With more than 2,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada, Panera Bread is a shining star in the competitive fast-casual restaurant segment, known for its breads that are baked fresh every day.
As many other restaurants struggle, sales at Panera are up and show no signs of slowing down.
Panera Bread is making menu, delivery changes
“By any measure, Panera has been one of the most successful restaurant companies in history. What started as one 400-square-foot cookie store in Boston has grown to a system with over 2,000 units, approximately $5 billion in sales, and over 100,000 associates,” said Panera founder and CEO Ron Shaich.
Besides the delicious bread, what’s the secret to Panera’s success? Read on for some facts about the restaurant chain that may surprise you!
1. Panera is being sold
JAB, the investment firm that controls Krispy Kreme and several other major brands, is buying Panera Bread for $7.5 billion.
USA Today reports that JAB is tight-lipped about its plans for Panera, but it’s expected to keep the restaurant’s current management team in place.
The deal is expected to close during the third quarter of 2017.
2. The #1 menu item is…
Can’t decide what to eat at Panera? Go with the fan favorite! The company says it’s selling more salads and sandwiches — and the Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt is number one.
With 770 calories and 43 grams of fat, here’s how Panera describes it:
“Smoked, pulled chicken raised without antibiotics, smoked Gouda, fresh avocado and cilantro, zesty sweet Peppadew piquant peppers and chipotle mayo on Black Pepper Focaccia.”
Image credit: Panera Bread
Meanwhile, some of Panera’s newest menu items include Southwest Chile Lime Ranch Salad with Chicken, Greek Yogurt with Mixed Berries, and Agave Lemonade.
In addition, the chain has brought back its Lemon Drop Cookie for spring.
3. Need a job? Panera is hiring delivery drivers!
Watch out pizza chains! Panera’s top initiative is to expand delivery to 35% to 40% of its system by the end of this year, up from 15%.
Panera’s drivers are cafe associates, which the company says provides a better guest experience.
Executives say the biggest hurdle in the delivery business is hiring drivers, but Panera believes it has an advantage over the competition for these reasons:
- Better shifts, because most deliveries are during the day
- Cashless delivery process is safer for drivers
- Deliveries to offices result in higher tips for drivers
4. Panera just reformulated 122 ingredients
If you have a favorite Panera menu item, there’s a good chance its recipe just changed!
The chain reformulated 122 ingredients to be 100% clean, which meant removing all artificial flavors, preservatives, sweeteners and colors from artificial sources.
“Cleaning up Panera’s menu while maintaining the same or better taste was not an easy task,” Panera said in a statement. “Deli meats, bacon and select bakery items were some of the most difficult challenges given the ubiquity of additives in these categories.”
Panera has a list of 96 ingredients that you won’t find in its pantry, including FD&C colors, sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite and sodium phosphate.
5. Calories, added sugars posted for self-service beverages
You may have noticed that Panera has posted signs to inform customers about added sugars and calories for self-service beverages.
In April, Panera launched a new line of non-carbonated teas, lemonades and frescas in select cities. The new beverages are made fresh daily and with less sugar than existing drink offerings.
This is the 100-calorie Prickly Pear Hibiscus Fresca:
Image credit: Panera Bread
“With up to 75 grams of sugar ‘ just one 20 oz. soft drink contains more than the recommended daily amount of added sugar,” Shaich said. “While we won’t tell people what they should drink, we want to provide real options and real transparency — and we’re challenging the industry to join us.”
Panera says the new beverages will be available nationwide by September.
6. What Panera 2.0 means for you
Panera 2.0 refers to a series of initiatives the restaurant chain has been rolling out to improve the customer experience, many of them thanks to technology.
Here are several elements of Panera 2.0:
- Using Rapid Pick-Up, place an online or mobile order and pick up your food without waiting in line
- Skip the cashier and order from iPad kiosks for dine-in or to-go
- Commitment to order accuracy through customer-facing order displays at checkout and an expeditor station to confirm and verify orders
- Dine-in guests can have their meal delivered to the table
7. MyPanera rewards program
If you don’t already have a MyPanera card, what are you waiting for? The more times you visit, the more rewards you’ll receive ‘ including free bakery-café items.
The restaurant will also send you a birthday reward, like a free coffee or tea.
You don’t need a physical MyPanera card to get the benefits because you can always give the cashier your phone number instead. Here’s how to sign up for the free perks.