Panera Bread to Santa Rosa

National bread and sandwich chain to SR

National pastry and sandwich bakery Panera Bread is slated to open in Santa Rosa, according to several sources. An online hiring posting for an SR outpost showed up on the Interwebs, and local restaurant real estate folks are confirming rumors about the opening.

Though there are no solid confirmations yet, the buzz is that it may be going into the CVS shopping area on Mendocino Ave., close to all the other recent restaurant chain hubbub — Five Guys, In N Out and Whole Foods Coddingtown.

Are chain entries into the local restaurant market news? You tell me…

Stay tuned for more details.

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74 thoughts on “Panera Bread to Santa Rosa

  1. I LOVE Panera and drive out of my way now to find one. They are great and just because they are a chain doesn’t make them less wonderful. Local restaurants are great. So are chains. Why are they mutually exclusive? If they are good both will be patronized. Stop legislating what I choose to eat! I am capable of making dietary decisions for myself, thank you. And if it is going in near Coddingtown, it will further improve that areas choices for food and make it more of a shopping magnet. Love it.

    1. @Sandy et al:

      It’s really really odd that so many people who love chain food/chain culture have absolutely zero tolerance for the mere opinion of those who don’t.

      No-one is “legislating” your choices here on Bite Club. It’s merely an online community of people who like food. Does liking fast food make you intolerant too?

      I posted the “bakery’s” nutritional information in an early post. It came from Panera’s corporate website — next to the stock ticker and their quarterly profits/earnings reports. It’s good to know who and what is behind the food that feeds you and your community.

      Sonoma County’s unique sense of place is an incredible economic and cultural asset. And I will support those who add to our unique culture — whether it’s a restaurant, winery, college, newspaper, hair salon, bike shop, or feed store. This is not anywhere U.S.A. and thankfully, many people here really appreciate (and tolerate) that.

      That is all.

  2. Seems like a win-win. Those who want to go to Panera for whatever reason can go to Panera and those who want to go somewhere else for whatever reason can go somewhere else. No real need to trash each other. And “Is there anything we can do to encourage local businesses around here”? Yes. Spend more of your money at the local businesses and take your friends.

  3. Simply put…you don’t like to eat at chain restaurants…then don’t go there. If you like to eat there, then go for it. In other words, keep your own agenda to yourself and stop trying to push your insanity on others. Welcome to Santa Rosa, Panera.

  4. I have to add, NO CHIPOTLE!!!. We have WAY too many tasty,. affordable authentic mexican restaraunts in Sonoma County to eat at a place like this. I couldn’t even finish my meal, when I ate there, and I absolutely LOVE mexican food. Chipotle is low quality American food with high prices. If that’s what I want I’ll go to Taco Bell every time and save $30 and get the same quality.

  5. What Interests me most about this thread is its very existence: What is it, precisely, that we are debating? Whether the savings – about $1 per loaf, compared to a wide range of outstanding, local artisan bakery offerings – are worth mediocrity? Or whether there is some higher moral purpose – like the outlandish, infantile, anti-American assault we recently waged on food trucks – to the regulation of private enterprise?

    They have the right to open the store. I have the right to write a post about how badly their bread sucks and how it can’t possibly be worth saving $1/loaf to eat a product of distinctly mediocre quality at what is still a premium price. And you all have the right not to shop there. But to decry their very right to do business? People, this is AMERICA! Vote with your feet and shop somewhere else, or open your own, superior competitor, and I’ll give you my money. But please don’t go impugning anybody’s right to make a living, whether they own a multinational corporation or a corner farm stand.

    Also, just to be clear, anyone who thinks that Panera is going to pad their food budget is woefully in error – the company is _not_ a budget offering. By their own admission, they are targeting consumers making $40k-$100k per year (, and offer sandwiches in the $7-$17 range.

  6. I wonder why they arent planning on going downtown! Is all the political bickering and merchants demanding city funds to promote their business just too unethical for Panera? Or is it company policy to not get involved with such groups! I wonder if Panera is unionized and retires its employees at 50 at 90% of wages and bennies?

  7. As much as every over 40 person needs to get a grip with a low fat and low salt diet (you will all be there eventually!) I am a fan of restaurants who would rather keep me alive than kill me. . . I prefer fresh food with limited fat and salt and sugar. . . does Panera do this?? If yes, I welcome you. . . if no, you can count me out of your customer base. Fat and salt and sugar are killing us and our children – period. Look around. . .

