Panera Introduces No Seating, Rapid Pickup Restaurant Model

Liz Dominguez
Managing Editor
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Panera Bread storefront

Panera Bread consumers will soon have another way to get their You-Pick-Two orders. The company is launching a new digital-only format, “Panera To Go,” which focuses solely on mobile and online order and delivery, allowing consumers to quickly receive their food.

Instead of front of house seating, Panera will be providing easy access to orders for consumers and delivery drivers. The new bakery-cafe model will feature a dual drive-thru with a dedicated rapid pick-up lane and other digitally powered elements. 

“Panera To Go is another way we can make our guests’ lives easier through digital convenience, which is always at the heart of what we do,” said George Hanson, chief digital officer, Panera Bread. “We are already leaders in providing our guests with an exceptional digital experience and have adapted our digital channels to provide our guests even more options in the Panera To Go format.”

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These restaurants will be placed in high density areas that can’t easily accommodate a dine-in bakery-cafe. Orders will be placed on shelves that guests and delivery drivers can easily access. 

To start, Panera will be opening three test locations this year — the first one will be located in Chicago. The company has plans to open two more in California and Washington D.C. this year, potentially adding kiosk and catering orders in the future. 

Panera’s new model comes in response to increased interest in off-premise dining. As of the end of 2021, 81% of Panera’s sales were from Panera’s off-premise channels, including delivery, rapid pick-up, drive-thru, and catering. And according to the company, at the end of 2021, nearly half (44%) of Panera bakery-cafes included a drive-thru. 

The company launched rapid pick-up in the U.S. in 2016, then introduced Panera curbside, a geofence-enabled service — in 2020. 

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Online and mobile ordering has skyrocketed, particularly amid the pandemic. Another company that has traditionally focused on the in-store experience, Starbucks, has also invested in growth opportunities in this area after finding that digital ordering grew to a Q1 record of 38% of sales in Q1 2022. Chipotle jumped on the digital-only bandwagon in 2020 with its no dining-in Chipotlane Digital Kitchen.

“We strive to make it easy for our guests to access Panera’s chef-curated menu, in the most convenient way. Panera To Go creates yet another access point for our guests, via rapid pick-up or delivery, in locations where Panera has not historically operated,” said Eduardo Luz, chief brand and concept officer, Panera Bread. 

“We are excited to launch into more trade areas, where we know people are craving for what Panera offers—freshly prepared delicious dishes, crafted by our chefs and bakers, using clean ingredients,” Luz added. 

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