So that’s how Panera makes money: it’s racist?

Posted on by TheLastPsychiatrist and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

can you see the racism? It's in the back.

From the authoritative The Washington Post — wait a second, it’s from the AP, which means everyone is using the same body text and only changing the title:

Man says he was fired for hiring black cashiers at bread shop

Pa bakery boss claims firing was race retaliation

(Fox) Ex-Panera manager says he was fired for having black man work cash register


PITTSBURGH — A white man claims he was fired as manager of a suburban Panera Bread shop for repeatedly having a black man work the cash register instead of putting him in a less visible location and having “pretty young girls” be the cashiers.


He claims the reason was that he bucked race-related personnel rules communicated to him by a district manager for (franchise owner) Sam Covelli


Earlier this year, Donatelli says, the district manager told him, “It’s what Sam wants and what our customers want. They would rather see pretty young girls” at the cash register.

and then

The district manager also “told Donatelli he did not want African Americans working where the public could see them because: ‘it’s what the customers want.”

First, this has nothing to do with Panera; the suit is filed against the franchise owner, Sam Covelli.

Second, it turns out Donatelli also had a beef with them concerning medical leave,  but I’d like to offer another explanation for what happened, still bad, but bad in a completely different way: it wasn’t that the employee was black that they objected to, but that he was a man.

If you look at the quotes in the article, the district manager is never quoted as making a comment about race; he is quoted with respect to needing pretty girls to run the register.

Reading the complaint filed in federal court, which I had to pay $24 for, thank you very much– and even granting Donatelli that the district manager is quoted accurately– there is no evidence at all that what he was referring to was the employee’s race; it all fits much better as an issue of sex.  Any reference to race is assumed by Donatelli:


Yes, “that’s” an “African American young man”– but which of those four words was Sam objecting to?

I find the absence of anything more concrete a little suspicious.  Donatelli may have more evidence that race was indeed the issue, I have no idea, a court will decide.  The question here is why the news stories chose to run with the race angle.  Note that the story did not even bring up the gender issue as the motivator, it never asked the question, “is it right to only put females in the front register?  Should men always work in the back?” which is a much more difficult question to discuss.  It chose to make announce that “Panera” was racist– not sexist.

The reason they did this– the reasons dozens of media outlets all came to the conclusion that this was a story about race– is that the AP came to that conclusion, and everyone just used their story.  Remember this the next time you’re choosing to get your news from Fox vs. The Washington Post.

Related posts:

  1. “When you stop paying your mortgage, you’ll spend more at Panera.”
  2. Codebreaking: Nivea’s “Re-civilize Yourself”

6 Responses to So that’s how Panera makes money: it’s racist?

  1. HP says:

    I don’t really care if it’s sexist, if it’s effective.

    TLP: Bringing us an alternative to AP!

    • RatB says:

      Would you be as quick to say: “I don’t care if it’s racist, if it’s effective”?
      If not, why not?

  2. RatB says:

    The reason to frame this as an issue of racism is that no one will tolerate a grey area in that debate. If the district manager is proven to be racist, he loses, no matter what. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he loses his job just for being accused of it.

    On the other hand, if he’s proven to be sexist, particularly in favour of pretty girls, there’s no cultural knee jerk reaction to sway public opinion to the side of the accuser.

    I don’t think there’s any question as to why they chose the race angle. That issue will engender righteous anger in a higher proportion of AP’s readership than the issue of sex would.

  3. BHE says:

    One question that was apparently settled long ago in the public discourse is whether or not it is wrong for a private business to make just these kinds of decisions if they are acting based on a profit motive. Let’s say that Panera has looked at the numbers across its many franchises and determined that they do a greater volume of sales when pretty girls are working the register, as opposed to men or even specifically black men. This is the good ol’ capitalist USA, where you can get away with all kinds of crazy bullshit on Wall Street in the name of greed, but you can’t make a decision about who you staff at the register of your business if it helps you turn a profit? What ratio of pretty girls to black men makes it OK? What if the difference to their bottom line was such that it was the difference between choosing to expand and add jobs in this economy or to close a few stores? Isn’t the public, in a sense, voting with their dollars? A few stray lawsuits aside, it doesn’t seem to have hurt Hooters’ bottom line.

    I realize this lawsuit is about an unlawful job termination, and I suppose that is where the legal line has been drawn. But clearly the debate is about whether Panera is in the wrong to have this policy at all. It’s easy to point fingers and call this kind of policy racist or sexist, but it is the policy the problem, or the customers?

    • Guy Fox says:

      You and RatB seem to be slaughtering the wrong big corporate pig. Forget for a second what Panera may or may not have been doing or what their franchisee may or may not have been doing. That would require you to pay 24$ or ask TLP to post the complaint on PirateBay, as well as getting Panera’s quarterly reports.

      Try this. What incentive does the media have for making this about race instead of gender? Look at the cast of Fox News or MSNBC. They’re counting on getting brownie points from putting women like Tazeen Ahmad, Mara Schiavocampo, Veronica DeLaCruz, Carinna Sonn, Uma Pemmaraju, or Malini Bawa on the screen. Diversity is great so long as it’s restricted to names that you won’t find in Family Circus. The non-negotiable restriction, though, is that they be cute. These ‘busts’ don’t have to be drop-dead gorgeous, just good enough to pass for amateur porn actresses in one faux-exotic category or another. If they pick up the racism angle, they look like paragons of morality, but if they go for the gender angle, well, they’d be throwing very visible stones from inside a very brittle glass house. Panera is only of interest to them to the extent that they can tell a story you might want to hear about it; e.g. that corporate fat cats are discriminating against black men/exploiting young girls working retail. While you’re having that settled discussion, the media are exploiting their own employees, the parties to this suit, the Panera brand, and the rest of us, but we’re all arguing about Panera and its franchisee.

      Stop staring at the woman in the red dress and ask yourself who’s doing the programming and why they rendered her.