Panera Bread Unveils Hybrid Digital-Focused Format Location

Panera Bread unveiled a hybrid digital-focused format location in New York City as it targets expansion in city centers and nontraditional locations. The new urban store format is the first to combine elements of the Panera To Go unit with more traditional locations.

The urban unit is about 40% smaller than a typical Panera Cafe, with limited counter seating only. Guests can order in-store on kiosks, but the format is geared mostly for ordering ahead online or through the app, as well as for delivery pickup. The store also focuses on the Rapid Pick-Up Experience with shelving dedicated to to-go orders as well as a digital menu and a screen for guests to track their order status.

Next month, the chain plans to open a Panera To Go unit in New York City’s Union Square. This unit has no in-store seating and is designed solely for digital order pickup or delivery.

The two formats in New York add to Panera’s portfolio of restaurant types, which also includes the traditional bakery-cafés and the double-drive-thru locations that target suburbs.

“At Panera, our innovation has always been rooted in the guest and associate experience, how we can reduce friction, drive convenience and bring Panera to new places where we know the demand is high for the freshly prepared food we serve,” said Eduardo Luz, Panera’s chief brand and concept officer, in a statement. “With a flexible portfolio of café designs, we’re now able to bring Panera anywhere, from suburban cafes with double drive-thrus, to a digital-only Panera To Go, and everything in between.”

The two New York formats are the first of several bakery-cafes planned for expansion in urban markets in the next year, along with nontraditional locations like hospitals and universities. In future urban formats, Panera plans to test other customer-focused features such as tap-and-go technology for Unlimited Sip Club members.

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