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Panera Bread Is The Largest Provider Of Free WiFi 350

ayb11 writes "According to this article, the Panera Bread chain of Bakery/Cafes (think Starbucks that bakes their own bread) is the largest provider of free WiFi in the US. Their web site says, " There are currently 573 Wi-Fi enabled Panera Bread bakery-cafes, from California to Virginia. More are added every day." (Even my retired dad takes his barely-used laptop over there so he can get free refills on coffee.) Their full list of hotspots is here."
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Panera Bread Is The Largest Provider Of Free WiFi

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  • I bet (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:02PM (#11703669)
    Offering free wifi costs them a lot of dough.
    • Re:I bet (Score:3, Informative)

      by tmasssey ( 546878 )
      Are you kidding?

      SBC offers DSL for $30 a month. So I can't see how Panera would pay more than $30/month for high-speed access. Do you know how many times I've eaten over-priced Panera sandwiches for lunch just for the WiFi?

      It's easily $7-$8 for a half sandwich, cup of soup (You-pick-two) and a drink. If 10 people do that a *month*, I'm *sure* they've paid for the WiFi. I probably do it *myself* that many times a month. Just for the WiFi!

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Hear that? That's the sound of you not getting the joke.
      • You knead to grain a sense of humor.
    • Re:I bet (Score:5, Funny)

      by buro9 ( 633210 ) <> on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:18PM (#11703877) Homepage
      As puns go they don't baguette much better than that. We can't all have an in-bread ability to come out with such wheaticisms.

      I can see how a bakery chain would knead to branch out it's offerings though.

      Damn, I thought of another pun but now it's scone!

      * Thanks to a few mates for coming up with these truly breadful puns.
    • Re:I bet (Score:5, Funny)

      by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:26PM (#11703993)
      "Offering free wifi costs them a lot of dough."

      But I bet having it makes them some bread.

  • got fibre? (Score:5, Funny)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:02PM (#11703670) Homepage Journal
    A friend was lamenting how overloaded and lagged the local free WiFi was. Lag always put me in mind of a constipated network. Seems a bakery chain would have the fibre thing covered to keep your traffic moving smoothly, inside and out.

    "uuuugghhh need more bran"

  • If only (Score:5, Funny)

    by krgallagher ( 743575 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:03PM (#11703686) Homepage
    "There are currently 573 Wi-Fi enabled Panera Bread bakery-cafes, from California to Virginia. More are added every day."

    If only they served alcohol.

  • by Shnizzzle ( 652228 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:04PM (#11703696)
    It's just factored into the prices. Panera is good but pretty pricey. I doubt they would let someone who doesn't order anything just sit in their and use the internet for a prolonged period of time. It's a resturant, not a coffee shop.
    • Actually, the one right down the street from my apartment constantly has people hanging out in it with their laptops, drinking some tea and eating a bun or something. They'll be sitting there for hours.
    • > I doubt they would let someone who doesn't order anything just sit in there

      What do you mean by "let". The Panera in my town is too big without enough staff to keep track of who's sitting there and who's just finished with his sandwich.

      Then again, how long are you going to sit somewhere online without a cup of coffee? Especially if they have free refills?

      But, in my experience, the Kroger has better pastries than Panera... The sandwiches are fancy, though. and tasty. Their breads are nice, but have
    • by anjrober ( 150253 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:22PM (#11703942)
      The Panera buy my office has a fireplace section with couches and stuffed chairs expressly to encourage people to lounge all day. I've had coworkers have meetings there and not order anything at all. On Saturday nights they have live music after that continues after people have stopped ordering food. I've seen the same people in there when I bought coffee in the AM and lunch in the PM.
      • My wife works at the local Panera. Not only do we also have the fireplace and couches, but I can vouch that they actively invite people to sit and hang-out. Overall, I would think, people who do so *also* purchase food and drinks.

        That said, I've heard the local WiFi doesn't work quite often, but it's not the WiFi router, but their local 'Net connection.

    • this is the best kind of advertising a company could get, word of mouth. no comercials jamming their product down your throat, no psychologists that figure out ways to get your attention. just a company that makes good products, and offers the community what they want. eventually people start talking, and people find out about them.
    • Apparently you have never been to the Panera that I visit nearly every Sunday morning before 10am (Apple Valley, MN).

      We come in, order a coffee (I might get an orange frosted scone if I'm in the mood) and sit there and read the paper. They are so fucking busy refilling the coffee and taking orders that they could not care less if you sat there for a couple hours (and being that we are rather regular I have noticed several others doing exactly what we do -- some even have their own cups!)

