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Panera To Go is a digital-only bakery-cafe, with a reduced front of house where guests and delivery drivers can easily pick up orders from shelves.

Panera opens digital-only To Go unit in Chicago

Bakery-cafe brand debuts first of three planned pick-up, delivery locations this year

Panera Bread has opened the first Panera To Go in Chicago, offering a new restaurant format that’s digitally focused on pick-up and delivery orders, the company announced Friday.

The St. Louis, Mo.-based division of JAB Holding Co. said the Panera To Go in Chicago is the first of three test locations scheduled to open this year. The company plans to open two additional Panera To Go cafes in California and Washington, D.C.

Panera To Go has a reduced front of house where guests and delivery drivers can pick up orders from shelves.

“Designed for densely populated areas that cannot accommodate a dine-in bakery-cafe, the new format allows Panera to meet the demand in these areas for easy off-premises options,” the company said in a release.

The company noted that, as of the end of 2021, 81% of Panera’s sales were via one of Panera’s off-premises channels including delivery, pick-up, drive-thru and catering.

“We strive to make it easy for our guests to access Panera’s chef-curated menu, in the most convenient way. Panera To Go creates yet another access point for our guests, via rapid pick-up or delivery, in locations where Panera has not historically operated,” said Eduardo Luz, Panera’s chief brand and concept officer, in a statement. “We are excited to launch into more trade areas, where we know people are craving for what Panera offers.”

The Panera To Go front of house does not offer any seating and is testing delivery and pick-up shelves.

The brand will also evaluate adding kiosk and catering orders to the new format in the future, the company said. The Panera To Go intends to serve all dayparts, including breakfast.

The brand has innovated other formats, including in 2020 adding Panera Curbside, a geofence-enabled service that allows guests to get meals delivered to their car. The Panera Next-Gen bakery-cafe model rolling out nationwide features a dual drive-thru with a dedicated pick-up lane.

Recently, the brand has been testing ghost kitchens, with five operating nationwide and more planned to open this year.

“The Panera To Go concept differs from ghost kitchens in that the new format offers a branded front-of-house experience where guests can quickly pick up digital orders on their own,” the company said. “Ordering and payment for Panera To Go orders are only available on Panera’s digital channels via web or on the Panera app.”

George Hanson, Panera’s chief digital officer, said:. “Panera To Go is another way we can make our guests’ lives easier through digital convenience, which is always at the heart of what we do.”

As of March 29, Panera had 2,117 bakery-cafes in 48 states and in Ontario, Canada, operating under the Panera Bread or Saint Louis Bread Co. names. Panera Bread is part of Panera Brands, which includes Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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