Panera Bread announced Tuesday that the St. Louis-based bakery-cafe chain would be opening up its at-home catering program, Connects, to all MyPanera loyalty program members. Previously only available through a catering representative after the program soft launched in January, the next phase of Connects adjusts the traditional office catering structure to account for new post-pandemic hybrid virtual offices.
“An online version of catering will look like all of us sitting around a Zoom meeting with our food arriving at the same time,” Panera Bread CEO Niren Chaudhary told Nation’s Restaurant News in an earlier interview. “That is a disruptive way of serving the same needs consumers have in a different way that is more convenient and relevant in a world that looks different.”
This virtual catering solution will allow Panera customers working in separate work environments across the U.S. to place a singular catering order for virtual lunchtime meetings or other events and have the food arrive at the same time.
Here’s how it works: The organizer of the catered event will request a certain number of voucher codes from Panera and then each guest will use those vouchers to place their meal orders for a previously selected timeslot. The organizer will then only be billed for the vouchers that are redeemed.
Another offering Panera launched is Panera Day at Work, which streamlines individual orders into one consolidated discounted delivery to a central location, like an office. That way, work teams don’t have to start a catering order to all receive lunch at the same time.
“It’s a new world and work has changed,” a Panera representative told Nation’s Restaurant News Wednesday. “Just as the onset of COVID forced restaurants to adapt their businesses, Panera has moved to adapt its catering program with an offering that is hyper relevant for today’s consumer, where employees don’t all flock to offices, and remote and hybrid models are the norm today and for the workforce moving forward.”
Panera’s catering program also offers customizable menus and boxed breakfasts/lunches to add a personalized spin to the office lunch.
These innovations are part of Panera’s plan to once again became the number one caterer in America after sales fell off during the pandemic.
“Panera is in the middle of solid momentum in its catering business, fueled by Panera-style innovation and responding to changing catering needs and the future of work,” a Panera representative told Nation’s Restaurant News.
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