Eating/Coffee places have proliferated based on the idea of being community gathering places for young and old alike. This includes establishments like Einsteins, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Paradise Bakery, even McDonalds and Wendys. In fact Starbucks grew their entire business on the "experience" concept. Yet in my own experience of going to these places all around the country, Panera Bread is the only company to get it right. And a few McDonalds (depending on the franchise owner), are the only places I've had a manager stop by and ask how everything was. Otherwise, service outright stinks in most of these places making it a lousy customer experience. Amazingly, it seems to be the same several problematic issues across most of these companies:
1) Crappy Loud Music
Who want's "Jumpin Jack Flash" blaring when you're trying to read over coffee or conduct business or talk to friends. At one Starbucks I saw two tables of 30'ish people curse out the blaring music and leave. At another Starbucks the music was so bad I asked the manager to turn it down, then after he then went to the bathroom he came back and finally turned it down as if he couldn't be bothered, only to have another employee turn it up 5 minutes later - I haven't gone back to another Starbucks since.
2) Ear Piercing Oven Alarms
I just walked out of Einsteins for the last time this week after getting a splitting headache from the constant ear piercing alarm signals on their ovens, etc. Hey my microwave is not that bad, why is theirs?
3) Dirty Tables
This varies from place to place but too many places have employees who can't be bothered to clean the tables - I see customers wiping down their own tables, while paying a bunch of money for the pleasure - what lumpen fools.
4) Disruptive Employees
Either loud talking/yelling between themselves, loud banging of utensils, or even sweeping/mopping under your feet while you are seated is really pretty bad. Mostly it comes from unmanaged, undisciplined 19 year olds running the place.
5) Lack of Free Wireless
In today's world, free wireless should be a given. Every traveling business person needs to check their email, demo something, look up addresses, etc. The media made a big unfounded commotion over internet squatters hanging out in places all day but frankly, I have seen very little of this and even then all establishments need to do is simply hang a sign that advises customers of a 1-2 hr internet limit, and then just nicely remind violators of this.
6) Making You Do The Work
At Seattle's Best (in Borders) they hand you a full cup of hot coffee and expect you not to spill it while making you walk across the store to put a lid on it.
Notice I have not commented about the food / coffee - basically the food/drink product is pretty good in all these places - it's the management that's absent.