The chipotle chicken and bacon flatbread pizza, a new offering...

The chipotle chicken and bacon flatbread pizza, a new offering from Panera Bread. Credit: Spencer Vogel

I am sitting in the parking lot of a Panera Bread in Syosset unsure as to whether I should spread the word about its three new flatbread pizzas, which the fast-casual bakery began serving on Oct. 28. You see, I haven’t yet tried the pizzas myself, and am at this moment awaiting word from Panera’s curbside takeout fairies that the moment of judgment is at hand. So while I am happy to bring you news of these flatbreads, at least provisionally, I can’t yet claim that it is news that should matter to you.

1:05 p.m.: I place my order and am on pins and needles. I’m sure you are, too.

1:15: The time I’ve been told to arrive. I’m here, so I click on the "I’m Here" button in my confirmation email and wait.

1:20: Still nothing. Will have to vamp in the meantime.

We are not eating out for breakfast in the same numbers we did pre-pandemic. No surprise there, with fewer folks commuting to work and Americans having belatedly discovered that yes, we can make our own breakfast. The country’s national chains have responded in two ways: try to lure morning consumers back with new breakfast offerings (e.g., McDonald’s new muffin, fritter, etc.), or focus on later in the day, as lunch and dinner sales have taken less of a hit (e.g., Boston Market’s new line of sliders in the evening). Panera has taken the second tack, hoping to cheese ($8.99), margherita ($9.99) and chipotle-chicken-and- bacon ($9.99) its way into our hearts with pizza.

1:25: Having witnessed bag after bag of fast-casual booty emerge from its doors, none of it carried to anyone’s car by a Panera employee, I am getting worried. Also, I have run out of things to vamp about while waiting.

1:30: With nothing to do, I scroll through of the store's Yelp reviews and immediately detect a pattern: "Every time I come to this Panera for curbside pick up, I have to park, get out of my car," reads a Paneragram from October. "I had to go inside and get my order" adds another. "This is the only location that struggles with curbside. Why offer it if you don’t ever bring it out?" says a third.

1:33: I sprint at top speed into Panera. Sure enough, the pizzas are there in a bag, waiting for me like an unloved suitcase at baggage return. I rush to the car, risking life and limb to get these pizzas home.

1:45: At last. The flatbreads look delicious, and while the three appear competently rendered and composed of good quality ingredients — minus the chipotle one, which is devoid of bacon — all are barely warm, and this is not the sort of pizza that can survive the barely warm treatment. A microwave zap shocks them back to almost-life, whereupon I conclude they are decent, inoffensive, but not worth getting out of the car for. Make of that what you will.

Panera Bread’s flatbread pizzas are offered at all Island locations,

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