Panera Bread Wednesday launched the next phase of its COVID-19 response. And the result is something the nearly 2,200-unit restaurant chain has never attempted before.
CEO Niren Chaudhary said, in an effort to “provide better access to essential items that are increasingly harder to come by,” the fast casual introduced “Panera Grocery,” alongside its standard offerings at participating stores nationwide.
While other restaurant brands have taken this route, from Frisch’s to FUSIAN in Ohio, nobody’s quite brought it to market at this scale. Panera is also backing the service with a robust technology suite not unlike what it typically offers.
Panera Grocery is live on the chain’s app and website, and is available for contactless delivery, Rapid Pick-Up, new “Drive Up,” and drive thru, as well as via contact-free delivery powered by Grubhub.
“From limited choices on grocery shelves to the growing need to limit the number of trips outside of the home, it is an incredibly stressful time when it comes to putting wholesome food on the table, and we knew Panera could help,” Chaudhary said in a statement.
Customers will see an option for “Panera Grocery,” pop up when they open the app or website. “Panera Grocery,” items will list on Grubhub so people can tack on essential items, like milk, bread, and fresh produce, to their food orders from whatever restaurant they choose. A night’s meal from a local spot, a few home items from Panera Grocery.
Panera also connected its Panera Grocery items to its MyPanera platform. Orders there will serve as a visit toward future rewards.
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Currently, Panera is offering the following staples:
Freshly Baked Breads & Bagels: Classic White Loaf; Whole Grain Pan Loaf; French Baguette; Bagel Packs
Milk & Dairy: Skim Milk and 2 percent Milk gallons (at participating cafes); Greek Yogurt, Yogurt Tubes; Plain Cream Cheese
Fresh Produce: Apples, Avocados, Blueberries, Red Grapes, Vine Ripe Tomatoes
Panera said the items, like its restaurant menu, are clean and free of artificial preservatives, flavors, sweeteners, and colors from artificial sources.
Panera Grocery is operating as a separate, ingredients-based service out of Panera’s restaurants, the company said.
Below is the full menu. Prices run from $7.99 for 16 Kid’s Yogurt Tubes to $4.99 for a gallon of 2 percent milk to $5.99 for a bag of red seedless grapes.
Panera has rolled several initiatives during the COVID-19 crisis. The chain’s business has dropped about 50 percent since dining rooms closed.
It’s currently serving customers through a to-go-centric model and recently introduced a fresh “Drive-Up” contactless curbside service. The latter works by customers ordering online or in Panera’s app and selecting “Rapid Pick-Up.” They next tell Panera in the “special instructions” field the make, model, and color of the vehicle they’ll arrive in. Panera is calling guests to confirm.
Lastly, the consumer drives up and employees walk out with the food. They’ll put it anywhere in the car a guest asks, from the trunk to the back seat.
Panera, which also self-delivers in many markets, is leaving food on doorsteps, front desks, or wherever needed, it said. It’s also making sure to-go orders are sealed for added protection and introduced enhanced cleaning and sanitization procedures into all restaurants.
For employees, Panera implemented an emergency PTO policy where any worker diagnosed with COVID-19 can stay home and still get paid. This includes covering the cost of required testing for coronavirus under a doctor’s order and temporary expanded sick pay for all company employees.
Panera is also hosting a weekly meal for all employees and has a “Friends in Knead,” non-profit funded primarily by voluntary donations from workers. It established a special COVID-19 fund to provide support for eligible employees, with Panera LLC donating $500,000.
Additionally, Panera offered its kitchens and resources as added infrastructure to help the #ChefsForAmerica movement provide meals nationwide and ease the burden placed on so many families across our country. The company said it is supporting Chef José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen to serve at scale in those cities with the most critical demand right now.