It’s 10 a.m. on a Thursday, and I am working at Bread Co. this morning. I think I finally figured out what I don’t like about this place. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like working here, just not eating here. The coffee is good, the background music is soothing, and the wireless internet access is absolutely necessary. But I never want to come here when discussing dining choices with my wife or anyone else.
I have often pondered the reason for my overall ambivalent feeling about the place. I thought maybe it was the food, and that is a small part of it as I will explain, but I knew there was something much deeper driving my angst. I wondered if, since I work here fairly often, perhaps I associate the place with business rather than pleasure. I suppose that might be a piece of the puzzle, but I knew there was something much more fundamental... something that deep down inside my being, made me feel strangely.... well... what is it... almost... offended. Nay, not offended... that is too strong a word. Mildly uncomfortable, perhaps.... in the same sense that one feels uncomfortable when the doctor tells him to remove his clothes.
As Morpheus (The Matrix) would say, it was “like a splinter in my mind.” It was a puzzle I had not yet solved... a mystery unresolved... a quirky quagmire of a question. Today... this morning... whilst sitting at my table preparing to get to work (procrastinating, actually)... it hit me like a ton of cinnamon crunch bagels. My conclusion?
This place was made for girls.
It’s true. The colors... light. The paintings... light. The music... light. The food... light. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a male employee in this place. If ever there once existed a male employee, he must have felt like a hawk in a flock of geese. I would think the constant cackling would have driven him away within a day (sorry ladies).
The urinal in the men’s bathroom faces the door in such a way that every time the door opens, you could carry on a conversation with people in the restaurant. Who designed this? Perhaps they thought no one would be using it.
The only real color on the wall menu is purple. The bagel labels... purple. And speaking of the menu, are you kidding me? Two men just walked in to order. They had obviously never been here before. One of them is wearing one of those insulated flannel shirts. The other has on grey sweats with motor oil stains on the knees. As they walk up to the counter and peer at the menu, there is only one way to describe their faces: utter confusion bordering on horror. I can see their eyes desperately searching the menu for a cheeseburger... or a fried chicken sandwich... or at the very least, something not including one of the following words: Mango, Chai, Organic, Asian, Fuji, Greek, Asiago, Sierra, Mediterranean, Veggie or Frontega.
As I mentioned, utter confusion... The men settled on breakfast sandwiches, probably because they could understand the words: bacon, eggs and cheese. Even though the Ciabatta bread vaguely reminded them of their ex-wives, how could they go wrong with bacon, eggs and cheese? Wait a minute.... One of the men just got up from his table, walked up to the counter and asked for ketchup in a way that communicated, “Why the heck isn’t it on the table?” The server had to think for a moment, probably trying to remember what ketchup is, and clearly wondering what on the menu could possibly require ketchup. (A good question, I admit.) I’m telling you, this place was designed for girls.
On any given day, when working at Panera, I am outnumbered by women 3 to 1 at least. The other men here? Well, they’re mostly older men, who are here with their wives. This is the truth. They have obviously long since learned to go wherever their wives want to go. Wisdom comes with age. That leaves just a few younger men who are here, like me, for the internet and the coffee. We are willing to shake off the strange effeminate vibe of the place, for the sake of an office away from the office. If Bob Evans had self-serve coffee, we’d be over there having biscuits and gravy.
Personally, it may help me feel better, at least having identified the problem. If only I had the money or time to invest, I would open a coffee shop designed with men in mind... possibly something with a hunting lodge vibe. One thing’s for sure, if I were designing the place, Frontega Chicken Sandwich on Focaccia... would NOT appear on the menu. Cheeseburgers would.