Panera- The Big Deal

LeRoy Watkins with the MyBike Team

In 2012, Blaine, the former CEO of Panera called to do business. Actually it was an email from Jerry the General Manager and he wanted to use our electric bikes for Panera delivery. Pretty cool, right? Me and Steve set up a meeting with the Panera folks including Jerry and the now CEO Blaine, who flew in from Kentucky. We met at a Panera in Boston at one of the longer tables and started to talk shop. We brought a few bikes to demo and Ron, the gentleman who started Panera, his son was there and watched the demos. 

Basically Panera wanted to do delivery in an eco friendly and economical way. They saw our bikes as the way forward in more urban markets. At this point we were working with Naked Pizza using our bikes as their delivery vehicles, so MyBike had experience with an eatery. The Panera partnership presented an enormous opportunity for national expansion. My plan was to sell Panera electric bikes with an added service contract in each new delivery market. Because a large chunk of what MyBike did in Boston was pick up and delivery (concierge) bike repairs, we were going to set up shop in a cheap warehouse and offer our concierge repair service in each new Panera market. Low overhead with a focus on repair services. It was a great plan, until it wasn’t. 

Everything was going great. They bought electric bikes and either Steve or myself would go over to maintain them each week. Then one day Jerry called saying a bike wasn’t working, which was strange, because they never just stopped working. So we swapped it for a new bike and again, Jerry called with the same issue.  Again, this was strange. I went to Wayne, who owned EG the company that made the bikes, and by troubleshooting he found the battery fuse kept blowing. He set me up with a bunch of fuses, which I gave to a very begrudged Jerry. The frequency of the calls subsided, but they still continued to come in. It got to a point where dealing with Panera was actually not worth my mental well being. It was stressful! The idea of expanding nationally now seemed like it would be one gigantic headache. Then Jerry emailed saying he was scrapping the experiment. I could not have been more relived. 

It’s funny how life works because as the Panera door closed, we worked out a deal with the Boston Transportation Department, which would not have been possible if we continued dedicating all of our resources to Panera. 

Sometimes big isn’t best. Sometimes.

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