Panera Bread Burns Kansas City

A deluge of baseball fans trying to collect free bagels has led Panera Bread to cancel a promotion with the Kansas City Royals. Under the promotion, ticket stubs from a home game in which the Royals won with thirteen or more hits could be redeemed for thirteen free Panera bagels.

Panera expected a redemption rate of 15%, maybe 20% at most. On April 20, the Royals got fifteen hits against the Minnesota Twins. Over the next five days, 8,500 fans tried to collect 111,000 free bagels – a redemption rate of 26.7% – overwhelming Kansas City Panera franchises. Panera responded by saying of the promotion, “We’re definitely pulling the plug.” They hope to work out a different promotion with the Royals.

Bagels for hits is a great idea, but maybe instead of thirteen bagels for thirteen hits, Panera should go with something they can deliver. Maybe they could offer seven bagels for thirteen hits. Or thirteen bagels for thirty hits. Make your promotion work for you; simplify, man. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Royals’ baker’s dozen bagel deal is toast [The Kansas City Star]
(Photo: powerbooktrance)


Edit Your Comment

  1. EtherealStrife says:

    Free advertising is great, until it’s no longer free. Serves em right…it’s a shame they weren’t hit with 100%.

  2. gwong says:

    Panera expected a redemption rate of 15%, maybe 20% at most.

    This is the same flawed logic that companies use when offering rebates. They’re surprised at the redemption rate being higher than expected and then go to lengths to invalidate redemption attempts. If you can’t back up your offer, then don’t make the offer – how hard is that?

  3. iMike says:

    What they serve aren’t bagels. They’re more like rolls with a hole in the middle.

  4. Buran says:

    If you offer something to someone and it costs you more than you expect, don’t offer it. Too late — you made the offer. I hope Panera gets whacked with a lawsuit like Starbucks did when it wrongfully denied a woman redemption of a valid coupon. (Same thing – starbucks said “we didn’t expect that many people to redeem the coupons”).

    Whatever became of that, anyway? Did she win or not?

    Make an estimate of the redemption rate. Then double it. Plan accordingly. Don’t? TFB.

  5. gwong says:

    @Buran: Exactly, why would you plan on anything less than a 100% redemption rate? It’s almost irresponsible to do that.

  6. captainbozo says:

    The Royals used to do 12 hits = a dozen Krispy Kreme glazed donuts. That was awesome! I’ve been to 4 games over the last 5 years there, and somehow, in spite of their suckitude, I got free donuts 3 out of the 4 games.

  7. gwong says:

    @captainbozo: Why can’t a local franchise eatery do this for the Mets!??

  8. spryte says:

    I doubt the team is going to want “a different promotion” with them, after this. Whoever was in charge of the details of the free-bagel-deal obviously didn’t think it through well enough. I mean…no one said “What if we get more than we expect?”??

    And iMike, I’ve never eaten at a Panera (do they have them on the west coast?) but I’m sure you’re right about the low degree of “bagelness” of their product. Unfortunately, I doubt there’s many New Yorkers/Jews/New York Jews in Kansas to explain to them how to make the things… :)

  9. catnapped says:

    @iMike: Even worse, don’t even think of trying to reheat one of Panera’s bagels in the toaster or the microwave…they start smoldering within a few seconds (better keep a fire extinguisher handy)

  10. mikyrok says:

    All this post does is remind me how much I miss the deliciousness of Panera. I used to be right near one, now going to college in boston there are none!

  11. gwong says:

    @catnapped: What heck do they put in their bagels that cause them to smolder in the toaster or microwave? That’s just some scary stuff.

  12. NeoteriX says:


    I dunno about you, but I know of a Panera in Watertown, MA is go to and one in Framingham, MA that I go to as well, and I’m a student in Boston. Maybe it’s the car thing, I’ll grant you that.

  13. MentalDisconnect says:

    @spryte: I am a New Yorker Jew. I better get down to Panera and tell them how it’s done.

    How could they have not expected a high redemption rate? Who doesn’t want free bagels? Anyway, here’s how it works: give them the free bagels. They like, may buy coffee or something else, and come back for more bagels. Pull the plug on the promotion, you now have some would be customers who you’ve upset. They’ll take losses by continuing with it, but hopefully make it up in the long term.

    I understand the politics of bagels well.

  14. ThinkAboutItPlease says:

    Very weak thinking by Panera: Have no contingency for high levels of redemption other than “pull the plug”…piss off customers…significantly hurt your reputation. In both the short and long term they lose, rather than gain, business, from this supposed “promotion.” As MentalDisconnect notes, they may have missed a very possible long-term gain here if they had been consistent and trustworthy, and bit the bullet for the short term.

    They otherwise probably weren’t smart to compare themselves to Krispy Kreme. Different markets, different product. Krispy Kreme donuts are, to put it bluntly, like a recreational drug. They hit the pleasure centers of the brain immediately and hard. Bagels don’t tend to do that nearly as much. And people who would redeem a coupon for a dozen donuts are not likely to be concerned about their health — and such folks are Krispy Kreme’s central market. In fact, I bet Krispy Kreme made vatloads of money (oily vatloads) from the investment of those free donuts.