  8. I eat at no national chains.

    Your future as a possible business owner or relative or friend to one is at stake.

    So if you want to go put on your clown suit, and work for a hollowed out wage, in a hollowed out world with no diversity or depth…

    …….go join the lemmings at in-and-out factory.

  9. I agree with everyone here who hates Cheese____ Factory and Panera Bread and the like. However, SOCO is a void of unpretentious medium to cheap eats.

    Starbucks and Peets do well wherever they go. Why? Very few locals in NON urban areas can train their staff and control quality the way a company, REGARDLESS OF THEIR SIZE, whose mission is to provide great product rather than be cool or follow a current trend can.

    How many more gd’n cupcake shops do we need. I ate at Perry’s deli today. It reminded me of what I ate in SOCO as a kid. Guess what, I would rather eat there than eat at Crepevine or Guy’s Garlic house or whatever the hell it is.

    But the point is…invite the competition. Make something happen. Improve your service, improve your product and support the growth of our tax base.

  10. Why not, this is America the land of the entrepreneur. Bring them on, large or small. If they are good they will survive (like Costco or Friedmans). If they are not they will be history (like Borders).

  11. Great conversation. Thanks to everyone who is keeping the discussion rational.

    One thing to factor in…
    National chains bring advertising dollars. The usually have big budgets and can afford to advertise — which is something many smaller restaurants can’t afford or can only do in a limited way. They can afford to put coupons and ads in papers, radio, etc. And that brings people in.

    Often, people forget about little local spots because they just aren’t on the radar bombarding you. Chains can afford to have “loss leader” specials and they have the luxury of a corporate parent behind them. That’s significant. And something little guys can’t do.

    I’m on the fence in many ways. I support local restaurants (it’s my job), but I also understand the sometimes difficult economics of raising a family on a limited income. If I have a coupon or there’s a deal, i’m going to use it.

    i think qualifying people who patronize chains for whatever reason is idiots is a bit unfair. We’re all just trying to get along. But I also think it is worth using a little brain power to patronize worthwhile local eateries whenever possible helps keep sonoma county the place we all love. I for one, don’t want to see us become another city bombarded with mediocre chains that squeeze out the great food here.

  12. Any local business could provide the same daily selection in a clean, comfortable, sizable space. They don’t. There’s sit downs, Starbucks, donut shops, bagel shops, but nothing close to this. Don’t care much for their coffee, but everything else I’ve tried is tasty.

  13. If there is a market for it, which I believe there is, then why not? This town sucks when it comes to choices. When I travel, I realize how much we don’t have when it comes to selection.. Cheese Cake Factory, Chipotle and many other companies are spread all over the country but here. I welcome the addition of Panera.

    1. Have you considered the possibility that chain outlets may not be your best opportunities for good food…or that shipping your money out of the local economy to shareholders somewhere else may not be the best thing for your community?

  14. Competition and variety are good for consumers. If the food and service are good, they will do fine whether it’s local or not. I don’t think Mcdonald’s or Burger King are going to put Mike’s Burgers out of business any time soon.

  15. Hey it is about time, they are great, really good food excellent customer service. Hey more jobs to open up and its time for Sonoma County to get with the times. Yipeeee

  16. stop crying. the “local” food here is overpriced crap. there are only a few good places. if you serve good food well then you have nothing to worry about, you will still have your regulars. people cant eat at the same place every night. it brings jobs and taxs to the town.

  17. I am moving to Santa Rosa from Chicago this summer. The appreciation for locally owned businesses is one of the reason I am moving here. I work right next to a Panera. I ate their a few times and it sucked. Panera should stay in the Midwest. People there love it when a new franchise comes to town. They think they are getting something cool and unique, when its really just processed crap. However, all the good, local restaurants have trouble surviving.

    1. You have the stars in your eyes. Sonoma County is is a provincial hellhole of culture if you are not a wine snob.

      1. I agree with everyone here who hates Cheese____ Factory and Panera Bread and the like. However, SOCO is a void of unpretentious medium to cheap eats.

        Starbucks and Peets do well wherever they go. Why? Very few locals in NON urban areas can train their staff and control quality the way a company, REGARDLESS OF THEIR SIZE, whose mission is to provide great product rather than be cool or follow a current trend can.

        How many more gd’n cupcake shops do we need. I ate at Perry’s deli today. It reminded me of what I ate in SOCO as a kid. Guess what, I would rather eat there than eat at Crepevine or Guy’s Garlic house or whatever the hell it is.

