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Panera is offering beer and wine at five locations for the first time.

Panera Bread franchisee tests beer and wine sales in 5 locations

The Flynn Restaurant Group subsidiary Pan American Group is testing alcohol sales as part of the Panera Tonight program in five Kansas City locations

Pan American Group — a Flynn Restaurant Group subsidiary — is testing out beer and wine at five of its franchised Panera Bread stores in the Kansas City area, the company announced Monday. The alcohol test is part of the introduction of the Panera Tonight: Beer, Wine & Dine program that premiered exclusively at the five Pan American franchised stores on Oct. 28, which coincided with the nationwide launch of Panera’s new flatbread pizzas.

This is the first time that any Panera Bread café is serving alcohol. Pan American Group is partnering with Boulevard Brewing Co. and Napa Valley’s Ménage à Trois Wines. The program will start out at two cafes in Overland Park, Kan., and will expand to three other Kansas City cafes. Customers at these locations will be able to try out and pair a variety of wines, beers and hard seltzers from 4 p.m. until closing, including Boulevard’s pale ale, unfiltered wheat beer, and Quirk Spiked and sparkling strawberry lemon and basil seltzer, along with Ménage à Trois’ red blend, gold Chardonnay and Limelight pinot grigio.

“We are targeting our dinner and evening guests that are looking to pair a beer or wine with our great products like our new flatbread pizzas,” Randy Bates, senior director, head of marketing at Flynn Restaurant Group told Nation’s Restaurant News. “Given the environment over the last 6 months we’ve been challenged to think differently about our business.  This is one of the areas we believe is a growth opportunity for our brand.  We always like to give our guests choices.”

Currently the alcohol menu is only available for dine-in customers, though Bates said that they “will continue to evolve to meet the demands and requests of our guests.” He also said that depending on the success of the pilot program, that they could add to their alcohol offerings or expand the program to other stores.

“Like mine, families on-the-go are always looking for dinner options that are delicious, healthy and please the entire family,” Natalie Gershon, vice president of marketing for Boulevard said in a statement.  “We are honored to team up with Panera for this pilot and offer fans Boulevard beer and seltzer in our backyard.”

Although the beer and wine offerings are currently exclusive to the Pan American Group stores, the idea of an evening program, complete with an alcohol menu, could expand to other Panera Bread franchisees.

“It’s honestly up to our customers,” Bates said. “If they show us that they want a beer with their flatbread or a glass of wine with their salad, I think it likely that others will jump on board.”

Flatbread pizzas — available in cheese, margherita, or chipotle chicken & bacon — start at $7.59, while beer and wine prices range from $4-$6 at the participating Kansas City area Panera restaurants. Beer and wine will be half-priced until Nov. 17 in celebration of the launch of the program.

Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @joannafantozzi

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