Panera Bread Wants to Be Everywhere. Panera’s move into dinner could attract new customers. Recently, Panera Bread has announced several new initiatives geared towards expanding its reach-efforts which will continue to unfold as Panera works to gain access to more locations and serve more customers at more occasions.
“This brand comes with 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 people and we would like to keep these.”
Having a wide appeal among consumers and deep relevance among loyal fans, Panera executives see a lot of runway for future expansion and an abundance of opportunities to further ingrain the brand into customers’ daily lives.
Most of the brand’s recent evolution has occurred since JAB Holding Company acquired Panera in 2017 for $7.5 billion. Since then, the fast-casual giant makes big news: In April, it presented a brand new slate of breakfast menu items geared towards 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 company launched an exam of a dinner menu which includes artisan flatbreads, bowls and hearty side things like sweet potato mash. And merely in late August, panera near me turned more heads because it finally embraced third-party delivery partners after years of adhering to 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 those things together is this: this brand has a very unique opportunity in our minds within the food and restaurant space to have broad relevance to some fairly broad group 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 really should shape their destiny and destination,” he says. “Unlike various other investment firms they don’t come in having a playbook and say here’s how you can create value or say here’s the portfolio and here’s where we are able to create synergies …That’s very much the antithesis of methods they operate.”
Panera and third-party delivery? It fits rapid casual’s goal to satisfy customers everywhere.
Still, Panera has had had the opportunity to lean on the expertise of sister brands under the JAB umbrella-and the other way around. 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 some other JAB brand.
Advancing, Panera wants to create more access points to the brand. To that particular end, the business will expand traditional and nontraditional stores. Wegiel wouldn’t share specific store growth projections but says there is “ample room” to include 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 can expand both the quantity of products and the number of distribution points.
“CPG in our minds can 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 in terms of the next-party delivery services who have transformed much of the restaurant space. The company has offered in-house delivery for years. However in late August, the chain announced new partnerships with DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats that expanded delivery choices across 1,600 of its 2,300 roughly stores. The manufacturer believes adopting those services will help recruit new business.
“We’ve experienced delivery for your better element of 5 years,” Weigel says. “We realized and heard from the aggregators there was a complete segment of customers 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 trying to reach customers across multiple dayparts and occasions.
“We know there’s tremendous demand for the manufacturer, some of which is very pent up,” Weigel says. “There are areas consumers want us where we’re not.”
“While they might be able to possess some incremental business at dinner time, it’s never going to be overpowering. Once these brand identities are established and known, it merely takes forever to maneuver the needle.” – John Gordon, principal and founding father of Pacific Management Consulting Group.
While Panera accelerates change, don’t expect any wholesale transformation. The organization intends to stick with its core brand identity that targets clean ingredients and wellness, as well as holding onto its more indulgent bakery and menu items.
“Wellness is not only about maintaining a healthy diet. It plays a role … Somebody that is attempting to eat well is normally seeking to balance things,” Wegiel says. “We offer optionality because wellness is about completeness in the balance of fulfillment.”
A number of Panera’s moves-such as 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 of the Crispani, a handmade pizza product available only within the evenings. That offering was meant to push the company further to the dinner daypart but low sales caused Panera to drag 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 on their behalf, however, 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 stay intact.
“While they might be able to possess some incremental business at dinner time, it’s not 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 owned concepts, Panera’s financial performance is difficult to ascertain since its purchase by JAB. But Gordon says the company still looks strong. It’s a successful operator having 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 a lot of respect for Panera as an operator. In several restaurant brand surveys, Panera appears high and contains a very strong company operation and franchisee operation.”