      I don't have a ve
    • St. Louis Bread Company (Panera everywhere else) is nice for checking email and has become a favourite for morning breakfast. Their bakery is actually quite good and well noted for their begals. However, I've found their service does not allow for downloading large media files. Its great for surfing the net over lunch or since i am in consulting meeting clients for afternoon tea or a mid-morning brunch and even lunch.

      However, try and download a quicktime movie.

      There are only 2 local coffee shops (pr

  • by athakur999 ( 44340 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:04PM (#11703699) Journal
    think Starbucks that bakes their own bread

    So their bread is overpriced and burnt but served by attractive female bakers so you keep coming back?

    • > > think Starbucks that bakes their own bread
      > So their bread is overpriced and burnt but served by attractive female bakers so you keep coming back?

      Black, bitter, tied up in a burlap sack and hauled over the mountains on a donkey, available all day for $4.50. Or full of eggs, half-baked, glazed, and waiting for me in a basket.

      Pays your money, takes ya chances.

    • So their bread is overpriced and burnt but served by attractive female bakers so you keep coming back?

      Uh, no. I grew up in St. Louis (where Panera is still called St. Louis Bread Company) and the employees in every Panera I have ever been to (I live in Ohio now) are just a step up from fast food employees. Nowhere near the intelligence, personality or looks of Starbucks employees.

      • At the Westport Plaza St. Louis Bread Co. [] the staff have always been very helpful, smart, and quick to bring me my order.

        Interestingly, there is a Starbucks [] right next door, which offers Starbucks coffee, and T-Moblie wireless. I constantly see people at the Bread Co. (Panera) with laptops and rarely see them at the Starbucks.

        Of course, I'm usually getting food at the St. Louis Bread Co., during lunchtime, so that probably leads to some skewing of my data-gathering obervations.

        My favorite sandwich is

    • also, the bread comes in blanco, grano and segale.
    • Hey! That's my daughter you're leering at!
  • by mr. methane ( 593577 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:06PM (#11703719) Journal
    I've used the local one more than once. Only thing I've noticed is that it's sometimes fairly laggy even when there aren't more than one or two people on them.

    And the sandwiches are pretty good, too. Strong coffee also :)
    • The one time I took my powerbook into the local one I found that it was slow as hell and that it erred overwhelmingly on the side of caution in terms of filtering. My blog got hit as "mature-adult" even though there is nothing pornographic about it. Not that I care, but it's sorta funny when I can even post blog entries because it doesn't discriminate between the Movable Type panel and my actual published pages.

      Personally, I prefer the starbucks cafe that is practically next door to our Panera. It is $4.00
  • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:06PM (#11703722)
    Companies act like it is a cripling cost, but what $60/month for cable, when customers will use this feature if you have it, it will even draw people to your store. Giving it away for free should bring them more people one would think.

    but then again starbucks has such a big customer base that those people don't care what they pay for WiFi as long as they get their mocacappachino that costs $8
    • by krgallagher ( 743575 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:10PM (#11703782) Homepage
      "Companies act like it is a cripling cost, but what $60/month for cable, when customers will use this feature if you have it, it will even draw people to your store."

      I agree. I travel a lot so I am usually living out of hotels and eating in resturaunts. One of the fist things I look for in a city is a convenient resturaunt to go to that has free wifi, good food, and at least one decent beer on tap.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:08PM (#11703755)
    They are still called The St. Louis Bread Company here in St. Louis
  • by AnotherEscobar ( 852831 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:08PM (#11703758)
    Panera's became my home office for 3 months last year. Every day, constant free coffee refills, and plenty of lunch-crowd eye-candy from the local office complex.

    Course, there was that time when someone sniffed/watched-over-my-shoulder while I was paying my bills and the next day I had to dispute a bunch of charges... but for just hanging out, a great place.

    Had hoped they could force T-Mobile to be more competitive, but this isnt something new and last I looked Starbucks still had ridiculous fees.
    • I can remember when my local B&N put those little cards out on the table "Wireless Internet Access". No I did not read the fine print. I anxiously took my laptop the next time in, and booted up ....hmm I get a notice, you gotta pay to play. I then read the fine print on the card. Lap top goes back in the back. But woo hoo, we are getting a Panera Bread that opens in a few weeks. Time to dust off the old laptop and get ready to hit the town.
  • by Augusto ( 12068 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:09PM (#11703773) Homepage
    I don't think it's unreasonable for businesses to charge for this, but it sure doesn't make a lot of sense to me when many are pushing "subscription" models to their customers.

