Panera is moving their Charged Lemonades behind the counter

Earlier this week, Panera got hit with a third lawsuit involving their highly-caffeinated Charged Lemonades. This lawsuit was filed by a young woman who alleged she now has “permanent cardiac injuries” as a result of an medical incident she experienced after drinking two-and-a-half cups of the energy drink. Charged Lemonades have almost 300mg of caffeine, which makes it more caffeinated (and sugary) than a Red Bull or Monster energy drink. The first two lawsuits were filed in Fall 2023, alleging the wrongful death of two customers with pre-existing heart conditions who drank it after it was marketed as a “plant-based and clean” drink that’s as caffeinated as a mere cup of dark roast coffee.

After the first two lawsuits, Panera’s original solution was to make sure people were aware of Charged Lemonade’s high caffeine content by putting up “enhanced” signs disclosing the caffeine content. My thoughts were that most people do not know the daily caffeine consumption limits, so without marketing it as an energy drink or making people aware that it’s worth as much as three cups of coffee, there would still be people who drink it and get hurt or worse. They could even just lower the caffeine content so that it actually *does* just contain the same amount as a dark roast. Well, rather than make any significant changes in the product itself, Panera has decided to just change the way they distribute it. From now on, the company is moving Charged Lemonades from the self-serving stations to behind-the-counter. This means an employee will serve them and get them refills.

After multiple lawsuits have been filed against the company, alleging that the drink caused health defects and in some cases fatalities, the fast casual chain has now removed the self-serve fountains in some locations.

“Looking for Charged Sips? You can pick up your order on the Rapid Pick-Up shelf or at the pick-up counter. Ask an associate if you need help locating your drink,” reads a sign at some Panera locations, as confirmed by PEOPLE. The new policy makes it so that customers cannot serve themselves lemonade or get a refill, but instead must rely on an employee to do so.

Panera did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment and clarification. In October, after the first complaint against the chain was filed, some Panera locations put up signs in front of the charged lemonade dispensers with increased warning.

“Contains CAFFEINE – Consume in Moderation. NOT RECOMMENDED FOR children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women,” read the signs.

[From People]

This is a start, I guess, but even then, will consumers know to monitor their consumption without knowing why the drinks are no longer self-serve? To the uninformed, they look like Panera’s version of Starbucks Refreshers. Hopefully these warning signs go from “some” to “all” Paneras and they’re placed in full view. I also wonder if Panera limits them to one or even no refills. I know, I know, at some point, people have to be responsible for their own decisions, but it’s harder to make these decisions if you don’t know all of the facts. Panera promotes itself as a “healthier” alternative to other fast food joints and people who eat there regularly accept it as a better alternative. Also, “lemonade” and “energy drink” are not generally synonymous. I still don’t understand why Panera hasn’t just cut their losses and pulled Charged Lemonades from the menu. Why are they so hellbent on keeping these damn drinks?

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18 Responses to “Panera is moving their Charged Lemonades behind the counter”

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  1. Whyforthelove says:

    Jeez if I was their in house counsel I would need anti-anxiety meds in an IV form…or hell maybe Panera will put them in a lime aid for their next drink 🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️

    • Kate says:

      Ikr? I’d be pushing an extra screen for the customer to have to sign acknowledging the caffeine content and agreeing that they don’t hold Panera liable for any injuries caused by consuming it.

      Now I’m waiting for someone to accidentally pick up or be served someone else’s charged drink at the pickup counter now and get a heart injury and sue…

      • Whyforthelove says:

        Holy $&&@ like a kid mixes up thei kid drink with this one … omg this is a disaster waiting to destroy a family

  2. Moira's Rose's Garden says:

    So my son drinks these to get through his 3L year and when he came home for the holidays (during which he was still working), he went out to get some and was surprised when he had to show ID and get it from an employee. He was surprised as we’re in VA and the Panera in CA had not yet started it.

  3. Mimi says:

    Why do they want to keep them? Because all publicity is good publicity and you can bet that their sales of charged lemonades have gone through the roof after this.

    • Kate says:

      I wonder if pulling them now could look like an admission of culpability and be used against them in pending lawsuits.

      • Mimi says:

        Most jurisdictions won’t allow after-the-fact fixes to be used as admissions, bc they WANT people to fix harmful situations/conditions/products, which no one would do if it could be used against you. I think this just goes to the bottom line. And, hey, maybe Panera customers really like the product and it would be penalizing the many for the issues of a few.

    • BeanieBean says:

      My guess is they’ve got all this syrup sitting in a warehouse somewhere & they don’t want to dump it out.

  4. Chaine says:

    I don’t know how this really helps. The people behind the counter that will be pouring and serving the lemonade are not really paying attention to who you are or how many you had previously. They are just working their tails off to get the orders up. All this change does is really put more liability on Panera as now someone who drinks too many will point to the fact that the employees didn’t stop them.

    • Mimi says:

      Exactly! Maybe they’re thinking that the fact that you have to order at the counter will cause people to pause and actually look at the caffeine content?

  5. butterflystella says:

    I may be in the minority but I’ve never been a fan of Panera. Their food, to me, is just blah. I drink one 8oz Red Bull every day and it takes me about an hour to drink it. I can’t imagine having the equivalent of 2-3 in that amount of time!

  6. Sussex Fan says:

    Not a fan of these drinks. I had one once, and it made me anxious and scared of my racing pulse and heart. I drank water and waited off the effects. Nope.

  7. Jennifer says:

    They’ve always served them from behind the counter here. I saw them as self-serve the first time I had one in another town in 2022 or so, but I doubt that happens there any more.

    Honestly, they are delicious is probably why they stay.

  8. Tarte au Citron says:

    How much of these are they selling, that they’re willing to keep going? If my product was making people ill, I would pull it ASAP and see how it could be reformulated. It comes across like Panera don’t care.

  9. Lucy says:

    I can’t believe it’s killed multiple people and still available. My young daughter always wants to get those when we go, I think it might be the only lemonade option? I never let her have one, because I read the signage carefully and realized it had caffeine. How many kids do we think have had it because they filled their cup unsupervised? Or the parent didn’t realize? They’ve changed the signage some, but it still doesn’t convey, to me, how dangerous the drink is.

  10. Bumblebee says:

    They must be making boatloads of money off this drink. I wonder how many Panera’s are by college/universities. Because I can see this drink with all the ‘keep me awake’ and ‘FREE refills’ being really popular with sleep deprived college students. Can you imagine being 20 with great health and have it ruined because of some greedy corporation? And ‘buyer beware’ defense doesn’t work here. Panera has had plenty of warning that they are deceptively selling a dangerous product.

  11. Spike says:

    Because nothing says you care more about profits than your customers than keeping a drink that killed 2 and caused permanent heart damage to another on the menu. It’s a health risk knuckleheads.