        But the point is…invite the competition. Make something happen. Improve your service, improve your product and support the growth of our tax base.

  18. Geeez…what a bunch of whiners. Diversity is a good thing. Spend your money where you see fit and I’ll spend my the same. If enough people feel like you then they won’t last long. I for one would kill for a Chipotle here in Santa Rosa.

    1. As stated by MANY people, if you have quality food and service (see Mac’s, Traverso’s or any number of other local places) you have NOTHING to worry about if a chain opens up. If you serve lackluster sludge and expect support because you’re local, be very afraid! More options the better. Keep em’ comin.

      And again, I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that 90% of those whining are people that moved here within the last few years. Don’t worry folks, your Whine Country is intact whether there’s a Cheesecake Factory, Panera etc. or not!

  19. Oh, goodie, I can’t wait! Another national food chain is coming to Santa Rosa to entice us to eat their fatty, salty fast food and put local restaurants out of business. Their food is toxic, bland and not worth eating. I hate it that these chains are coming here. They flare-up in various spots–kind of like flu outbreaks–and then quickly go out of business, leaving an empty shell of a store behind. They belong right next to that chain cheesecake place that is moving into Coddingtown. What is it that Michael Pollen calls their food…toxic chemical food substitutes…something like that.

  20. Ate there once, not much difference from Subway, basic and bland. It’s basically the same price as any of the local sandwich shops, Lad’s and the like. They don’t offer anyhting we don’t already have around here, the sheep [blind consumers] will love it because it’s pretty inside and they have nice pictures of food that you’ll never see on your plate.

      1. The is an “Ike’s Place opening soon” sign on the former market / deli across from the JC and the Taco Bell / Pizza Hut

  21. Tried Panera once in Socal. Asked for my sandwich on a soft roll and the kid looking so purplexed asked “like a hotdog bun?” I wasn’t very impressed. I’d rather make a sandwich at home, and make going out to lunch a special thing (BURGERS!)

  22. Heather, I love how these chain articles you do bring out the best in “Whine Country”….I’m sure most of those who oppose some quality chains coming into the area have lived here but a few years. As I’ve said in COUNTLESS other threads, if you don’t want to patronize the establishment then don’t! There are plenty of great local, independent alternatives and that’s a good thing. VARIETY is a good thing. So let the people decide on where to spend the money they work for.

    Santa Rosa will not become the next Modesto due to a Panera or other chain opening up here. So get off your high horse and move on. Aren’t there more important things in life to worry about? I love Traverso’s and I also love In-N-Out. Say what you will, but BOTH places have a home here and I’m glad to be able to have choices.

    BTW Brian, the LAST thing “SoCo” (I gag when I call it that) needs is another B&B. And you talk about chains lol

    Have a good night folks.

  23. Yes I course I know I can make my salad…I do most of the time. However, sometimes I like to go out for lunch w/ friends and co-workers…I have been to Panera in San Rafael and love their salads and soup. Still did not answer my question..what Santa Rosa resturant can do the same and at the same price point, and have you ever eaten their food??

    1. A comparable spot I really like is Holy Roast in downtown Santa Rosa, which serves Pearson & Co salads and soups. I LOVE the carrot or tomato soup and the Crunchy Goat Cheese Salad. There is also a Pearson & Co on Mendocino. I think they have very delicious soups and salads at a comparable price.

      Suze, I agree in many ways — as someone who likes a quick lunch rather than a sit-down meal most days, its nice to have a selection.

      I would also recommend Fourth St. Deli in downtown SR. They make their own soups, and they’re excellent.

    2. In total agreement with mudbug and Brian – there are definitely local choices out there when it comes to getting freshly made salads, soups, and sandwiches for an affordable price. Contribute to our local economy – let’s NOT support Panera Bread!
      It looks like you can get a sandwich at Panera for about $6-7.00 and soup in a bread bowl for about $5.00, at least according to one menu of one of their chain outlets in Texas (guess pricing varies from location to location so maybe it will be more expensive here in CA). There are lots of great places in that price range locally, as Brian and mudbug have mentioned….those would be my top choices too…plus there is Sonoma Valley Bagel, Michelle Marie’s Patisserie, Fresh….Mary’s Pizza makes reasonably priced sandwiches and soups too. There are some wonderful places outside of Santa Rosa too – like Aioli delicatessin in Forestville. I’m sure there are other places we haven’t thought of as well. There really is absolutely no reason to support a corporate chain like Panera Bread – and there is a big cost to our local economy in doing so. There is a reason Panera can afford to charge $6-6.50 for a sandwich that a place like Pearson & Co. might sell for $6.50-7.00.- and it comes down to the quality of their ingredients, where/how they GET those ingredients, who they hire to serve, and what they pay their servers. Seriously, even if it comes down to spending .50 cents-$1.00 more (and it may not even be necessary to do that) I’ll go local EVERY TIME.