  15. superlayne says:

    Why not just give them one bagel? Yes, 13 bagels are nice. When someone gets a “coupon” for 13 bagels, it’s like they’ve won the bagel lottery. But who really needs 13 bagels, unless you’re trying to feed about 8 people? People would be pretty content with 1 bagel.
    Unless you have, like, really tiny bagels…

  16. never underestimate how much a person will do for something free.

  17. LionMan says:

    This is a huge surprise. The Royals actually won a game? Judging by how they did last year, this would have been a good promotion otherwise. :)

  18. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    If you offer a free product, you expect no less than 100% of the people to come get it. Plan accordingly.

    Hope for the best, expect the worst.

    Worse case, they lose a million because everyone shows up, takes the bagels, and then nobody buys anything else. Best case, everyone shows up, nobody takes the bagels, and they all buy the most expensive item on the menu. And they keep coming back. You plan keeping the worst case scenario in mind. And you expect something close to worst case scenario.

  19. lizzybee says:

    @spryte: There are tons of Panera locations on the west coast, especially in northern California. I know of at least 3 within 15 minutes of me, if not more. Their bread is fabulous!

  20. saerra says:

    superlayne said: “it’s like they’ve won the bagel lottery.”

    LOL :) thanks for the giggle. Exactly right though – what does one do with 13 bagels, unless you’re hosting a bagel party or morning office meeting or something?

    I also agree – it’s all kinds of stupid to offer something like this, realize that *duh* more people than you thought are going to try to redeem, and then completely cancel the offer.

    Otherwise, Panera is ok … we’ve got one down the street from me… but I like Atlanta Bread Company better for veggie sandwiches… yummmmmm!

  21. silenuswise says:

    Ah, the “we didn’t expect that many people to redeem the coupons” excuse. Beautiful. I think I’m going to adopt that philosophy by taking out a huge loan to purchase a million dollar home, and then after a few months tell the bank that “I didn’t expect to not make enough money to pay off my loan.” Then I’ll try it on my taxes, and as many credit cards as I can. After all, though it turns out I couldn’t afford what I bought, I just didn’t expect that! So sue me!

  22. SexCpotatoes says:

    They probably didn’t order enough frozen pre-made bagels, or bagel mix, or whatever they use there.

  23. hop says:

    they boughta do it with the orioles…..they wouldn’t give away too much………

  24. TWinter says:

    There is a much smarter way to do promotions like this that doesn’t backfire – you offer the 13 bagels to the first 100/200/300/whatever# people who show up at each store with a stub. It makes it much easier to have enough product available AND the people who show up too late for the free bagels will probably go ahead and buy something.

    As far as the quality of Panera Bagels is concerned, I agree with the person who said they are more like rolls than bagels. They are actually pretty good as long as you don’t expect them to taste like a real bagel.

  25. Vesperal11 says:

    I’m not one to usually defend the company but all those comments are a bit misleading.

    First, they didn’t deny anyone the free bagels, everyone who wanted one could get one (or 13 to be exact).

    It’s not a question of money (well, it’s always kinda is), it’s more one of possibility. Like the article said, it take 6 minutes to make a bagel, so some stores had so much customers they couldn’t make the bagels fast enough.

    About the pulling the plug, it just mean they are stopping the promotion for the subsequent games, not denying the already promise free bagels.

    Yes, they were very stupid, their marketing department did a really poor job but there just stopping a bad promotion. Everybody was losing in this. People who wanted the promotion had to wait for a very long time, normal customers were in the same situation and the store was losing money by giving almost all bagels for free instead of selling them to normal customers.

  26. MentalDisconnect says:

    @TWinter: Well… I can say as a Jew that the tough, dense bagels you’re used to aren’t real bagels. We need a return to real bagels. A bagel revolution. I think that’s the real issue here, not the promotion. This promotion only highlights the need for real, good, tasty bagels.

  27. Chris says:

    I’d love to see a lot of KC residents place huge catering orders with Panera, then “pull the plug” because – oops, they didn’t have such a big need for bagels, after all.

  28. spryte says:

    @MentalDisconnect: Yes, please do. I am a CA Jew so I have only 50% persuasion power on this sort of thing….

    @lizzybee: Crazy, I’ve never seen one and I’ve lived in N CA my whole life. Well…for the last three years, I’ve been in what would more aptly be called “central” CA and in coastal-boondocks-tiny-town northern CA. Oh well, doesn’t sound like I’m missing anything great…

  29. mattbrown says:

    How bout something normal, like one bagel and coffee? Is that so difficult? “We lock the doors from the inside, faggots!”

  30. wolfman09 says:

    Wow… how many of you all actually graduated from college? You never plan for 100% of redemption. Fans had a week to redeem the bagels… if they did 100% redemption everyday they’d be screwed beyond belief thats 30,000 tickets they’d have to plan on redeeming everyday. That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

    Besides its the fans that screwed everyone. There were rules to follow and the fans weren’t following them. Panera has a Rule #1 policy where they try to satisfy every customer if at all possible. The rules were one redemption per customer, assorted bagels and not bagel sliced. Yet you had fans coming in with 8 tickets asking for all cinnamon crunch bagels all bagel sliced. If you ask me its the fans fault… not Panera’s.