| July 2014 | By Conor Morris

Panera Gets High Tech

Fast casual invests $42 million in ordering.
image used with permission.

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.


I experienced similar technology very recently at Chili's. The casual dining establishment now offers a movable wireless kiosk at tables for guests to process their own payments at the table instead of the cashier having to run the card through at a register. I will admit with the excessive amount of guests in the restaurant that day it made it hard for our waitress to get to our table. She visited us maybe twice. The rest of the service that we received was provided by other wait staff. It was nice with such a small staff that we could ring our gift cards and credit/debit cards as the table. I am curious though if they are now hiring less staff because they have this technology available to the guests. If this is the case I would have preferred a waitress that could visit our table more than once over the ability to ring my cards at the table. I hope Panera uses this technology better. I do really like Panera's mobile App and the ability to place orders on the road or at home. I think that this aspect of Panera's technology integration is better than what I experienced at Chili's alone. I found it frustrating that you still had to have a waitress ring your coupon, Panera already has this problem solved. Panera has an amazing rewards program so no need to worry about scanning coupons. I am excited to see this technology being used in stores.

This reminds me of Jolt (joltup.com) . Except for customers.I love this move towards more technology in restaurants. Pretty awesome.

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