  24. ok….sonoma county snobs…you tell me….what LOCAL restuarant does, a nice selection of freshly made salads, soups and sandwiches …in a decent clean setting, fast and affordable??? The bakery portion of their business is small…they are really known for the lunch crowd…decent food, fast and that does not break the bank. I open for suggestions

    1. Snobs? @suze: how about “non-lazy, informed eaters” instead?

      With just a few minutes of planning & prep, you can make your own salad for a fraction of the price, and with your choice of healthy ingredients — from local sources. Or, you could go to any good grocery store (Olivers, Whole Foods, etc.) and assemble one there. If you like ’em grilled or made-to-order, have you tried Chloe’s?

      And as for their “decent food”, check out Panera’s own nutritional info on their website.

      “Low-Fat, Vegetarian Black Bean Soup” has 1590mg of sodium. Get it in a “Sourdough Bowl” and add another 1200mg. of sodium and 590 calories.

      Follow that with an “Italian Combo on Foccacia” and get 2840mg. more of sodium, and an additional 990 calories (with 40g. of fat).

      Save room for a “Pecan” roll and add 730 more calories (and 39g. of fat). My god.

      BTW, all of the salty, fatty ingredients have been manufactured and pre-prepared at their mid-western distribution center, then shipped by diesel truck to your local Panera, where they’re prepped by a minimum wage employee. And then, they call it “artisan.”

      So much for decent or healthy. Panera: Ronald McDonald in a chef’s hat.

    2. Why is it, when it comes to fast food, arguing the most economically sensible, healthful points makes one a “snob”? If desiring to keep my food dollars in my local community rather than sending them off to some far-flung corner of the nation or the world, to support the businesses my neighbors have put their lives into, to buy ingredients grown/produced within a days drive of my home rather than trucked in from some Midwestern refrigerated warehouse (to which they were probably shipped from Mexico or Chile or Florida after being harvested six months ago) makes me a snob, just call me Thurston Howell IV. National chains do nothing for, as one poster noted, our sense of who we are, our sense of place. People chose to live in places like Sonoma County because we are unique, we have that sense of place; we aren’t some Chicagoland suburb or Levittown wannabe. But chains seek only to dilute that uniqueness, hiding behind the powerful yet powerfully dubious arguments of convenience and value to make us just one more cookie-cutter community in a nation full of such desultory locales. If not wanting to see that happen here makes me and my like-thinking brethren “full of ourselves,” then so be it. But, to rise to your challenge, I give you:

      Pearson & Co.
      The deli counter at any Oliver’s or Pacific Market
      4th St. Market
      Caffe Citti
      Healdsburg Bar and Grill

      I’d drive to any of these places before I’d walk next door to a Panera (and my list doesn’t even include Sonoma or Sebastopol).

      1. Yes Eddy, I too applaud your post and list. Chloe’s French Cafe. OMG. There isn’t a thing on their menu that isn’t quality delicious-ness.

  25. Panera… I was subjected to their bland, witless fare at countless business “luncheons” when I was exiled to Denver, which is the kind of culinary wasteland where Panera’s flavorless bread and processed meats go over well. A national bakery chain coming to Sonoma County is like a Yugo dealership opening in Stuttgart (that’s the home of the Porsche, folks). I don’t get it: here we are in one of the world’s truly great culinary meccas and people are getting excited about a white bread (pun intended) crap-eteria from the midwest foisting themselves upon our little slice of heaven? Don’t we have enough local bakeries to suit you folks? Don’t Safeway and Lucky sate you desire for bleached white bread and mayonnaise? Not enough food crafters producing homegrown salumi and charcuterie that you need to ingest industrialized, salt-soaked, processed meats at a stripmall sandwich shop? Oh well, folks got excited about In-n-Out and Five Guys, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. If you need me, I’ll be in my garden.

    1. If Mickey D’s is their closest competition, foodies have no worry these people will take market share from “real food” restaraunts.

