Came to Panera this morning to get work done. Entered and expected to see Anthony, the charming, happy-go-lucky, makes-everyone-feel-good-about-themselves manager. He’s always here; has always been here for nearly a decade. Great guy. No, great, great, great guy.
I approach the counter, speak with an employee I’ve come to know. “Anthony’s gone,” she says.
“Fired?” I say.
“No, transferred to the White Plains store.”
As we spoke, two different employees overheard the conversation. “It’s terrible,” one said. Then—”I love Anthony,” said another.
I asked who, exactly, took over. Someone motioned toward the best table in the entire restaurant; the one alongside the fireplace. It’s an awesome spot with shelf space and eternal warmth. Oh, and an outlet. “He sits there,” an employee said—snidely, dismissively. I looked and, indeed, the new manager set up shop at The Table. In all my years coming here, Anthony never set up shop at The Table. Why? Because he knew the value of The Table to customers; knew people enjoyed sitting there.
I’ve been told Anthony was hurt by the relocation. I don’t blame him. The guy put everything into this store; worked his way up from, I believe, associate to manager. I actually know him going way back to his time as a Starbucks barista. Again—one of the absolute nicest, most capable, most dedicated employees a restaurant could find. He also understood his employees. These are, mostly, kids in their late teens and early 20s. They take the bus here from the Bronx and Yonkers for low pay. Anthony treated them with the dignity and respect they deserved. He was, truly, magical.
I think I’m done with Panera.
PS: Panera also shuts down the Wifi between 11 and 2, so writers don’t hog tables. I know of no other coffee shop that treats is regulars as such.