Panera Bread rules! You may have read or watched the really heart warming story about a dying grandmother, a devoted grandson, and a bowl of clam chowder. If so then you know where I’m going. . .
In Nashua, NH a young man is caring for his hospitalized grandmother. She is dying of cancer. When she explains that all she really wants to eat is clam chowder, her grandson takes the initiative and calls the local Panera Bread Co. to place an order. However, Panera only serves clam chowder on Friday. And it wasn’t Friday.
At THAT moment the store manager had a choice to make. She could have said “no” to the young man’s request and fallen prey to the “screw you” level of service that defines so many companies. She could have said “no” and explained it wasn’t their company policy to make Friday soup on an off day. Equally, bafflingly, absurd. But she didn’t. Instead she acted on empathy, kindness, and humanity. She broke the company rules while preserving that which is Golden.
The store manager didn’t hesitate to do the right thing. Her staff cooked up a special order of clam chowder for the young man who delivered it to his grandmother later that day.
Of course the story went viral. The young man’s comments on the Panera Bread Facebook page has now garnered more than 670,000 ‘likes’ and is climbing every day. The story made the news. It blew up on Twitter. The television footage hit YouTube like a blitzkrieg and Panera looked like a rock star. All from a basic act of kindness, a little bit of rule breaking, and a big heart.
It’s easy to spend our time forecasting and measuring the effects of our businesses. There are always a million mousetraps invented by a million really clever people designed to quantify allegedly important results. But after the numbers come in and the paychecks are cashed do they really matter past that very moment or that little meeting or yet another power point presentation?
There’s a moral dimension to business that occurs the very second at which the business extends itself past coldly calculated categories and in to the lives and hearts and souls of the people it touches. Panera touched on it and the reach of its generosity will travel farther than any marketing budget dare attempt to duplicate. But that’s the point. Every business is first and foremost a service business. In its truest sense. And with respect to the bean counters I’ll suggest that the most difficult thing to measure just may be the highest form (and deeper redefinition) of what ‘success’ means in business.