The Panera Bread "Family"

by John Botticelli
File under: Fake Culture03 Feb 2013 22:17 EST

The Panera Bread Co. wants to convince you that their fast food restaurants are actually family restaurants.  If you haven't noticed, they try to stimulate a "family feeling" by slipping some propaganda into the decor.  For example:

A framed image of a smiling, cherubic boy playing air guitar on a bread board while wearing a -- isn't it adorable? -- chef's hat.  A precious moment captured.

Presumably this child belongs to one of the employees, because in many restaurants -- family restaurants -- it is common to see pictures of family members fooling around on the premises.

But this photo was not taken by "Mom" or "Dad" -- unless one of those two happens to be a professional photographer.  Notice the narrow focal plane, the deliberate lighting and composition.  This is not a domestic point-and-click moment.  It's a studio set-up.  This boy is an advertising model.

The "old fashioned" black-and-white format makes it a bit obnoxious.  Are we supposed to believe that a consumer-grade camera can take this kind of photo -- or that the "family" in question actually owns a darkroom?

The image defends itself against such rationalization by inviting the viewer to immediately melt into the syrupy sentiment.  "Oh, that's so cute!  Just like my own children..."

It's an impossible fantasy, a mediocre PR attempt, a crude lie.  "Family."  "Tradition."  "Good Times."  That's about as close as you'll get to any of those at Panera.  Just ask any of the employees behind the counter, who have zero stake in the company and live on a petty wage that can be terminated at any time.

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And so, we proudly present The Panera Bread Co. with a Fakenation 2nd Place Award!


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