    Went last night to Barnes and Noble and noticed they had a "Wi-Fi" sign. So I figured this is great, I hang around look at some books and catch up on my email, but lo and behold you have to pay for a 19.99 monthly (1-year min) subscription fee! Why would I pay for ISP accesses that is so limited?

    Yeah, they have a 2 hour $4 accesses, but this doesn't make much sense to me. The real attraction here is that if you want people to hang around your store, just offere it up for free, or charge a very minimal amount for usage that day (not for time).
    • Probably because of credit card fees. If you have a bunch of small charges, the credit card fees makes collecting the money cost almost as much as what you collect. If they just have 1 charge per (month, year, eon whatever) the credit card companies collect a lot less.

      Plus, if you subscribe then you are more likely to come back and make impulse buys :P
    • "The real attraction here is that if you want people to hang around your store, just offere it up for free, or charge a very minimal amount for usage that day (not for time)."

      Because they want people to buy stuff from the store, not leech the internet access and thumb through magazines or books but not buy them. Panera is a bit different because buying a cup or two or three of coffee is going to be far more likely for a customer to do than simply sit and browse the internet. I'll grant you the hourly fe
  • I've gone there to get some food once before. Now that I know they have WiFi, I might just make another trip to try it out...and grab a bite to eat.

    Call me names if you will, but sometimes it's the free stuff that can make you the most money.

  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:10PM (#11703788)
    Has anyone moved next door to a hotspot just to get free access?
  • At their Strip location!

  • by Asprin ( 545477 ) <<gsarnold> <at> <>> on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:13PM (#11703822) Homepage Journal

    Mmmm... Panera.... [droool]....

    Best. Shortbread. Cookies. Ever.
  • Directional antenna (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I live quite close to a Panera Bread, and a directional antenna makes an easy way for me to get internet access without actually going into the café. I simply sit in the car somewhere in the parking lot and aim my directional antenna directly at the establishment. There are several businesses in the same strip mall - it would be easy for them to save on buying their own internet access.

    Dogs are annoying. Go ECFA.
  • That list is horribly incomplete. I've been to four Paneras in Florida that have Wi-Fi and aren't on that list.
  • Panera! (Score:5, Funny)

    by dr_dank ( 472072 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:15PM (#11703850) Homepage Journal
    I listened to those guys all the time growing up. Shame about their guitarist.

    Now whats this about bread?
  • by randall_burns ( 108052 ) <> on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:17PM (#11703864)
    Frankly it seems to me there ought to be free wifi in :
    libraries, shopping malls, hotels, pretty much _anyplace_ that wants to attract foot traffic.

    Personally I think eventually free wifi will be as important a piece of infrastructure as free roads. It wouldn't cost that much to unwire the whole country.
  • by ewg ( 158266 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:18PM (#11703882)

    I used a Panera Bread hotspot last weekend to test my employer's new VPN client software. Needed an environment different from my home to isolate a problem.

    Two cups of "Colombian Supremo Reserva del Patrón" later, well, I hadn't solved the problem, but I was certainly focused on it.

    • I do the same thing. There is a Panera right next door to where my head office is. So I take a lunch break every now and then to test out some of our new wireless equipment. The only thing that's a bit of a pain is when one of the devices I'm testing is using MSDE (the free 5-user MS SQL Server lite). Panera must use local MS SQL Server instances at their locations, since my SQL Server control icon down in the system tray would be hanging there trying to connect to whatever they have. Then again that's what
  • It's really convenient here when I need it... it would just be really nice if I didn't have to launch the craptastic application that is IE 5.5 for Mac every time I wanted to register my wifi card to access the service.

    Note to Panera internet provider: Safari is your friend...

    • My main experience with Panera has been using the NetFront browser on my PDA (Sony TH55). I have to launch the browser, but I get access. And NetFront can be rather picky...

      My personal Panera story is 101 days ago, when we had our first child. I took a picture of the baby with the camera in my palm, and, when I could slip away for lunch, I went to a Panera (much closer than my house), and e-mailed the pic to family. That e-mail is now in her baby book, as the "birth announcement."
    • by krswan ( 465308 )
      Switch to Firefox, it works fine on my mac at the local Panara.
  • I Love Panera! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kiwidefunkt ( 855968 )
    I worked at Panera for a year and the location I worked at had free WiFi. As a result, we had our fair share of business-suit men and tea-sipping hippies who would bring in their laptops and just laugh the day away with their free intorweb access.

