The Pain of Le Pain

Le Pain Quotidien has decent food and a cute ambience, but the service leaves much to be desired.

Le Pain Quotidien is a French-countryside-inspired bakery and restaurant with locations all over the world. (Photo by Manasa Gudvalli)

I’ve been to my fair share of Le Pain Quotidien locations. From New York to Washington D.C. to Los Angeles to Paris, it seems that the popular, aesthetically pleasing cafe and brunch spot is on every corner. But even thousands of miles apart, the story is always the same: cute ambiance and decent-enough food, but atrocious service. 

You’ve probably either seen or at least heard of Le Pain Quotidien. The business has over 50,000 followers on their carefully-curated Instagram. There’s a location a block uptown of Washington Square Park, another on Bleecker Street, another on Broadway and E. 12th St. … you get the picture. They are everywhere and on Sunday mornings and early afternoons, they’re quite packed. 

Service during Sunday brunch is never going to be perfect, but when you’re one of only two parties at 9 a.m. on a Monday, it should come pretty close. During my last visit to Le Pain in New York, I went with two friends into a mostly empty dining room except for an elderly man reading the paper alongside his coffee. As usual, the basic white girl in me just wanted an avocado toast and iced oat milk latte. Unfortunately, it took the one server on duty about 15 minutes to notice us and take our order and then another 15 minutes to make the latte, only for it to be made with whole milk. My lactose intolerance was not having it.

About half an hour later, I got the oat milk latte and avocado toast. Both were fine. But just fine — underwhelming, if you will. If I wanted to wait 45 minutes for an oat milk latte that never disappoints, I would go to Think Coffee. If I wanted top-notch avocado toast, I would go to Jack’s Wife Freda or Banter

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Still, my last visit was not as bad as the time I visited a branch in Washington D.C. The mini Dutch pancakes I ordered were better than anything I’ve ever ordered at a New York location, but it took 45 minutes for the food to arrive and another 45 minutes for the check to come, which included me having to track down our waitress and plead for her to just let us pay.

However, the main problem with Le Pain is clear, reaching far beyond their mediocre food and painfully slow service. 

Le Pain is a large, global franchise trying to come across to customers as a local, small-town staple that serves healthy and organic food. While they succeed at portraying this aesthetic on a surface level, they fail when it comes to delivery. I say ditch the aesthetic and serve tasty and reliable products instead.

Email Gaby Baldovino at [email protected]

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