Monday, October 04, 2004


Another bizarre irritation at Au Bon Pain: Although the soups are acceptable, there is no way to carry them. They are blistering hot, demanding cover as well as bowl if you take them any farther than a few feet, and this bowl would have to make it from Tufts-New England Medical Center to the Boston Herald. But this peculiarly poorly managed franchise had only small bowls ... and only large covers.

Soup is a significant part of Au Bon Pain’s business, so it is odd, to say the least, that there would be such a problem. It seems basic to order necessary things when they are about to go lacking, but in this case two necessary things have gone lacking in an entirely complementary way, creating not twice the mystery, but a mystery squared.

I recall how in Middletown, Conn., once in the mid-1990s, locals were incredulous to find the Main Street ice cream shop lacking ice cream and the means to make it. The reason was revealed quickly when the place quickly shut down, bankrupt.

The lack of something vital, not to sound too obvious, was a sign of trouble.

What’s Au Bon Pain’s excuse? As a wholly owned subsidiary of Compass Group Plc., which has 412,574 employees in 90 countries and owns such chains as Burger King and TGI Friday, can it possibly be so troubled? In fact, it can be; its stock price fell 25 percent in a single day in early September and has struggled since. Bloomberg News said the company expects “costs and pressure on prices” to hold back its stock over the next two years.

So the bowl problem is merely a clever way to enhance revenue. I usually get a large soup and a bagel, for $4.91, but I happened to go for lunch during the site’s 4 to 6 p.m. half-price sale on baked good such as bagels, and I expected to pay about $4.50. Instead, faced with the impossibility of transporting soup, I bought a Fields & Feta Wrap for $5.24.

Spend it wisely, Compass Group Plc. Large bowls, I’d say. If there’s money left over, small covers.


eric said...


Just spill the soup on yourself. All problems solved.


Anonymous said...


Pho: look into it. They put the soup into a container for you and give you a lid, too! Plus, it's good. And probably less expensive. And you can get it everywhere in Chinatown.

Why stick with the crappy overpriced fake-French cafe?


Scape7 said...

Because I love cream soups. Cream of broccoli, corn chowder, lobster bisque ... these are the soups that get my salivary glands going so fast and strong that I nearly drown. And the Asians, as wonderful as are their soups, are weak on creams.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Marc, creamy soups are good. It would be hard to give up the Wild Mushroom Bisque from Au Bon Pain, wouldn't it?


Scape7 said...

Okay, okay, so you've caught me. I hate mushrooms. No matter how much cream is poured on top.

Anonymous said...

Um, the Boston Herald sells Au Bon Pan soups -- every day. There's no need to carry one from the New England Medical Center to the Herald, whether they offer heat-resistant bowls or not. If you don't have the privilege of working for the Boston Herald, request a bag to carry your hot, capped soup bowl. I'm sure they'll give you one. Otherwise, stop buying soup at Au Bon Pan; there are other lunch options in Boston. If a lot of people have the same concern as you and vote with their feet, the chain will take notice, and either close, perhaps opening the space to a business that is not a chain, or change its habits.

Scape7 said...

True, the Herald lunchroom sells Au Bon Pain soups ... until 2 p.m., an hour before I come in! And I love no soup enough to come to work an hour early. I love Anna's Taqueria more.