From November, all new Panera Bread stores will be smaller, and they'll all have exposed ovens so you can watch the bread being made.
The new restaurant format is about a fifth smaller than current locations. These stores will have a range of delivery and collection options, including more drive-thru lanes than normal, as well as a redesigned interior, Eduardo Luz, the fast-casual sandwich chain's chief brand and concept officer, told Insider.
The bakery will be the focus of these new sites, Luz said. Rather than being behind the scenes, the ovens will be in full view of the guests so that they can see and smell the bread being made.
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"Having a classically-trained baker preparing bread in front of your guests and interacting with them and sampling what's coming out of the oven is a very unique element of Panera," he said.
"We're very excited about the look and feel of the cafes, bringing to life the bakery mastery and our Panera warmth," Luz said. "That's what makes Panera special."
The new sites will be geared for customers dining in, and will have both indoor and outdoor seating. They will have digital menu boards and customers will be able to order through their phones, Luz said.
These digital screens, for both drive-thru and in-cafe menus, will link to Panera's loyalty program, My Panera, which Luz said is the biggest in the industry, with around 43 million members. He said the digital boards would display customers' favorite items, as well as recent orders.
Customers can order from their phones for dine in, drive thru, delivery, and rapid pick-up. They'll receive notifications when their order is ready.
As well as revamping the decor, the new cafes will offer a range of options for collection and delivery.
This includes two-lane drive-thrus, with one specifically for what the chain calls "rapid pick-up" — drive-thru orders placed in advance.
The cafes will also have a designated space for delivery drivers to collect orders.
Luz said the smaller stores gave the chain more flexibility when choosing locations, but he added that it's planning on targeting suburban areas to start with.
The first cafe is set to open in November in Ballwin, Missouri – close to the chain's hometown of St. Louis.
The chain, which is mulling going public again, per a New York Times report, said that it's still betting on dine-in even as takeaway and delivery continue to grow.
The chain was one of the first fast-casual brands to add fast-food style drive-thrus lanes to boost collection and delivery sales. It currently has a drive thru at around half of its locations, and plans on ramping this up rapidly.
Delivery, carryout, catering, and drive-thru sales now count for around 85% of the chain's sales, up from 40% pre-pandemic, Insider's Nancy Luna reported.