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    Panera Bread to Test a Dinner Menu

  • Dinner only accounts for roughly a quarter to a third of the fast casual's sales.

    Panera Bread
    First it was breakfast. Now, Panera Bread is pushing into dinner. Or at least testing the idea.

    When Panera Bread refreshed its breakfast strategy in April, the fast casual hoped to drive occasions into the lagging daypart. More than 75 percent of Panera’s business takes place post-11 a.m. Yet just glancing at its offerings, the chain appears well positioned to thrive in the loyalty-inspiring segment. Thirty percent of Panera’s catering segment is breakfast and it has the tech tools and products to deliver convenience supported by a brand reputation for quality.

    But why stop there? Dinner only accounts for roughly a quarter to a third (depending on the spot) of Panera’s sales. And that’s without a dedicated menu.

    Just like breakfast, Panera sees opportunity to provide guests with quality and speed, boosted by its digital channels, during a timeframe with plenty of whitespace.

    On Wednesday, the chain announced it’s testing a new dinner menu in select markets around the branding, “Dinner You Can Feel Good About Eating, Made Easy.”

    The menu will pilot first in Lexington, Kentucky, in July and in Providence, Rhode Island, in September. No word yet on national plans.

    It encompasses 10 handcrated items available for order from 4:30–10 p.m.

    In an interview with CNBC, chief growth and strategy officer Dan Wegiel said Panera stepped back about a year ago and asked itself, “Over the next five years, where are we going to grow? Where are we going to get most of our value creation?”

    He added that a consumer drawback with dinner at Panera is that guests see its options as too light.

    The new features are heartier but also target families on the go.

    Panera Bread

    Will a dedicated dinner menu also play well with delivery?

    New Dinner Bowl Category:

    • Teriyaki Chicken & Broccoli Bowl: A bowl of seared, roasted, teriyaki-glazed chicken served over a brown rice and quinoa blend and steamed broccoli. Topped with cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.
    • Pesto Chicken Bowl: A bowl of seared, roasted chicken served over a brown rice and quinoa blend, grape tomatoes, steamed fresh broccoli, fresh spinach, nut-free basil pesto and garlic cream sauce. Topped with grated Parmesan and fresh lemon.

    New Artisan Flatbread Category:

    • Steak and Blue Cheese Artisan Flatbread: Grass-fed steak, caramelized onions, blue cheese, shredded Fontina and Mozzarella cheeses and garlic cream sauce baked crisp to order on artisan flatbread. Topped with balsamic glaze and fresh arugula.
    • Chipotle Chicken & Bacon Artisan Flatbread: Smoked, pulled chicken, chopped bacon, grape tomatoes, shredded Fontina and Mozzarella cheeses with garlic-cream sauce baked crisp to order on artisan flatbread. Topped with chipotle aioli and fresh cilantro.
    • Margherita Artisan Flatbread: Grape tomatoes, sliced fresh Mozzarella and Fontina and Mozzarella blend with tomato bell pepper sauce on artisan flatbread. Topped with fresh basil.

    New Signature Sides Category:

    • Parmesan Broccoli Side: Steamed fresh broccoli with garlic cream sauce, grated Parmesan, salt and pepper
    • Tomato Basil and Cucumber Salad Side: Sliced grape tomatoes and diced cucumber tossed in Greek dressing with fresh basil and sea salt.
    • Sweet Potato Mash Side: Tender, mashed sweet potato topped with roasted pecan pieces and crunchy apple chips

    New Hot and Hearty Sandwiches:

    • Toasted Pastrami Sandwich: Grass Fed Pastrami topped with melted emmental cheese and creamy mustard sauce and caramelized onions on Artisan Ciabatta
    • Toasted Tuscan Grilled Chicken Sandwich: Citrus-pepper chicken alongside provolone, parmesan, arugula, smoky tomato confit and basil mayo, all toasted on an Artisan Ciabatta
    Panera Bread

    Toasted Pastrami Sandwich.

    Panera Bread

    Artisan Flatbreads.

    Panera Bread

    Teriyaki Chicken & Broccoli Bowl.

    Panera said the menu would integrate with its digital ordering platforms, Rapid Pick-Up, and delivery services. Generally speaking, dinner tends to be a stronger delivery segment than lunch and breakfast. Wegiel told CNBC the chain saw opportunity to expand there, “but it flagged as something we could unlock further for sure.” North of 60 percent of Panera’s current delivery orders take place during lunch.

    The chain’s breakfast revamp fit a similar bill. Panera is one of the few quick-serves, not in the pizza delivery segment, to staff its own delivery platform and drivers. When the breakfast changes were announced, the company offered breakfast delivery in 624 of its units. It also added a reorder function to its app that allows guests to select their daily breakfast in a few clicks and have it waiting for them at the restaurant, or meet them at the office where available.

    Additionally, Panera tested a “Panera Tap” technology for hot coffee where guests could skip the register or kiosk altogether. It was set for the Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina, area. How it works is customers open the Panera app and tap an NFC smart poster to purchase a grab-and-go coffee via mobile payment.

    Among the big breakfast changes: Panera introduced three new breakfast wraps, updated its bakery line with 10 new items, and rolled out a fresh line of hot coffee—a light roast and dark roast. It also unveiled a new coffee station where employees grind whole beans in house and guests can see the process up close, akin to other major coffeehouse players.