    It seemed to me that the laptop people were always the ones buying a single cup of coffee or just a soda, rather than a whole meal. This leads me to believe that frequent Internet users are more intelligent than non-frequent Internet users, because who the fuc
    • We (my fiancee and I) used to go to Panera for lunch all the time when we lived in Maryland. With the exception of those awful red onions they slather on everything, we always liked their food (she more than I; I always found it a little greasy and a smidgen too expensive, but overall quite tasty).

      So is there something about the food you'd like to share with us, or did you just not care for it in general, or did you get sick of it, or something?

  • Panera is a St. Louis based company, yet there are no Paneras in the entire city. There, are, however, a few dozen St. Louis Bread Companies. St. Louis Bread Co. is the original name of the chain, but Panera is the name that they decided to expand nationally under. Other than the name, though, pretty much everything else is the same.
    • They should have stuck with St. Louis Bread Company. Panera is a lame name.
    • Actually, Panera bought St. louis bread co back in the mid-90s and went ahead and made STL its headqtrs. Panera was originally a east coast bread company (forget the name).

      Anyway, they kept the STL Bread CO name in STL, cuz people liked the place. Of couse, the food sucks now compared to the old STLBC and is more expensive.

      Kudos on the free wi-fi though. Much better than Starbucks that charge by the freakin minute.
  • I live a couple blocks from the HQ and when I was new to the area, I walked into their offices thinking I'd order a sandwich...the secretary pointed across the street where their closest restaurant is located... Their operation in St. Louis is pretty tight (and called St. Louis Bread Co...we St. Louisans are rather provincial) but I was shocked a while ago when I noticed brochures for their wi-fi access and was very impressed. I almost bought a wi-fi enabled PDA (I was in the market for one at the time) h
  • I was in Orlando last month and I used the free wifi while watching the 'Arabian Nights' horsey spectacular (by the way the show sucked BIG TIME, actually - v-e-r-y cheesy). Mind you, I don't think they actually knew they were offering free wifi access - but, hey, have PDA - will sniff!

    Oh, and as a good tourist I did go to their Web feedback form and let them know that they needed to fix their wireless security so don't blame me if you go there and can't get a connection!
  • by Wesley Felter ( 138342 ) <> on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:27PM (#11703997) Homepage
    I thought "linksys" was the largest provider of free WiFi in the world...
    • Yeah, all those dummies who don't even change the name of their hotspot. But I'm smarter than that.

      Netgear is what I call mine.
    • Good point.

      I've often wondered if Linksys could include a coupon with their wireless routers that allowed you to become a hotspot on their network. You would sign up, it would turn your router into a captive portal, you would be able to add your own computers, and other people would be charged a monthly fee and authenticated against Linksys's servers. Then you'd get a share of the profits. Given how widespread their routers are, this could be a good situation for the router owners, the users, and Linksy

  • I wonder when the WiFi spec will include transparent roaming by default. I'd have some kind of unique issuer::id certificate, and a set of "rate plans" I'd be willing to accept (eg. "$0.01:MB", or "$0.05:minute 11AM-6PM; $0.02:minute 6PM-11AM"). I might have a whole keyring of certificates, some of which are per-franchise, like Panera Bread, but the most successful of which are aggregations. Like Cirrus or NYCE login networks for ATMs. Then people could fill in hotspot gaps with their own hotspots, financin
  • I tried my nearest Panera bread's wifi when I moved into my new apartment and was waiting on cable. Two things made me think that very few people actually utilize their free WiFi, despite there being a big "free WiFi!" sticker on the door.
    • the place is trendy/upscale, and the prices reflect that. The people behind the counter were even a little snooty... two of them were having a little cat fight behind the counter once. Anyway, I looked VERY out of place when I whipped out my laptop and started loadi
  • Wifi at a Coffee shop... Has there ever been a more compelling reason to push for an implementation of RFC2324 []?
  • They make great sandwiches, soup, and bagels as well. Locally they operate as St Louis Bread Company, and are one of my favorite places to eat.
  • by dmorin ( 25609 ) <dmorin AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:35PM (#11704102) Homepage Journal
    I'm pleased to say I did my part to make this happen. The Panera in my hometown has wifi. However there's no value in me hanging out there on workdays when there is another Panera exactly halfway along my commute, right on the highway. So I wrote them some feedback on their web site saying that if they had wifi then on bad commute days I could hang out there for hours getting my work done and still see how the traffic is coming.

