Will two digital-first concepts prove more successful than one for Panera Bread?
Panera Bread has announced plans to roll out two smaller concepts to reach to-go customers in dense urban areas.
Urban Core, at about 2,500 square feet, is about 40 percent smaller than Panera’s traditional bakery-cafes. With limited counter seating, the concept is geared to support rapid pickup and is designed with shelves dedicated to pickup and to-go orders.
Panera To-Go, at approximately 1,000-square-foot, doesn’t have any dine-in seating and features all-digital ordering. Panera wrote in a press release, “With less front-of-house duties and simplified operations, Panera To-Go associates can focus on crafting freshly prepared meals to meet the needs of a guest on-the-go.”
Panera’s digital sales now make up half of total system sales. Beyond urban markets, the smaller concepts are expected to help Panera reach hospitals and universities.
Panera will not be replacing its traditional bakery-cafés or the double-drive-through locations.
“For us, it’s ‘and’, not ‘or’,” Eduardo Luz, Panera’s chief brand & concept officer told Nation’s Restaurant News. “We love our suburban markets and we know they resonate with people and they like this brand. We want to keep that but we also want to be present in urban downtown neighborhoods and you just can’t do that and show up 4,000-square feet.”
In a press release announcing its first digital-only store last fall in Boston, Dunkin’ said, “Because guests are in control of the ordering experience, the on-site crew can focus on fulfilling orders with heightened speed and accuracy.”
On Wingstop’s recent third-quarter call, Michael Skipworth, CEO, said digital orders have held above 60 percent, although sales in other digital channels, including e-commerce, have moderated as pandemic restrictions have eased. He said, “We’re committed to our aspirational goal of 100 percent digital transactions where we enjoy a $5 higher average check. This continued expansion of our digital business allows us to continue to build upon our first-party database that’s over 30 million strong.”
Drive-throughs are also being added by chains to support mobile ordering.
- Panera Targets Expansion In Urban Markets Driven By Portfolio Of Digitally-Led New Bakery-Cafe Formats – Panera Bread
- Panera Bread Opens Smaller Store Focused on Digital Sales – NACS
- Panera Bread is opening its first digital and to-go stores in New York – National Restaurant News
- Dunkin’ opens its first ‘digital-only’ restaurant in South Jersey – Cherry Hill Courier-Post
- Schlotzsky’s Tries Ditching Seats – Restaurant Business
- Sweetgreen Opens First Digital-Only Pickup Location – Restaurant Business
- Fast-Food Restaurants Do Away With Dining Rooms – Restaurant Business
- Chipotle’s expansion plans include adding ‘digital-only’ restaurants to its menu – RetailWire
- Wingstop, Inc. (WING) Q3 2022 Earnings Call Transcript – Seeking Alpha
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are digital-only or digital-first restaurants the future of fast food and fast casual? Will Panera likely find more expansion success with its digital-only Panera To-Go or hybrid digital-first Urban Core concept?