significant other that it’s finally over, that the only reason you didn’t do this sooner was because of the pandemic, and that you’ll be transferring the utility bill to your name.

Panera Bread boasts more than two thousand locations in the United States and Canada, and each dining area is optimized for your needs. For those of you who woke up knowing that today is the day, we serve breakfast until 10:30 A.M. Additionally, exits are clearly labelled, and a large red button is installed in each booth. If things get messy, just discreetly press that button and a server will come to your table and make smalltalk on subjects including the weather, sports, and “those jokers in Washington.” We believe that good food brings out the best in all of us, but in the absence of good food Panera Bread lets you dump somebody in public.

Maybe you’re the one getting dumped. We have ample parking spaces for you to weep in, for as long as you need, without feeling like you’re “making a scene” or “bumming people out.” We even offer curbside pickup if all that weeping dehydrates you and you want a contactless soda.

Breaking up on the go? Use our convenient smartphone app to have our extremely mediocre food delivered to your door. Wouldn’t you prefer to curl up with a warm bowl of thick turkey chili instead of that person you’ve felt nothing for since early April? Rather than filling your life with someone who might as well be a stranger lying beside you, fill your belly with our chipotle bacon melt.

And don’t forget about our new flatbread pizzas, which you’ll want to take home to silently stress-eat while you watch your former lover packing up the novelty shot glasses from that vacation you took to Puerto Vallarta, which was probably the last time you felt truly connected. We also have dessert.

Our food is, if nothing else, food—the kind of thing you can put in your mouth as your body is flooded with feelings of both despair and relief upon realizing that you are finally free.

We may not know when this quarantine will end, but if you already know that your relationship is over our doors are open. We also own Au Bon Pain, if you really want to drag things out.

Stay well,

Panera Bread

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