    Not only did they respond, but they actually left me on the list as they kept hitting reply-all and I got to hear all the details about the progress of the mall's wiring that was holding them back (they told me they had to wait for work being done on the mall).

    The service was actually activated months before they told me that it would. I've used it several times since then. Very nice! Now if I could only bring myself to take up a table for 3 hours while enjoying a single bagel...

  • It's rather more of a "press release". The little blurb at the end is pretty much of a giveaway. Go ahead and RTFPR, but don't expect too much of it.
  • Their food prices are comptetitive and the place is comfortable. The wifi service at my local shop is blazing fast. The signal is from the unprotected dollar store next door, but they don't seem to mind too much.
  • by IronChefMorimoto ( 691038 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:39PM (#11704168)
    I work about 2 miles from a Panera in Atlanta adjacent to Emory University. The Panera is within walking distance from the university. Let me be the first to say that free WiFi and a nearby college student population pretty much guarantee that you will be in a line of 30-40 college kids carrying various WiFi-enabled laptops.

    Thankfully, many of the college girls wear their PJs to class and lunch, so it makes the line seem a little shorter. Ahhh..."hot buttered buns at Panera." Oh shit! Who turned on the mic?

  • New Story (Score:2, Funny)

    by Jpunkroman ( 851438 )
    Some guy down the street is the closest provider of free Wi-Fi.
  • They'd open some stores in the Portland Metro area. I miss their food.
    • Re:Now if only (Score:3, Informative)

      by bjtuna ( 70129 )
      I actually took a casual look into their franchising program. Apparently you have to make quite an investment; you need to pledge to be the franchisee for an entire city/region, not just for a single franchise. I guess this is the reason why some cities (ie, Towson, Maryland) have multiple Paneras within a few miles of each other, and other areas (ie, Boise, Idaho, my current home) don't have any yet.
  • There are currently 573 Wi-Fi enabled Panera Bread bakery-cafes, from California to Virginia. More are added every day

    This this mean there will be >= 938 of them February 17, 2006 for absolutely sure?

  • Well they sure aren't in Kansas yet. :-(
  • Am I the only one that thinks any restaurant that hypes up the quality of their bread is piss poor to begin with?
    I guess that's what happens when you're not a carbaholic.
    Oh, and I don't get weed either.
  • I personally love their cinnamon raisin bread. Its beyond explanation.
  • by Travis Fisher ( 141842 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @04:49PM (#11704289)
    At least at the local Panera, their free wireless connection comes equipped with the SonicWall "firewall" which blocks visits to web sites based on substrings contained in the url. The list of substrings includes things like "sm" and "cum" -- so for instance you can't google for "cosmonaut" or "accumulator" or visit the Southern Methodist University web pages. Unless, of course, you take the care to use the escape codes %xx in place of one or more of these letters...

    Just wondering, is this paragon of stupidity in place at other Panera locations?
  • Funny, I just sat down w/ my g/f and our meal, and the first /. article I read is about the WiFi I'm using to post. I thought /. had tapped into my mind causing illusions for a second...
  • by waynegoode ( 758645 ) * on Thursday February 17, 2005 @05:54PM (#11705101) Homepage
    For those of us in the SE USA, Krystal has free WiFi. There website says that 50 of their 245 stores will have it by 7/2004. Probably more have it now. Free WiFi and the steamy goodness of a Krystal. (mmmm...)

    Interesting disclaimer on their website []: We regret that the manager and restaurant personnel can't provide assistance with the Krystal HotSpot as they are not computer specialists.

    For the Yankees in audience, Krystal is the Southern version of White Castle.

  • by chia_monkey ( 593501 ) on Thursday February 17, 2005 @06:20PM (#11705416) Journal
    The business model is a great one for not only Panera but also for hotels and such. Hell, hotels probably spend more on the free coffee per month than they would on providing free wifi to customers.

    Ponder this. For $60, they get their broadband. Pop in the access point and a gateway and you're good to go. That's it. A one time charge of maybe a couple hundred bucks (including labor) and recurring cost of $60, you'll be getting people coming day in and day out JUST because you've got free wifi. I know companies that have blown ten times that amount on marketing that brought zilch in revenue. This is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to bring people into your establishment.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears