- Panera has opened its first Panera To Go, a pickup and delivery-only location, in Chicago, the company announced Friday. This location is the first of three Panera to Go test units scheduled to open this year. The remaining two units will open in California and Washington, D.C.
- The digital-only units are designed for densely populated markets that can’t accommodate a dine-in cafe. On-premise customers can order on the Panera website or app and pick up their orders from shelves inside the seatless restaurants. Delivery drivers also collect orders from dedicated delivery shelving.
- Panera is also testing Next-Gen bakery-cafes, which include a dual drive-thru with a pickup lane, and ghost kitchens to grow its access to guests. Panera currently operates five ghost kitchen units, with more planned.
Even as consumers return to on-premise dining, online ordering and off-premise business continue to make up a large chunk of major restaurants’ sales. In 2021, 81% of Panera’s sales came from its off-premise channels, including delivery, pickup, drive-thru and catering.
Panera is one of a growing number of chains testing digital-only locations, including Chipotle, Sweetgreen, Dunkin’ and Wingstop. Panera is already planning to launch Panera to Go in additional trade areas, Panera Chief Brand and Concept Officer Eduardo Luz said in a statement.
“Panera To Go creates yet another access point for our guests, via Rapid Pick-Up or Delivery, in locations where Panera has not historically operated,” Luz said.
While the Panera To Go locations will test only delivery and pickup initially, the company said it plans to evaluate adding kiosk and catering orders to the format in the future.
Panera has expanded its channels over the last few years. In 2021, it extended its virtual catering program, Panera Connects, to all customers. Panera also expanded its mobile ordering features to include dine-in ordering earlier this year, in which guests receive notifications on their phone once their orders are ready. In 2020, the chain added Panera Curbside, a geofenced-enable service, to allow guests to get orders delivered to their car.
Many chains have been taking a similar expansion approach to better reach new and existing customers. Saladworks, Wendy’s and Focus Brands, for example, have been expanding via ghost kitchens as well as non-traditional locations.