Panera Bread enacted the ultimate punishment on an employee who revealed a trade secret of the fast-casual restaurant’s beloved mac and cheese.
The short video, set to a recording of a man’s hysterical laughter, goes behind the scenes of the cooking process of Panera’s mac and cheese, which involves dipping a frozen bag of the pasta dish into a vat of boiling water, cutting it open, and dumping it into a bowl ready to be served.
Unfortunately, the company didn’t find the expose very funny and the employee was fired.
The video garnered thousands of likes, retweets, and mixed responses from loyal customers of the brand. Some weren’t surprised by how the food was prepared, while others were apparently shook to their core that their favorite fast-food dish wasn’t as fresh as they thought. The mac and cheese costs around $5.49 for a small bowl; $8.49 for a large bowl, and $6.59 if you want your pasta served in a bread bowl. (Prices may vary slightly depending on location.) According to The Washington Post, Panera serves more than three million mac and cheese dishes each month.
In a statement to The Post, a Panera spokesperson defended the frozen food and its quality. “It is shipped frozen to our bakery cafes — this allows us to avoid using preservatives which do not meet our clean standards,” the company said. Plus, it explained that the mac and cheese is still prepared by Panera Bread chefs based on an exclusive recipe.
The former employee, identified by her Twitter handle as @BriiRamirezz, wrote a few supportive messages about the restaurant and seemingly poked fun at herself for sharing the video in the first place by retweeting messages from fellow Twitter users who replied to her video with “dummy” and that “she risked it all, twitter get her a new job.”
She also tweeted, “i dunno what Panera y’all worked at, but the one i did was very clean and there really wasn’t anything unsanitary about it lmao.”
Since its inception in 1980, Panera Bread has been a staple in the fast-casual dining movement and has promoted “fresh” and “clean” foods with no preservatives or artificial ingredients. However, that doesn’t mean it’s always made fresh on-site — some of its most popular items, including most of the baked goods, start out frozen before they hit customers’ plates, according to reports from Mashed. The company’s food policy advocates for transparency in its menu, clean ingredients, and a positive environmental impact.