Panera Bread Wants to Be Everywhere. Panera’s move into dinner could attract new business. In recent months, Panera Bread has announced several new initiatives geared towards expanding its reach-efforts which 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 exposure to 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 want 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 then, rapid-casual giant makes big news: In April, it rolled out a brand new slate of breakfast menu items targeted at winning share from competitors who frequently offer frozen, microwaved food items during the breakfast daypart. That effort included a revamped coffee program that mirrors the quality and technology offered by big coffee houses. In June, the brand launched an exam of a dinner menu which includes artisan flatbreads, bowls and hearty side items like sweet potato mash. And simply in late August, panera near me turned more heads since it finally embraced third-party delivery partners after years of staying with its in-house delivery program.
So, what exactly do the collective moves tell us about where Panera is certainly going?
“The strategic thread that holds all those things together is that this: this brand features a very unique opportunity in our minds in the food and restaurant space to possess broad relevance to a fairly broad set of target customers,” Wegiel says. “It’s among 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 has a very explicit and clear philosophy they believe individual companies and brands should certainly shape their destiny and destination,” he says. “Unlike some other investment firms they don’t come in having 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 greatly the antithesis of methods they operate.”
Panera and third-party delivery? It fits rapid casual’s goal to satisfy customers everywhere.
Still, Panera has experienced been able to lean on the expertise of sister brands under the JAB umbrella-and the other way round. The company owns several coffee concepts, including Peet’s Coffee and Caribou Coffee. Which was useful when researching ways to revamps Panera’s coffee offerings, Wegiel says. Nevertheless, JAB urged Panera to bolster its self-branded coffees, not adopt the banner of another JAB brand.
Moving forward, Panera would like to create more access points to the brand. To that end, the organization will expand traditional and nontraditional stores. Wegiel wouldn’t share specific store growth projections but says there exists “ample room” to add both international and domestic units. Likewise, Panera goes deeper on its lines of consumer packaged goods. Customers can currently find salad dressings, soups, breads, and coffee in grocery store aisles. However the brand thinks it may expand both the number of products and the amount of distribution points.
“CPG inside our minds can be quite a significant lever of new growth,” he says. “I think we’re just scratching the surface.”
Panera has long been a holdout when it comes to the third-party delivery services which have transformed a lot of the restaurant space. The business has offered in-house delivery for a long time. But 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 or so stores. The brand believes adopting those services can help recruit new business.
“We’ve experienced delivery for your better a part of 5 years,” Weigel says. “We realized and heard from your aggregators that there was a complete segment of clients that wanted Panera, however primary source or delivery was the aggregators and we weren’t there.”
Whether in delivery, a reimagined breakfast menu or CPG options, Panera is working to reach customers across multiple dayparts and occasions.
“We know there’s tremendous demand for the brand, a few of which is very 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 never going to be overpowering. Once these brand identities are established and known, it just takes forever to move the needle.” – John Gordon, principal and founder of Pacific Management Consulting Group.
While Panera accelerates change, don’t expect any wholesale transformation. The business intends to stick to its core brand identity that focuses on clean ingredients and wellness, while holding onto its more indulgent bakery and menu items.
“Wellness is not just about maintaining a healthy diet. It plays a part … Somebody that is attempting to eat well is usually seeking to balance things,” Wegiel says. “We offer optionality because wellness is approximately completeness within the balance of fulfillment.”
A number of Panera’s moves-just like the reimagined breakfast and coffee program-look more routine than transformational to John Gordon, principal and founder of Pacific Management Consulting Group.
“Every good operator needs to be doing that,” he says.
He views Panera’s flirtation with dinner, though, as a bolder move. He recalled the brand’s 2006 introduction from the Crispani, a handmade pizza product available only in the evenings. That offering was meant to push the company further into the dinner daypart but low sales caused Panera to pull the pizzas in 2008.
“It’s just tough because Panera was known but still is known 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 might be able to possess some incremental business at dinner time, it’s never going to be overpowering,” he says. “Once these brand identities are established and known, it just takes forever to move the needle.”
Like all privately held concepts, Panera’s financial performance is difficult to ascertain since its purchase by JAB. But Gordon says the company still looks strong. It’s an established operator with a widespread appeal. And Panera enjoys white ypbonx to cultivate its footprint domestically and internationally.
“They have solidified their position in america during the last 10 years without a doubt,” he says. “I have plenty of respect for Panera as being an operator. In various restaurant brand surveys, Panera turns up extremely high and features a very strong company operation and franchisee operation.”