BusinessWeek recognized the bakery-cafe chain for its attentiveness to the well-being of its associates. Specifically, the company was recognized for keeping associate hours steady during the recession while other restaurants cut back. Additionally, the company was noted for testing a new cash bonus program for hourly workers and for bolstering its long-term management incentives program. The ranking also credited Panera's "happier employees" for creating more repeat customers. This trend helped drive Panera's 9 percent comparable store sales growth in the last two and a half months, despite reports by market researcher NPD Group stating a 4 percent decrease in overall restaurant traffic nationwide.
"This award validates our long-held belief that our associates and their ability to deliver superior customer service are the ultimate points of differentiation in the Panera experience," says Ron Shaich, Panera's chairman and CEO. "We're pleased that our associates are receiving the credit they deserve for the exceptional customer experience they provide daily in 1,380 bakery-cafes across the country."