Earlier this month Panera Bread -- known to St. Louisans as Saint Louis Bread Company -- announced, via a MyPanera members-only message, that the chain would debut a new "Hidden Menu" to customers at its stores...
...in New York City.
Of course, the "Hidden Menu", crafted, per Panera copywriters, "in collaboration with number one New York Times bestselling author Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Chef," is more gimmick than substance, a way to make customers feel like insiders.
That's not to say there's nothing to it.
The "Hidden Menu" includes two breakfast "bowls" and a third aimed at the lunch-and-dinner crowd, plus two salads and a wrap. For the most part, the new dishes replace simple carbohydrates with complex ones, utz the protein component and add "power" to the beginning of every dish name. (As in literally using the word "power.")
But why keep it hidden? In revealing (!) the hidden menu on Panera's website, the company's chief concept officer Scott Davis states that Panera is targeting a certain audience -- in his words, "the right interested audience" -- on-the-go people in search of a healthy menu.
Well, that might begin to account for why New York and not St. Louis. Let's face it: This isn't exactly a power bowl complex carbohydrate town.
Still, Gut Check hates being locked outside, looking in. Having read Tim Ferriss' intro to the "Hidden Menu" on his own website, with its nudge-nudge instruction that to order the "4-Hour Chef-approved Slow-Carb Diet dishes...just tell them you're ordering from the 'Hidden Menu,'" we wandered up Delmar Boulevard to our nearest Bread Co. (6630 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-721-7995) to see whether the staff had any knowledge of the mothership's covert ops.
That would be a negatory, officially, anyhow.
When we inquired in our huskiest breathy whisper whether we might select something from the "Hidden Menu," the cashier credibly professed to know nothing about it, a confused, and slightly befuddled expression spreading across her face. The manager joined the conversation, adding that she too was in the dark.
But something about her smile said she knew.
Several calls to Panera HQ have yet to bear fruit. Or power bowls. More as we learn it.