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Digital formats boost Panera urban expansion

Panera Bread announced the opening of its updated urban store format in New York. This is the newest of several new formats targeted at more densely populated and non-traditional trade areas. Digital sales at Panera now represent 50% of its total system sales. The company says its portfolio of store formats is designed for an increasingly digital and off-premise guest. With more than 3 million average transactions each week from digital channels including the app, kiosk and web, Panera guests continue to seek the convenience of the digital shopping experience. “With a flexible portfolio of cafe 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 new Panera urban format comes with a 40% smaller footprint than traditional bakery cafes with updated ordering kiosks, a fully digitized menu and a new tracking screen providing more detailed order status. Designed with only limited counter seating, the bulk of the bakery cafe is designed around quick order pickups, with dedicated shelves for pick-up and to-go orders. The new urban format will continue to provide the freshly-prepared menu offerings.

Following a successful test earlier this year, the first New York Panera To Go will also open in December. Different from the new urban format, Panera To Go offers no dine-in seating, solely offering Rapid Pick-Up and Delivery shelves where guests and delivery drivers can easily pick up orders. Front-of-house duties have been reduced and simplified at Panera To Go, to increase efforts on crafting freshly prepared meals to meet the needs of a guest on the go. The two New York bakery-cafes are the first of several new Panera bakery cafes planned for expansion in urban markets in the next year, along with a series of non-traditional locations in settings like hospitals and universities.

Panera provides guests access to several contactless-dine-in options, from a digitized order status board, to reorder and recommendation functions in the app. New tap-and-go technology is in the works for Unlimited Sip Club members. For associates, AI technology is used to auto-reorder ingredients based on sales to labor scheduling and more.

Panera continues to test AI technology across multiple areas of the bakery cafe. Earlier this year, it began testing Miso Robotics’ automated coffee brewing system, as it rolled out its Unlimited Sip Club subscription program. More recently, Panera began testing OpenCity’s proprietary voice AI ordering technology, called Tori’ for drive-thru orders.

Photo: Panera Bread, Facebook