  26. Soon very soon santa rosa will look like the central valley logans roadhouse
    chipotlie nothing but chains nothing local just stuff to make people fat

  27. Panera has 1453 locations. They are publicly traded on NASDAQ. They require prospective franchisees to open at least 15 stores in a given market area within the first 6 years. The company is focused on one thing: Earnings per share. Sounds delicious.

    As for Panera’s contribution to the local economy…they will hire a retail manager or two and hourly labor at minimum wage. An SRJC Bakery program graduate won’t even find work there, as they haven’t any bakers. At a bakery.

    But they will have excellent clam chowder from a huge can, served in a flaccid bread bowl. And the delicious treats that are shipped from the corporate distribution center in St. Louis should be epic.

    Welcome to the suburbs. Of anywhere.

    Those of you who think Sonoma County is “full of itself” confuse those of us who just like that the place has a sense of place.

    Buy local. You live here.

      1. Because, to quote Lisa Simpson, “you’ll never go broke appealing to the lowest common denominator.” Panera=unchallenging, bland, no surprises, no risk of discovering something new or better, no risk of something “different”, no requirement that you think for yourself. It works for McDonalds, it works for Starbucks, it works for WalMart. It’s one more cog in the giant Sheep-ifying of America machine.

  28. I think it’s newsworthy – – – I’m thrilled they might be coming!

    I visited them several times when in another state traveling on business and loved them – hoped they would get into this area at some point.

    There’s nothing wrong with chains – they normally have nice solid food for decent prices and bring in business when they build, hire employees, etc in an area…. I think Sonoma Cty gets a little high on it’s self in regards to chain restaurants or retailers, etc… we can’t shop or eat all the time at boutique style businesses with expensive and one of kind items.

    There’s room for both and each person can pick where they want to spend their money.

  29. What’s interesting/newsworthy to me is the flood of national chains that we’ve seen come into Santa Rosa in the last year. And into the heart of Santa Rosa…not just the ‘burbs. That concentrated area around Steele Lane seems to be a real hot spot. It’s pretty notable.

    From what I know of Panera, it’s more of a breakfast lunchy kind of thing, so i’m not sure it will really contribute that greatly to the traffic snarl, but I could be wrong. Folks turning left into the shopping center could slow up Mendo

    And yes, I’m hearing the same buzz about the open parking lot area near CVS…not kicking anyone else out. I think that a spot like Goji Kitchen might actually benefit from the kinds of folks who might be stopping in for bread/coffee and taking note of their restaurant. It might suck away some of the Starbucks crowd.

    Honestly…if I were a downtown restaurant, I’d be a heck of a lot more worried about a national powerhouse like Panera sucking up my lunch crowd than i would a few trucks.

    1. There was a Panera where I lived in Henderson and it was dang good….I think QUALITY chains are a blessing…We don’t need another McDonald’s etc but a place like this or 5 Guys is great…

      BTW, what’s going on with Ike’s????

    2. I don’t see the big deal, its just another place to choose from, nothing more than a starbucks with an expanded menu IMHO. I personally still go to Macs if ever I have the time for lunch. Still haven’t found a better deli in the area! Pearsons comes close for lunch food.

      Its not like Sonoma County is a mecca of food. (sorry, biased from living in bay area and being able to pretty much throw a dart at a globe and eat that type of food 😉 It seems with the plethera of starbucks in the area, it should do well with the sonoma county crowd.

      Went to the panera’s infrequently when we lived in Alameda, and had lunch at the one in vacaville. I really don’t see the hubub. Good bagels though 🙂

  30. Nooooo!!!! Are we really going to sink further into national chain hell? How about a real bakery like La Boulange (w/stores in SF, Mill Valley, etc.)?? Is there anything we can do to encourage local businesses around here and keep the place from becoming just another Omaha, Orlando, or Sacramento?

    And as for the empty Hunter Steakhouse…make it a B&B.

  31. Ok, not like I’m likely to eat there, but I can’t imagine it going into the CVS shopping center on Mendo. I know they’ve left part of that parking lot unfinished, so I suspect that’s where they’re thinking. Unless they boot VideoDroid out. Either way, that area is already too congested, while other spots around town sit empty. Example: the Hunter Steakhouse has been empty for 3+ years.

    1. The Hunters Steakhouse is in a horrible location with horrible ingress/egress from the freeway. There’s a reason no one has moved in there and it’s location location location. Getting from there to the East side of 101 is a major PITA as is getting to that location from Northbound 101.

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