Panera Bread announced Thursday that its previously-announced next-generation store redesign, featuring elements that highlight both digital convenience and in-store dining, including a double drive-thru with a dedicated pickup lane, and contactless ordering and dine-in with updated kiosks, had opened in Ballwin, Mo.
Panera wanted to emphasize the importance of post-COVID convenience technology — building off the bakery-café chain’s off-premises technology leadership in 2020 — and encourage customers to enjoy “enhanced dine-in experiences” as well.
"Innovation is core to who we are and with our new next-generation Panera concept, we are doing what we've always done — keeping a personalized experience for the guest at the heart of everything we do," said Eduardo Luz, Panera's chief brand and concept officer, in a statement when the design was announced in May. "We're doubling down on what has always made Panera unique — creating human connection through caring associates and a warm, inviting environment filled with the smell of freshly-baked bread — while continuing to be a leader in digital access for the off-premise world."
The new cafe features convenience technology updates like a double drive-thru lane with one lane as a dedicated rapid pickup, contactless dine-in and delivery, updates in-store kiosks, and automatic identification for loyalty customers both in and out of stores. The contactless service lets customers order from their phones and be notified via phone notification (instead of pagers) when their order is ready for pickup.
The new cafe simultaneously receives a brand refresh to encourage customers to sit down and relax while eating inside cafes. Panera is moving its bakery ovens to the front of store so guests can see bakery items being made in real-time. The restaurant also features “clear and concise wayfinding” signs and routes to identify where different in-store experiences can be found, with rapid pickup areas clearly marked apart from lines for in-store ordering.
In May, Panera also unveiled a new logo featuring “Mother Bread” cradling a loaf of bread: a nod to the chain’s roots as a bread bakery.
Panera Bread joins multiple other national chains — like Starbucks and Burger King — that have already unveiled similar “Restaurant of the Future” store redesigns that emphasize customer convenience and digital technology integration. However, unlike most of these store redesigns which shrink dining room space, Panera is still investing in and emphasizing its in-store offerings.
The move is an example of how restaurants are shifting operations to "do it all" for convenience-motivated diners looking for both dine-in and off-premises experiences.
Update: This story, originally published in May, has been updated with details of the store's opening.
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