Panera Bread Versus Starbucks: a Coffee Meeting Analysis

In the spirit of coffee bipartisanship, a brand associated with neither Panera Bread nor Starbucks…

You’re a methodical business networker. You follow up with new friends, inviting them to imbibe in a coffee and discuss your respective perspectives. And so, the question is batted back and forth like a badminton shuttlecock – where to meet?

Two particular venues are suggested time and again for coffee meetings: Panera Bread (PB) and Starbucks (SB). As a service to my adoring public, I offer this analysis based upon a statistically unreliable sample size of one research study participant. Take this for what it’s meant to be, and please don’t extrapolate to the general population:

If a Barista Screams in a Forest but Nobody Hears Them, Will You Still Get Your Coffee?: When meeting a business friend in public, you must consider the venue’s decibel level and your own noise tolerance threshold level. At most SB locations, regardless of where you sit, it’s hard to escape the gurgling, belching sounds of the commercial espresso machine. At most PB locations, there is always a wall or divider of some sort available that helps to buffer these distracting hisses and yodels. Advantage: Panera Bread

Are Your Seating Accommodations Both Comfy and Discrete Discreet (my very bad!)?: The purpose of a coffee meeting isn’t to camp out all day and access free WiFi (right?). But, being comfortable does enhance your conversation. If the discussion is meant to happen between you, your networking pal and no one else, privacy also helps. I have yet to visit an SB that offers booth seating; they do typically offer a variety of cushy sofas and chairs.

On the flip side, if you get to a PB at just the right time, an intimate booth is usually yours for the taking. The soft, plush couches and chairs aren’t as plentiful at PB. Also, their highboy chairs and tables can be awkward for those of us with height-challenged issues (and skirts!). Advantage: Starbucks for comfort, but Panera Bread for privacy

No Matter How Many Offerings, the Food Should Taste…Good!: I think most of the food choices at SB are either refined sugar/carbohydrate bombs or just unappealingly large. This opinion isn’t meant to let PB off the carbed-up hook, though. PB’s “Bakery-Cafe” counter offers a variety of over-sized bagels, scones and other pastries that, when ingested, may require a diabetic to inject some extra clicks of insulin. But how does all of it taste, you ask? I believe PB is a food venue first and a coffee haven second, so… Advantage: Panera Bread

The Ultimate Taste Test for Java (the Cupp) Lovers…: No matter how weak or strong (or sugared up) you like your coffee, SB offers you more product line breadth and depth. Yes, a seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte or Salted Caramel Mocha may set you back close to $5, depending on size and tax. But oh, how it tastes – to quote that classic Saturday Night Live skit with Roseann Barr, Madonna, and Barbra Streisand, it’s “like buttah.”

PB lattes (they also beckon you to indulge in their version of Pumpkin Spice Latte) are okay, but they don’t measure up to the seductive, caffeinated kiss of a hot SB beverage. Since it’s now autumn, I dare not venture down the nutritionally-challenged path of those icy Frappuccino® liquid sirens… Advantage: Starbucks

Overall Coffee Meeting Advantage: Panera Bread (Remember, gentle readers, my sample size = 1!)


Have I upset the yin-yang balance of your business coffee meeting ritual? What darts of criticism shall you throw my way? Everyone is entitled to their opinion, so feel free to insert yours. Time for a Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte with no whipped cream and a double espresso shot…

Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print and web marketing copy. Call her (856-810-9764) or email her ( for a no-obligation project quote today!

2 Responses to Panera Bread Versus Starbucks: a Coffee Meeting Analysis

  1. Lori: I love this! And, you really have me thinking, since I’ve held meetings at both places. I’ll never make the decision so lightly again! Kudos on how well written this is and how funny!

    • Hello Jackie,

      Thank you for the commentary love :-). I appreciate that you appreciate the mostly humorous tone of this unsound coffee meeting analysis. You should see all the interesting commentary this post is generating via my LinkedIn groups… Thanks again for your generous eyeball time!