Panera Bread Wants to Be Everywhere. Panera’s move into dinner could attract new clients. In recent months, Panera Bread has announced several new initiatives geared towards expanding its reach-efforts that will continue to unfold as Panera works to get involved with more locations and serve more customers at more occasions.
“This brand has an incredibly high emotional relationship with our target customers,” says Dan Wegiel, the company’s EVP and chief growth and strategy officer. “That’s something which is a massive asset for us and we wish to have them.”
Using a wide appeal among consumers and deep relevance among loyal fans, Panera executives see plenty of runway for future expansion and an abundance of opportunities to further ingrain the manufacturer into customers’ lives.
Most of the brand’s recent evolution has occurred since JAB Holding Company acquired Panera in 2017 for $7.5 billion. Since that time, rapid-casual giant has created big news: In April, it rolled out a brand new slate of breakfast menu items aimed at winning share from competitors who frequently offer frozen, microwaved food items throughout the breakfast daypart. That effort included a revamped coffee program that mirrors the quality and technology offered by big coffee houses. In June, the manufacturer launched an exam of any dinner menu that includes artisan flatbreads, bowls and hearty side stuff like sweet potato mash. And just in late August, Panera Bread delivery near me turned more heads as it finally embraced third-party delivery partners after years of sticking with its in-house delivery program.
So, what exactly do the collective moves inform us about where Panera is going?
“The strategic thread that holds those things together is it: this brand has a very unique opportunity within our minds within the food and restaurant space to have broad relevance to some fairly broad set of target customers,” Wegiel says. “It’s one of the few brands that operates across all dayparts, all week parts and multiple channels of access.”
While those changes came after JAB’s acquisition, he says, the European conglomerate empowered those efforts, not mandated them.
“JAB includes a very explicit and clear philosophy which they believe individual companies and brands should really shape their destiny and destination,” he says. “Unlike a few other investment firms they don’t are available in with a playbook and say here’s the best way to create value or say here’s the portfolio and here’s where we are able to create synergies …That’s significantly the antithesis of how they operate.”
Panera and third-party delivery? It fits rapid casual’s goal to fulfill customers everywhere.
Still, Panera has experienced managed to lean on the expertise of sister brands under the JAB umbrella-and the other way around. The organization owns several coffee concepts, including Peet’s Coffee and Caribou Coffee. That was useful when researching methods to revamps Panera’s coffee offerings, Wegiel says. Nevertheless, JAB urged Panera to strengthen its self-branded coffees, not adopt the banner of some other JAB brand.
Moving forward, Panera would like to create more access points to the brand. For that end, the organization will expand traditional and nontraditional stores. Wegiel wouldn’t share specific store growth projections but says there is “ample room” to add both international and domestic units. Likewise, Panera will go deeper on its lines of consumer packaged goods. Customers can currently find salad dressings, soups, breads, and coffee in grocery store aisles. Nevertheless the brand thinks it could expand both the amount of products and the quantity of distribution points.
“CPG within our minds could be a significant lever of brand new growth,” he says. “I think we’re just scratching the outer lining.”
Panera has always been a holdout with regards to the next-party delivery services which have transformed much of the restaurant space. The organization has offered in-house delivery for a long time. However in late August, the chain announced new partnerships with DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats that expanded delivery choices across 1,600 of their 2,300 roughly stores. The manufacturer believes adopting those services will help recruit new business.
“We’ve been in delivery for your better a part of five years,” Weigel says. “We realized and heard from your aggregators that there was a whole segment of clients that wanted Panera, however their primary source or delivery was the aggregators and that we weren’t there.”
Whether in delivery, a reimagined breakfast menu or CPG options, Panera is trying to reach customers across multiple dayparts and occasions.
“We know there’s tremendous need for the brand, many of which is quite pent up,” Weigel says. “There are areas consumers want us where we’re not.”
“While they could possibly have some incremental business at dinner time, it’s not going to be overpowering. Once these brand identities are established and known, it just takes forever to go the needle.” – John Gordon, principal and founding father of Pacific Management Consulting Group.
While Panera accelerates change, don’t expect any wholesale transformation. The business wants to stay with its core brand identity that targets clean ingredients and wellness, while also holding onto its more indulgent bakery and menu items.
“Wellness is not only about maintaining a healthy diet. It plays a role … Somebody who is attempting to eat well is normally attempting to balance things,” Wegiel says. “We offer optionality because wellness is all about completeness in the balance of fulfillment.”
Some of Panera’s moves-like the reimagined breakfast and coffee program-look more routine than transformational to John Gordon, principal and founding father of Pacific Management Consulting Group.
“Every good operator needs to be doing that,” he says.
He views Panera’s flirtation with dinner, though, as being a bolder move. He recalled the brand’s 2006 introduction of the Crispani, a handmade pizza product available only inside the evenings. That offering was designed to push the manufacturer further into the dinner daypart but low sales caused Panera to tug the pizzas in 2008.
“It’s just tough because Panera was known yet still is regarded as a soup, salad, sandwich and breakfast place,” Gordon says. “Dinner is a substantial daypart for them, although not the top of the mind daypart.”
To ramp up evening sales, he believes Panera must launch a flagship dinner product. But he thinks the brand’s bakery-cafe identity will always be intact.
“While they could possibly have some incremental business at dinner time, it’s not going to be overpowering,” he says. “Once these brand identities are established and known, it simply takes forever to go the needle.”
Like several privately held concepts, Panera’s financial performance is tough to ascertain since its purchase by JAB. But Gordon says the brand still looks strong. It’s a successful operator with a widespread appeal. And Panera enjoys white ypbonx to grow its footprint domestically and internationally.
“They have solidified their position in the United States in the last a decade undoubtedly,” he says. “I have a lot of respect for Panera as being an operator. In various restaurant brand surveys, Panera turns up high and features a very strong company operation and franchisee operation.”