America’s largest bakery cafe chain plans to open much smaller restaurants across the country


The suburbs have long been Panera’s bread and butter. Most of the chain’s locations are characterized by large, cozy spaces with fireplaces and pushing 4,000 square feet. Casual stores are designed for customers to stick around for a while – it’s not uncommon to see an employee without a desk kicking around the corner.

In major cities, however, Panera has not seen this concept work. According fast businessonly 100 of the chain’s 2,200 locations are in metropolitan areas, but the company is making strides to change that by opening smaller, lighter locations.

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The company is testing these new restaurant concepts in New York. The first of the small restaurants opens its doors today in the Hearst Building. The single location will be half the size of a regular Panera and feature limited counter seating instead of comfortable nooks and booths. A second small store, dubbed Panera to Go, is set to open next month in Union Square. It will forego seating altogether, bolstering the chain’s bid to attract more on-the-go customers.

Eduardo Luz, Brand and Concept Director of Panera, credited with the success of the mobile app by feeding the idea of ​​this little concept growth. Despite the comfortable and welcoming dining rooms, digital sales now account for half of purchaseswith customers increasingly opting for quick pick-up, contactless catering and delivery.

The company also plans to “enhance” its urban restaurant designmoving away from the cozy bakery vibe to a “more streamlined” design with modern art, wood paneling and an updated color palette.

Panera is betting the convenience of ordering and proximity to offices and colleges will boost sales in smaller locations. If these test points prove profitable, Panera plans to expand to other cities next year, as well as new spots in hospitals and universities. The channel hopes, according to Luzto “bring Panera anywhere from suburban cafes with dual drive-thru, to a digital-only Panera To Go and everything in between”.

Panera is no newcomer to the various concepts, being one of the first chains to embrace the new fashionable kiosks for contactless ordering. It is also groped by artificial intelligence command And one automated coffee brewing system. The company’s willingness to experiment and adapt appears to be working as it is now the tenth largest restaurant chain in the United States and appears to be only expanding.


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