Panera Bread opened its first unit dedicated solely to off-premises customers. Known as Panera To Go, this digital-only location features a reduced front of the house with no seating; guests and delivery drivers can pick up orders from dedicated shelves.
These units will target densely populated areas that the chain says cannot accommodate a dine-in-bakery cafe. The first location is in the Chicago area and Panera plans to open units in Washington, D.C., and California later this year. The fast-casual chain will also evaluate adding kiosk and catering orders to the Panera To Go format in the future. The goal for this format is to service all dayparts including breakfast, as applicable, per the company.
The development of this type of unit is a nod to the fact that off-premises sales remain a significant part of the restaurant industry. As of the end of 2021, 81% of Panera’s sales were via one of the fast-casual chain’s off-premises channels including delivery, pickup, drive-thru and catering.
This also represents the latest step Panera has taken to enhance service it provides to the burgeoning off-premises market. As of the end of 2021, 44% of Panera bakery-cafes included a drive-thru, the chain reports. Recently, the chain reports actively testing ghost kitchens, with five currently operational 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-the-house experience where guests can quickly pick up digital orders on their own.