- Panera launched a dine-in mobile order feature on its app Tuesday, allowing customers to order without waiting in line to order from a kiosk or cashier. The feature will reduce friction for diners and employees, Panera Chief Digital Officer George Hanson said, and diners will receive phone alerts when their food is ready.
- MyPanera members and customers who enable push notifications on their mobile devices will receive alerts about this service when they enter a Panera restaurant. This function is enabled by the same geofencing technology that powers Panera's curbside delivery service.
- The dine-in feature easily integrates with Panera's back-of-house system and should not impact its production line, Hanson said, adding that it may save staff time since these mobile orders don't need to-go packaging.
Panera's digital dine-in capability brings technology that has supported off-premise sales since pandemic shutdowns into the dining room. The cafe chain's dine-in ordering option adds to its roster of digital channels, including curbside pickup, rapid pickup and delivery.
"The guest walks into the cafe and they get a mobile notification... letting them know that they can avoid the line, go right to their seat and place an order. So they place the order just like they would any pickup order or delivery order," Hanson said.
Panera tested the ordering feature in 25 cafes throughout Q4 2021, Hanson said. The company received positive feedback from operators and customers. While the company was encouraged by that trial, Hanson was unable to comment on the impact dine-in mobile orders might have on sales.
The digital dine-in feature will be available only via Panera's mobile app, at least for now.
"We're limiting that feature... to the app so that we can take advantage of a lot of the native features like mobile notifications, the order tracking process, the speed and just crispness of the app experience," Hanson said. Hanson did not share an exact number of customers who currently have Panera's app, but said 4.5 million people downloaded the app in 2021 and that the app has tens of millions of users.
Last year, Panera launched text message notifications and order tracking, which allows the company to notify customers who have opted-in to these alerts of updates on their order status. Without that speed of communication, the digital dine-in program wouldn't work, Hanson said.
By enabling customers to order from their tables, digital dine-in may reassure some customers who are fearful of COVID-19, but still want to eat at Panera. New variants of COVID-19 have disrupted the slow return of on-premise dining across the restaurant industry, data from OpenTable shows.