|The new Panera Bread restaurant, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware|
Gail (my barber yesterday): "Have you tried the new Panera Bread restaurant yet?
Me (getting my haircut from my barber Gail yesterday morning): "No, where is it?"
Gail: "It's just past the Colonial Storage on Rt. 1. You can't see it from the road."
Me: "Oh great! They open a new restaurant and I can't see how to get into it from Rt. 1."
Gail: "It's easy to get into, just make the first right turn when you see the Colonial Storage sign."
Since this past winter, I've been hearing rumors that a Panera Bread restaurant was going to open in our area. When I heard the good news I felt like a man wandering in the desert, dying of thirst and they seeing a cool oasis with water beckoning. Could it be true? Were we really getting a decent restaurant here in Gayberry (aka Rehoboth Beach)? We, who are held hostage on this Delmarva peninsula with tourist trap local restaurants and below par national chains (with the exception of Cracker Barrel and Bob Evans).
COULD THIS NEWS REALLY BE TRUE?
Well folks, I'm here to tell you that it is true! Thank God almighty, we here on the lower peninsula finally have a great restaurant that is Single Diner Friendly. Not only is Panera a restaurant that welcomes single diners, this restaurant also has great food at affordable prices. And there is more!
|Where you place your order - no host, no waiter - splendid!|
No kissing up to the host (or hostess) of the local overpriced eatery for a good seat. No waiting for a waiter (or waitress) and being held hostage to their ATTITUDE OF THE DAY. Oh yes folks, I have been treated in a rude and offhanded manner more than once for having the temerity of go into a restaurant and actually expect prompt, courteous and efficient service from THE HELP. HA! Try that in the Tourist Season. You'll get THE LOOK.
Hey, it's not that I don't know all about tourist meccas. After all I did vacation for many years at The Cape (Provincetown) but I was fortunate in that almost all of the restaurants in Provincetown were excellent and provided superior service. The one exception was one year that I chose to take my vacation on Labor Day which is a no-no because it is the End of the Season and The Help is burned out (poor folk). When I chose Slower Lower (aka Sussex County Delaware) to retire, I sort of expected the same kind of restaurants and service since this is a heavily gay dominated area. Oh how wrong I was. But that is a subject for another blog posting (as it has been for several of my past blog postings).
So it was with much anticipation when I heard that a Panera Bread restaurant would be opening in the area where I chose to retire and spend my waning days on this earth.
I was introduced to Panera Bread several years ago when I visited my brother John at his home in beautiful Greenville, South Carolina. Brother John is at his local Panera Bread almost every day for a quick lunch and occasionally bringing home a treat for his wife Barbara at home. John is a care pastor at one of the Greenville mega churches and as such doesn't have a whole lot of time to go through the rigmarole of the long tolerated and accepted practice of going to a restaurant, waiting to be seated by a host (or hostess), waiting for the waiter (or waitress) and then the wait for the waiter (or waitress) to take his order, then wait for the food to come, and then to wait for the bill and then (the best part) to leave a TIP for this outdated and inefficient way of grabbing a quick bit for lunch. And we all know if one eats at a restaurant, dining alone is frowned upon because you're taking up a WHOLE TABLE that could be used by more people thus creating a bigger bill and leaving a bigger TIP. Not that there is anything wrong with traditional dining. Hey, if that's your preference, then go for it. But for me (and my brother), most times we just want to get something good to eat at a reasonable price and not have to endure the inefficiencies of our traditional dining mode routine that is so costly in our time and money.
|Comfy open dining area - no host to seat you - seat yourself|
So yesterday I stopped at our new Panera. It was everything I expected. As soon as I walked in I could see the choices of eats before me. I was greeted by a pleasant young woman behind the register waiting to take my order. I already know what I wanted....black bean soup. AH YES!
|Panera Bread drive thru - I love it!|
I placed my order and got my receipt and then waited for my number to be called out. While waiting I looked around the interior of this new Panera Bread restaurant. Yes, over there in the corner was a SINGLE WOMAN with her laptop having breakfast (I was getting my soup early, not for breakfast). No one was giving her dirty looks or asking her "Are you done yet?" No push, no rush.
|Drive Thru menu - "We're not in McDonald's anymore Toto!"|
I saw plenty of empty booths. I saw places where I could sit and not be bothered while I had lunch ALONE while reading my magazine, paper or even on my new Macbook Pro laptop computer. Now since I do live at a resort and this is The Summer Season, I don't know how practical it would be for me to linger at this Panera but I can definitely see me here in the off season. I like to eat at home but sometimes I like to get out and mingle with the folk. I hate always trying to arrange someone to go with me to eat. Bill doesn't like to eat out. Most of the people I know are either too busy to eat out with me or can't afford to eat out with me, or just don't like to eat out with me (which I am in denial about, who wouldn't want me for a dining companion, I mean really)? One thing I gave up on a long time ago is trying to arrange my schedule to coordinate with someone else's schedule for a simple dine out for lunch or dinner. Hey, I do things spontaneously. No one I know does things spontaneously. That's just the kind of guy I am. I am TOO MUCH for some people. I know that. Deal with it.
So here we go folks. I now have an additional reason to hang around a few more years. The addition of Panera Bread has just made my life easier and more enjoyable. Now all I need Down Here (Lower Slower, Sussex County, Delaware) is a Wegmans.
|My late Mom shopping at Wegman's (she is in the white shirt) - 2005|
I hate to say this but I don't think we will ever have a Wegman's here in Lower Slower because it would put too many of our inefficient, overpriced and outdated supermarkets out of business just like they did in Downingtown, Pennsylvania where this picture was taken and where I used to live. One year after Wegman's open their store, four local supermarkets who long dominated the local market and held us hostage, out of business. That's what needs to happen down here in Lower Slower, competition. Way overdue.