Skip navigation

Podcast: Sara Burnett talks evolving menus at Panera

How Panera has evolved its nutrition efforts and is looking to tackle dinner sales

Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcast or SoundCloud.

Panera Bread Co. might already have a reputation for wholesome, healthier lunch options, but the St. Louis, Mo.-based café/bakery chain’s menu is continuously evolving. On this week’s Extra Serving Podcast, Sara Burnett, vice president of wellness and food policy at Panera Bread Co., owned by JAB Holding Co. discusses Panera’s food sustainability and nutrition leadership, and how the brand plans to tackle evening sales with a new dinner menu.

The conversation took place this June in Hyde Park, NY during the Culinary Institute of America’s 2019 Menus of Change conference: a food conference that discusses and educates on issues of sustainability, nutrition, and environmental stewardship.

In this episode, Burnett, who was promoted to vice president in December 2018, discusses how Panera’s place in the global sustainable food movement and how they’re used techniques like soft drink swaps to lower calorie count and sugar content on their menu:

“We decided to launch six total new beverages: three moderately sweetened — half the calories and sugar of a full soda fountain beverage — […] and then three of the beverages are no added sugar,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of transition over to them and we made the price point the same. You can fill up this cup with your regular soda or a less sweet agave lemonade and it won’t cost you extra.”

panera-dinner.gifBurnett also discusses the creation and execution of Panera’s first dinner menu of heartier sandwiches, flatbreads, and dinner bowls, which will begin testing in select markets in Lexington, Ky., in July and Providence, R.I., in September, with the possibility of a larger rollout later on in 2019 or 2020.

“The barrier for that is most people think of soup salad sandwich as a light meal and think of dinner as something that’s hot hearty and filling and that is a gap we don’t fill the need for today,” Burnett said. “So we’re creating a whole new menu to add onto our regular soups, salads and sandwiches — which will still be there — to add those hot, hearty and filling things you really think of as dinner.”

Listen to this podcast for more insight.

Contact Joanna at [email protected]

Find her on Twitter: @JoannaFantozzi

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.