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Could Panera be preparing for major menu changes?

Panera Bread tests streamlined menu with fewer menu items at several locations

In a viral TikTok, a Panera employee alleged that the brand is getting rid of 30 menu items, including the Bistro French Onion Soup and Ten Vegetable Soup

Panera Bread is testing out a streamlined menu with fewer menu items in a “small amount of Panera bakeries” in order to improve convenience for customers and simplify operations for employees, a representative for Panera confirmed to Nation’s Restaurant News via email.

Although the company would not go much further into detail, news of the streamlined menu first reached the public ear via a viral TikTok from user _therocks_he_it — which has since been made private — allegedly from a Panera employee who claimed approximately 30 menu items were getting the axe from Panera cafes. The TikTok user alleges that items soon to disappear from the Panera menu include the Bistro French Onion Soup, Ten Vegetable Soup, all cold brew drinks, all grain bowls, and several bakery items, including the blueberry scone, butter croissant, and kitchen sink cookie.

The news has left Panera customers confused and angry, according to comments on the TikTok and other social media responses, though it should be noted that Panera has not responded to exactly which items would get discontinued in a streamlined menu, and further, has not noted whether this test of a streamlined menu would even be expanded nationally.

“In service of continually improving upon the guest experience, we are currently testing a streamlined menu in a small amount of Panera bakery-cafes, providing guests with a faster and more convenient experience while also simplifying operations for our associates,” a Panera representative told Nation’s Restaurant News in an emailed statement. “We always have a number of tests running across the country to identify new ways to better serve our guests, whether that’s by menu innovation, simplification or through new technology.”

Panera Bread is going through some leadership changes as the company prepares to go public again after being taken private by JAB Holding in 2017. Earlier this month, Panera Brands announced the appointment of former Dunkin’ executive Paul Carbone as the company’s new chief financial officer, who is looking to focus on “long-term value-creation” for Panera. This could mean Panera will be looking at a leaner menu to improve the brand’s bottom line in preparation for the upcoming IPO, which does not have a set date yet.

According to the now-private TikTok, some of the menu items on the chopping block are fan-favorites, including both the entire menu of cold brew coffees and grain bowls. Grain bowls were first introduced to Panera Bread in 2019 as part of a menu overhaul in efforts to ramp up evening dayparts by introducing heartier fare. If grain bowls are removed from the menu, it could be a sign that the campaign to make Panera an option for dinner did not go quite as planned.

If cold brew coffee got the axe, its removal from the Panera menu might be understandable given the amount of labor and complex operations that goes into preparation of cold brew. However, Panera has been focused on the success of its beverage menu lately to encourage more Panera fans to join its Unlimited Sip Club so that change could have the unwanted side effect of making the beverage subscription club less desirable.

Contact Joanna at [email protected]m

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