Panera on Thursday opened its first “Next-Generation” bakery-cafe design in Ballwin, Missouri. The store, 7.6 miles away from Panera’s first cafe and the original St. Louis Bread Company, implements a greater focus on off-premises convenience alongside an elevated dine-in model, the company said.

Notably, bakery-cafe ovens are now in full view of guests, so they witness the baking action up close all day. The store also boasts a dual drive-thru with a dedicated Rapid Pick-Up lane, as well as contactless dine-in and delivery, updated ordering kiosks, automatic loyalty identification, and a fully digitized menu for those in-store and pulling up to the drive-thru.

Guests using contactless ordering will order meals from their mobile devices, for either dine-in rapid pick-up, drive thru or delivery. Customers are then notified on their phone when their food is ready, minimizing interactions with cashiers, kiosks, receipts, and pagers.

“We undertook the development of the next generation Panera bakery-cafe with a relentless focus on guest experience,” said Rob Sopkin, SVP, Panera’s chief development officer, in a statement. “Every step of the guest journey was scrutinized to find ways to make it more intuitive and convenient, and the result represents the very best of our design and development teams that we are proud to open today.” 

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The next-gen model, created with design agency ChangeUp, also includes an updated Panera Bread “Mother Bread” logo to refresh the store’s brand identity. It highlights Panera’s more than 30-year-old sourdough starter that its bread is still made from today.

In addition, as an effort to accentuate convenience, Panera added clear wayfinding on the exterior to refine how guests route through the café after entering the front door.

“Our new bakery-cafe is designed with the best of what makes Panera unique – a warm, inviting environment that delights our guests, and the smell of freshly baked bread coupled with tech-enabled convenience,” added Eduardo Luz, chief brand and concept officer. “We’re proud to launch this new design just outside of our hometown of St. Louis; in fact, we couldn’t think of a better place to showcase our vision for the future than the place where we started.”

Over the last two years, the 2,120-unit bakery chain made several other menu and technology developments, including its Panera Curbside program, a $8.99 a month premium coffee subscription, and a new flatbread category of menu offerings.

Fast Casual, Story, Panera Bread