Technology | July 2014 | By Conor Morris

Panera Gets High Tech

Fast casual invests $42 million in ordering.
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Panera Bread took a step into the future with the rollout of $42 million worth of ordering technology, dubbed “Panera 2.0.” The chain expects to better its customer experience inside and out with iPad ordering kiosks, mobile and online ordering interfaces, and a feature that lets guests order at the table.

These improvements could speed up the ordering process and cut labor costs, says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of research and consulting firm Technomic Inc.

“Although some providers tout a 30 percent reduction in labor costs at point of sale, it is more likely that brands will see closer to a 10 percent reduction in cost,” he says. Tristano adds that the lower number is a result of high costs in purchasing and researching the technology.

Panera aims to roll out its pick-up system at all cafés by the end of 2014 and the full technology suite within three years.

Many quick serves are slow to adopt similar systems because “most products haven’t given consumers a compelling reason to adopt,” says Michelle Evans, an analyst with Euromonitor International. Panera should focus on guests’ ease of use and order customization, she adds.

Panera will likely see success from the level of integration of the new systems, says Elizabeth Friend, senior foodservice analyst at Euromonitor. “They’re changing how their production lines work, hiring more personnel, and improving their operations to the point where they should be able to drastically increase service speed and keep up with the new orders that are coming in through digital channels,” she says.