Hook gets hook at Panera

In mid-March we gave a shout out to Panera Bread for finally offering the Hook (and, of course, our Dish column) in their cafes at Barracks Road Shopping Center and Hollymead Town Center. Since opening in 2004, the local presence of the popular chain had only offered the C-ville Weekly and Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine to its customers.

About a week ago, however, the Hook was given the hook.

According to the Hook's circulation manger, Jeff Norford, managers at both stores, who had previously allowed him to place Hook racks in their cafes, were told by Panera's local management company, Blue Ridge Bread, Inc. to remove those racks.

Curious, we contacted local Panera marketing manager Lauren Kantruss on April 14 via phone and email about the decision. Kantraus emailed back saying there was an approval process for all outside publications, and expressed interest in "working things out."

Approval process? Isn't it in the interest of cafes to offer all the local reads? Go to Greenberry's, Shenadoah Joe's, Cafe Cubano, Cville Coffee, and most other cafes and you'll find all the local publishing world has to offer.

We asked again why the Hook was given the boot, and a few days later Kantruss emailed us back: "It looks like right now we are only letting C-Ville Weekly in our cafes, but we will be re-evaluating soon...we have extremely strict standards when it comes to these things."

We asked what those "strict standards" were, but did not hear back from Kantruss. However, a few days later, we got a call from Blue Ridge Bread's marketing director, Kelly Jackson, who provided the answer.

"When we opened the Panera at Barracks Road, we decided to use C-Ville Weekly for our advertising, and later Blue Ridge Outdoors," she said. "And we only let papers we advertise in be in Panera."

Asked if offering only select local papers could be seen as a disservice to their customers, Jackson responded by saying it was simply their company policy, adding that they didn't have the room for more papers, and didn't want too many papers cluttering up the cafe. She also admitted to a more self-serving motive, saying, "We don't really want to promote a paper we're not in."

Meanwhile, Norford says that customers at both stores have been asking Panera's managers, "Where's the Hook?"

"We might advertise with the Hook in the future," Jackson concedes. "We like the paper...we support the Hook."

Until then, however, it appears that Panera Bread customers will have to go without the Hook, Real Estate Weekly, Albemarle Family Magazine, and other local pubs; that is, unless they continue to complain.

"Customers can contact us and request a paper, say they want it," says Jackson. "We're happy to work with the community to address its needs."

6 comments

As far as free weeklies go, both of ours are just fine. Have you seen the New York Times recently? The Hook might have better writing in light of all the spelling errors and grammar mistakes being made in the Times.

Spanky's comment is just silly...if you paid for The Hook, I understand your comment, but you don't.

The point is that Panera Bread looks pretty damn stupid right now. Good thing I don't like their bland menu.

TheUpstart,

Sorry, I'm afraid I deleted old spanky...no room for inane comments here. Now, if he'd explain why he thought the Hook should be competing with Charmin....anyway, didn't want folks to think you were talking to yourself. Oh, by the way...Spanky left a arin whois trail back to WVIR TV....

Good riddance to Spanky. How funny that an employee of the TV station with newscasts that closely resemble "tabloid TV" called one of our free weeklies a "rag".

Bland? I love Panera! YUM

Give me a Fuji Apple Chicken Salad any day!

Dave,
This is Kelly Jackson, mentioned above.I wanted to let you and your readers know some news worthy info in case you wanted to write another article.
Did you know:
-We have raised and donated over 15 thousand dollars to the UVA Breast Care Center
-We have donated over 20 thousand dollars the the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
-We donate all of our left over bread at the end of EVERY day to local food shelters
-we support over 20 local organizations,groups and events by the way of monetary and product donations including the American Cancer Society, MS Bike Tour, 2nd Street Art Gallery and Neighbors in Need just to name a few!!
-we donate over 3 thousand bagels to the Charlottesville Womens 4 miler

We do so much more that is not listed above! If you are interested in any more information please feel free to contact me.

Thanks!