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 targeted at expanding its reach-efforts that will continue to unfold as Panera works to gain access to more locations and serve more customers at more occasions.
“This brand posseses 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 would like to have them.”
Having a wide appeal among consumers and deep relevance among loyal fans, Panera executives see a lot of runway for future expansion and a good amount of possibilities to further ingrain the company 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 presented a new slate of breakfast menu items aimed 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 product quality and technology offered by big coffee houses. In June, the brand launched a test of a dinner menu that also includes artisan flatbreads, bowls and hearty side things like sweet potato mash. And just in late August, panera near me turned more heads since it finally embraced third-party delivery partners after many years of adhering to its in-house delivery program.
So, what do the collective moves tell us about where Panera is going?
“The strategic thread that holds those things together is that this: this brand includes a very unique opportunity within our minds inside the food and restaurant space to get broad relevance to your fairly broad group 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 includes a very explicit and clear philosophy they believe individual companies and brands should certainly shape their destiny and destination,” he says. “Unlike a few other investment firms they don’t are available in using 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 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 already established been able to lean on the expertise of sister brands under the JAB umbrella-and the other way round. The organization owns several coffee concepts, including Peet’s Coffee and Caribou Coffee. That was useful when researching approaches to revamps Panera’s coffee offerings, Wegiel says. Even so, JAB urged Panera to boost its self-branded coffees, not adopt the banner of another JAB brand.
Advancing, Panera wants to create more access points to the brand. For that end, the company 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 should go deeper on its lines of consumer packaged goods. Customers can currently find salad dressings, soups, breads, and coffee in food store aisles. Nevertheless the brand thinks it could expand both the amount of products and the quantity of distribution points.
“CPG within our minds can be a significant lever of the latest growth,” he says. “I think we’re just scratching the outer lining.”
Panera has long been a holdout in terms of the 3rd-party delivery services that have transformed most 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 approximately stores. The company believes adopting those services may help recruit new business.
“We’ve experienced delivery for the better part of 5 years,” Weigel says. “We realized and heard from the aggregators that there was a whole segment of customers that wanted Panera, however primary source or delivery was the aggregators so 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 interest in the manufacturer, a few 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 just 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 company plans to stay with its core brand identity that concentrates on clean ingredients and wellness, as well as holding onto its more indulgent bakery and menu items.
“Wellness is not just about eating healthy. It plays a part … Somebody that is wanting to eat well is normally trying to balance things,” Wegiel says. “We offer optionality because wellness is all about completeness inside 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 founding father of Pacific Management Consulting Group.
“Every good operator should 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 from the Crispani, a handmade pizza product available only in the evenings. That offering was designed 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 regarded as a soup, salad, sandwich and breakfast place,” Gordon says. “Dinner is really a substantial daypart to 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 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 simply takes forever to go the needle.”
Just like all privately held concepts, Panera’s financial performance is difficult to find out since its purchase by JAB. But Gordon says the manufacturer still looks strong. It’s a proven operator having a widespread appeal. And Panera enjoys white ypbonx to cultivate its footprint domestically and internationally.
“They have solidified their position in the United States in the last ten years certainly,” he says. “I have a lot of respect for Panera as being an operator. In various restaurant brand surveys, Panera appears extremely high and features an extremely strong company operation and franchisee operation.”