back to article Bun fight breaks out after devs, techie jump ship: Bakery biz Panera sues its former IT crowd

If you were to list the top five reasons why sandwich shop chain Panera has been so successful, with over 2,000 bakeries across the US and Canada, it's unlikely that its IT team would make the cut. But, according to the company itself, its IT function is not just a key ingredient but its "most important asset." That claim …

  1. david 136

    Solution: move to California.

  2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

    I can belive its the IT

    Because IMO, the food at Panera certainly can't be it.

  3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Panera 3.0

    do away with the actual business of baking and convert to a Virtual Reality business

  4. Irongut

    I don't see what is absurd about a bakery claiming IT is core to their business. The first computer to run commercial business applications, LEO, was designed and built in the 1950s to run bakery and tea room chain Lyons.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Another British invention that makes lots of money for other places... See also televisions, DNA sequencing, monoclonal antibodies....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > Another British invention that makes lots of money for other places... See also televisions, DNA sequencing, monoclonal antibodies....

        Because the British are special that way... it's not like every other country has people which invent stuff, then used elsewhere eh?

    2. Nifty Silver badge

      A nontrivial core of the business with everything from daily ordering of supplies to payroll to accounting included.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can you say predictive analytics?

    In order to cut down on waste and to have food and to have food ready to eat, you have to be able to predict how many meals of X will you sell.

    WHat other shops have done is to allow you to order your meal to be picked up and ready. This allows them to take and process the order so you can walk in and just pick it up.

    But if you can predict how many of X you will sell ... that's a plus.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    .....I like Panera Bread for the bakery item they call a Cobblestone. Yummy!

  7. Alan Penzotti
    IT Angle

    What trade "secrets"?

    What trade "secrets" would still be hidden from view from a determined group 20 college students observing the front of house operations of their local Panera. Especially if they worked in the "Banquets" department in any large Las Vegas casino for a summer?

    Perhaps Saich and company should sponsor such a (focus group/mystery shopper) activity and have these college kids write an operations/specifications manual on their observations alone. It would make great defense fodder to determine if these trade secrets were truly "secret."

    1. yoganmahew

      Re: What trade "secrets"?

      These ones:

      ""Panera employs a team of information security personnel whose jobs are dedicated to preventing the unauthorized access and release of Panera’s trade secrets, proprietary data, and intellectual property. Panera also encrypts all of the hard drives in the computers it uses and requires that employees use regularly updated passwords to access these computers.""

      You wot mate?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What trade "secrets"?

      But employees there have to actually USE these systems, so they know what capabilities they have. Those 20 college students could get jobs at Panera, and if you have a few in the front of house, a few in the back of house, and a few as manager they'll find out what the system does.

      Because determining HOW to implement something is the easy part. The hard part is determining WHAT to implement.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What trade "secrets"?

        > Because determining HOW to implement something is the easy part. The hard part is determining WHAT to implement.

        Implementation itself can be somewhat difficult too, depending on all of the above.

  8. Mayday


    This is just yanks being cunts and suing people because they can.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Nah

      "This is just yanks being cunts and suing people because they can."

      I'm not sure I'd go that far, but on the other hand, surely a "non-compete clause" is anathema in The Land Of The Free? Or do non-compete clauses not kick in if you are fired rather than resigning?

      1. M.V. Lipvig

        Re: Nah

        Don't know about all the states, but noncompete agreements are not enforcable against citizens of the state I live in. Doesn't matter what state the agreement applies in, where I live the law treats noncompetes as "under duress" if you must sign to work and are therefore null and void against anyone residing here.

  9. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Non-compete agreement still in effect after being fired? Just seems to be non-enforceable. The one's that I signed in the past only applied to "voluntary" termination to prevent employees from quitting.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "But the real kicker finally arrives in this paragraph: "Panera understood that there was an opportunity to create value for shareholders and to lower overall service costs for Panera's cafes, by commercializing the technology for other restaurants."

    Ah. What that means is: we figured out a system that means we have to hire fewer staff by getting customers to order their own food. And it works without driving everyone completely nuts."


    Er, my take-away (ah!) from the 1st sentence would be they worked out they could SELL the technology for other restaurants (to use) - there by adding shareholder value by becoming a software house with a chain of bakeries... (hey, it worked for Amazon, a data center operator with an eCommerce/supermarket business on the side)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, basically that they wanted to compete with companies like Aloha and Micros selling POS systems.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "selling POS systems"

        That acronym fits in more ways than one.

      2. ecofeco Silver badge

        Both of which are still not very good systems.

  11. Chris G Silver badge

    For maximum profitability

    They need soft and hardware that will allow efficient and fast distribution to five thousand customers of five loaves and some fish.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: For maximum profitability

      Oh Jesus

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: For maximum profitability

      If that works it'll be a fucking miracle.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: For maximum profitability

      Call it Water 2 Wine?

