- Panera Bread is testing a dinner menu of flatbread pizzas, meatier sandwiches and bowls in Jacksonville, Florida, and is bringing the pilot to nine locations in Lexington, Kentucky, in July, according to CNBC.
- Dinner makes up 25% to 33% of its sales, and the company sees this daypart as a potential opportunity for growth.
- While its menu is offered throughout the day, many consumers have said that soups and sandwiches are too light for dinner, Dan Wegiel, Panera's chief growth and strategy officer told CNBC. The dinner menu also will have new vegetable sides that will be appetizing to parents and children.
Given Panera's recent breakfast overhaul, it's no surprise that it has its sights set on dinner as well. Its breakfast menu now has more portable menu options meant to appeal to the dinner on the go. Its dinner menu takes a similar slant, offering items that can be easily brought home and are meant to appeal to families on the go.
While Wegiel told CNBC though the primary driver for growing dinner wasn't increased dinner delivery orders, it could be a great secondary benefit for the chain. Its own in-house delivery business is the company's largest growth driver, Wegiel previously told Restaurant Dive. Dinner industrywide also has been growing at a faster rate than other dayparts for delivery, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.
Panera isn't the only chain hoping to gain more late-in-the-day customers. Starbucks has been trying to beef up its food offerings and started rolling out a happy hour in 2018.It offered a buy-one-get-one espresso promotion during a Thursday happy hour in January. Chipotle is also looking to boost its late afternoon customers with better beverage options. McDonald's also simplified its late-night menu to try and make the process more streamlined for customers, especially those ordering at the drive-thru.
The fast casual chain is also not the only restaurant brand focusing on offering better meals for families on the go. Millennials with kids, a demographic seeking more convenience, are becoming a larger customer base and increased their restaurant visits 5% in 2018. Chick-fil-A rolled out meal kits in 2017 to provide new options for families. Denny’s has also been focusing in on young families and has been remodeling its stores to be more appealing.
Given millennials’ food and beverage spending power is only going to increase as they get older, the need to provide more options for these customers on-the-go will only grow.