Panera Bread announced Tuesday that the bakery/café chain will be adding a chicken sandwich platform to its menu, available in both regular and spicy varieties. Unlike most of the chicken sandwich war competitors, Panera’s entrant will not be breaded or fried and will instead feature marinated and seasoned chicken breast on a brioche bun.
“We're super excited to launch this new platform,” Eduardo Luz, Panera Bread chief brand officer told Nation’s Restaurant News. “Throughout the pandemic, we saw our proposition-- Panera proposition of delicious food you feel great about eating -- resonate more and more. […] This is a differentiated chicken breast. We marinate it in our chicken broth and our signature spice blend, and we cook it to maximize flavor, texture and juiciness.”
The signature chicken sandwich is topped with four ounces of chicken, aioli, parmesan crisps, and greens on a brioche bun, while the spicy version is made with aioli, pickle chips, and spicy Buffalo sauce. While the pricepoint will be higher than Panera’s quick-service chicken sandwich competitors, Luz believes that the company’s new sandwich will be a winner.
“When you bite into it, it’s so unique and I think it’s more craveable than fried chicken,” he said. “We believe that the mindset of people who care about what you put in your system is different from someone that you know, just wants to do something quick and good but they don't care about what they are eating. And we believe that to do that, you have to charge a little bit more.”
Luz said that the chicken sandwich itself is part of Panera’s long-term strategy to become more of a leader in the “hot and craveable” category, to introduce items like flatbread pizzas, grain bowls and now these chicken sandwiches to open up mor dayparts and options to Panera customers.
“We saw different behaviors where people working from home and eating lunch and they maybe want to eat a nice dinner and maybe they want something more shareable like a pizza,” Luz said. “As the pandemic recedes, our traditional lunch daypart is coming back to full part and the new guest we attracted during the pandemic are sticking with us. A chef’s chicken sandwich is an amazing solution for either lunch or dinner.”
Panera created new packaging just for these sandwiches: a perforated box that opens to show the sandwich wrapped with thermal paper. Moving forward, Luz thinks the chicken can be used as a baseline ingredient for other types of menu items.
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