Panera Opens the First of Its Restaurants for Digital-Only Pick Up and Delivery

Panera Bread, which operates 2,118 bakery-cafes in 48 states and in Ontario, Canada under the Panera Bread or Saint Louis Bread Co. names, has opened its first “Panera To Go,” a new restaurant format offering digitally-enabled convenience for pick up and delivery orders. The Chicago-based restaurant is the first of three so-called “Panera To Go” test locations scheduled to open this year.

Panera To Go is a digital-only restaurant with a reduced front of house where customers and delivery drivers can easily pick up orders from dedicated pick up and delivery shelves. Designed for densely populated areas that cannot accommodate a dine-in restaurant, the new format allows Panera to meet the demand in these areas for easy off-premise options.

As of the end of 2021, 81% of Panera’s sales were via one of Panera’s off-premise channels including delivery, pick op, drive thru and catering. The Panera To Go front of house does not offer any seating and is currently testing delivery and pick up on shelves that customers and delivery drivers can easily access.

With less front-of-house duties and simplified operations, Panera To Go workers are solely focused on meeting the unique needs of a guest on-the-go. Panera plans to open two additional Panera To Go locations in California and Washington D.C. this year, and will also evaluate adding in kiosk and catering orders to the new format in the future. According to the company, the intention of Panera To Go restaurants is to service all dayparts including breakfast, as applicable.

“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 & Concept Officer, Panera Bread, in a press statement.

As of the end of 2021, 44% of Panera locations included a drive-thru, and the company has continually innovated to add new access points in response to the growing demand for off-premise dining. Panera launched “Rapid Pick-Up” nationally in 2016, giving guests the convenience to order ahead and pick up their prepared order on a dedicated shelf in the dining room.

In 2020, the Missouri-based company launched “Panera Curbside,” a geofence-enabled service that allows guests to have their order delivered directly to their car. The new restaurant model rolling out nationwide features a dual drive-thru with a dedicated pick-up lane among other digitally-powered elements.

Recently, the brand has been actively testing ghost kitchens, with five currently operational nationwide and more planned to open this year. The “Panera To Go” concept differs from ghost kitchens in that the new format offers a branded front-of-house experience where guests can quickly pick up digital orders on their own. Ordering and payment for orders are available on Panera’s digital channels via web or on the Panera app.

In April, Panera announced that it was evaluating and testing a new system is designed to improve the coffee monitoring process. The artificial intelligence-powered system is designed to eliminate the need for manual checks of the coffee urns and providing easy and accurate insights into coffee volume and temperature. This allows Panera associates to brew a new batch in a time-sensitive manner so that coffee stays fresh and hot for guests.

The system monitors key coffee metrics such as volume, temperature and time data, and combine these with predictive analytics to guarantee a quality cup of coffee and a more efficient team member experience. The system, dubbed CookRight Coffee, was developed by Miso Robotics, known for its restaurant robotics and intelligent automation. The product line is Miso’s newest iteration of their CookRight system and is engineered to evolve as it learns its environment and adds new enhancements over time.

“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, in a press statement. “We are already leaders in providing our guest with an exceptional digital experience and adapted our digital channels to provide our guest even more options in the Panera To Go format.”