  12. chivo243 Silver badge

    Fierce arena

    IT in food service... I worked in the trenches for Papa John's back in the 90's. Their computer network was impressive to say the least. Everything was entered in the 'computer' from inventory,( twice a day, and three times when our provisions were delivered), to employees clocking in and out. If sales were slow, the computer would say so at the half hour report, and that you needed to send someone home early. If the damned computer had a bit of AI and a voice, it could have run the place without a manager...

    I can see why Panera is throwing the sueballs like their playing dodgeball...

  13. TonkaToys

    This lawsuit sounds a bit half-baked to me.

    Mine's the one with the baguette in the pocket.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Oh, I just thought you were pleased to see me

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        He got a rise out of you, did he?

  14. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "It could just be that Panera is regretting its decision to allow its former CEO to poach employees,"

    As in, they've only just realised what they actually did.

    1. Evil_Goblin

      Indeed, "every single people" is/are incredibly important now apparently...

  15. Cronus

    I don't get the dig about McDonald's digital ordering system. I've certainly never had a problem with it and it beats waiting in a queue.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If your McDonalds' are like the ones around me, they probably only employ the unemployable kind-of english speakers who can't add, subtract, or count.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        unemployable kind-of english speakers who can't add, subtract, or count

        You live in Clacton too eh?

    2. Oliver Mayes

      I've never had a problem with the McDonalds system, but I tried to use one at a Burger King a couple of weeks ago.

      You select the meal you want and it asks if you want to add [RANDOM UPSELL ITEM] to the meal, the only two buttons are Yes, or Cancel. You literally have to press Cancel to progress to the next step of the order. This happens repeatedly with almost every step of the order. It was thoroughly confusing, I accidentally cancelled my order twice because I thought I was meant to be pressing cancel to move forward, instead of the other stupidly named button offered.

    3. NeilPost Silver badge

      McD’s Ordee console works

      I too don’t get the snidey comment about McDonald’s self-order console - they pretty much just work pretty well - if anything they need a slightly better touchscreen, but that is it. Like pay at pump.. ‘self-checkout’ that works as opposed to the horrible NCR ones in Tesco/Asda/Sainbury’s.

      McD’s App based ordering is also really good they just need to stop hiding the damn QR code check-in.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: McD’s Ordee console works

        "McD’s App based ordering is also really good they just need to stop hiding the damn QR code check-in."

        They're all ok if you know what you want. What they are all shite at is making it easy to browse the menu. In other words, they work for the frequent customers but turn off the occasional customer. To my mind that is short termism thinking because they are pandering to the regulars and reducing customer growth. The regulars will keep coming back anyway. New or occasional customer are more likely to walk out in confusion. Especially with the BK self service system.

    4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Not as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't. When I walk into a McDonald's (a rare event anyway) and see they have the damned kiosks, I walk right back out again. I'd rather go hungry than use the damned things.

  16. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    If I'm so important to the company

    Why did they just sack me? Why aren't I rich?

    (hypothetical 'I', obviously)

  17. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    De minimis non curat lex

    If any custard pastries are involved the case will be thrown out on the basis of de minimis non curat lex (the law does not concern itself with trifles).

  18. Muscleguy Silver badge


    "unrestrained production demands"

    Almost as though we have several planets to exploit and more waiting in the wings or that reality has no ability to constrain them.

  19. earl grey

    i won't try the mcd's automated thingies

    I much prefer to talk to an actual person getting paid their wage to work and get my order right (which they do). Most are a pleasure to talk to and very nice (I guess i'm lucky in many respects :-).

    1. jimbo60

      Re: i won't try the mcd's automated thingies

      Last time I tried to talk to a real person at Mickey D's, I ordered something by name and she had to ask "What number is that?". And probably expects a $15/hr minimum wage for such skill.

  20. iLurker

    Why a patent ?

    Just old-school Logistic Support Analysis as taught in the 1980’s. Admittedly they did it well.

    And they received a patent for this ?!?

  21. ForthIsNotDead

    Bun fight.

    Bread shop.

    I love you, el reg.

  22. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Perhaps not everyone

    And it works without driving everyone completely nuts.

    I once had the misfortune of trying to use the Panera 2.0 system. It was during the holiday season, and I'd been out shopping in the cold and snow for some hours, and wanted to grab a bite to eat and a coffee. Panera was the only thing nearby. It took several minutes to navigate the poorly-designed menu on the thing, which was sluggish and packed with unhelpful eye candy, advertising, and attempts to sell me things I didn't want. Then, after I supplied payment information, it told me to take a pager and enter its number so I could be alerted when my food was ready.

    There were no pagers - the charging station was empty. Clearly the charging station had no way to inform the kiosk of that. There was no option to say "you're out of pagers, you fucking machine". I had to cancel the entire order.

    Needless to say, I left and have not been inside a Panera since. I'd like to see everyone involved lose this lawsuit.

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