Is it worth the free baguettes?

Panera Bread, a fast-casual dining restaurant chain known for its sandwiches, soups and salads is taking their café appeal to a next level. Their restaurants, painted with warm colors and filled with comfortable seating and fireplaces are often a popular place for dates. I would know this because I work at Panera over breaks, and I have witnessed many couples come into the restaurant together to enjoy a nice meal.

Panera has recognized this, and has even capitalized on the idea of a #paneradate on their social media before. But now they are promoting this idea of love in their cafés even further by encouraging people to get engaged in their restaurants. Not the usual place for a proposal, sure, but Panera is offering five couples who post a picture of their proposal on social media free catering at their wedding.

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Cheers to another successful #paneradate

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Panera has named this campaign the #PaneraProposalSweeps, and it has gained a fair amount of attention online. The couples must get engaged on Valentine’s Day, post evidence of their proposal on social media and use the campaign’s hashtag to be entered into the sweepstakes. Five winners will then be picked and receive up to $2,000 worth of Panera catering at their wedding.

The problem many people on Twitter and Facebook have been pointing out about this campaign is that the risk/reward level is too unfavorable. Proposing to your future spouse at a place where the most common phrase is, “Would you like chips, apple or bread for your side?” is certainly not the most romantic gesture. In addition, there’s no guarantee that if you do propose at a Panera that you will win free catering. This is just a sweepstakes, after all, so it’s likely that many people who got engaged in a Panera Bread only received applause from its employees and fellow customers out of this.

Having people enter the contest through social media has both positive and negative aspects to it. On the positive end, this creates publicity and attention online for Panera Bread, making consumers associate Panera more with love and happiness. On the negative end, it’s hard to regulate whether these social media posts are legit or not through one picture. A couple could easily stage a photo just to be entered into the sweepstakes, something that I’m sure at least a few of the couples have done.

If I were on Panera’s PR team, I would suggest that they first make their promotional video a little bit more clear. It’s hard to read the fine print at the bottom of the video, making the rules of this sweepstakes not effectively communicated. Second, I would encourage participants to submit a video on social media rather than a picture, so it would be a harder to stage a fake proposal. Last, I would make the amount of food won worth more than $2,000. This is an attractive prize, but it might not be practical for all couples. Increasing it by another thousand would make this sweepstakes more ideal and competitive.

In the future, I don’t think Panera should repeat this campaign. One that involves something less serious than getting engaged would be better, such as rewarding customers for simply going on a date at the restaurant instead. But who knows, maybe those five couples that won will have the wedding of their dreams, with copious amounts of baguettes and bread bowls to fill their plates.

 

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