Panera Bread is redesigning its restaurants, hoping to inject a little more character into both its restaurants and digital experiences. It’s less about downsizing and more about brand personality.
Like many chains, the pandemic surge in takeout and digital experiences has been both a blessing and a curse.
Panera hopes this redesign has maximized convenience and enhanced dine-in experiences. “We are offering the best of both worlds with convenience via off-premise and digital channels while doubling down on dine-in," says Eduardo Luz, chief brand and concept officer at Panera Bread.
The Next-Gen café moves bakery ovens to the front, in full view of the customers, allowing people to chat with Panera’s bakers and both see and smell its trademark bread as it comes out of the oven. Customers "can immerse themselves in the unique craft bakery experience happening throughout the day,” Luz tells QSR Land in an email interview.
The café also adds a double drive-through lane, with one lane just for picking up digital orders.
Panera’s off-premise growth has shot up, accounting for 85% of sales through the pandemic. That brought many new customers to the brand. “As states begin to open up, we are seeing those new customers stick with us via off-premise while existing Panera guests return to dine-in,” Luz says. “The Next-Gen café redesign allows us to meet the needs of all our guests with a warm dine-in environment, an enhanced digital experience and more drive-through access for an increasingly off-premise world.”
Panera has been a category leader and claims to be the first fast-casual chain to go national with digital kiosks. And to make digital experiences more Panera-esque,“we’re infusing our experience with digital technology and loyalty.” That includes integrated orders with MyPanera, the loyalty program that now has 43 million members. “Guests can save their favorites, earn and track rewards, and receive one-to-one tailored content,” he says.
The Next-Gen drive-through includes fully-digitized menus that identify MyPanera loyalty members. “We can recall their past orders, birthdays and share unique offers based on their order history, allowing us to offer guests a highly personalized off-premise experience.”
The intention is to use the combination of the loyalty program and personalization to make the experience "uniquely Panera.”
Luz says the first new store is slated to open this fall, in Ballwin, Missouri, just outside of the chain's hometown of St. Louis.
And going forward, all new restaurants and remodels will follow the new design.