Panera cafes are getting a whole new look

Panera, the sandwich and bakery chain, is following its peers with a pandemic-induced redesign that doubles down on digital ordering and drive-thrus.

Digital features are heavily emphasized in the restaurant redesign, which Panera said Thursday is a “modern experience to serve today’s guest.” That means computerized menus are replacing low-tech menu boards and the locations are adding more options for contactless ordering through kiosks and the Panera app.

Panera is also utilizing the pandemic-era trend of fast food restaurant design with two drive-thrus, with one specifically dedicated to orders on its app.

However, Panera isn’t scaling down its cafe’s interiors or reducing seating like some chains have done over the past year. Panera is relocating the bakery ovens so customers can see them and “fully immerse themselves in the experience of baking happening throughout the day.”

Panera is also rolling out a refreshed brand identity that includes a redesigned logo with a larger emphasis on its “Mother Bread” character, which it says is a “nod to Panera Bread’s more than 30-year-old sourdough starter from which all of its sourdough bread is still made today.”

Digital orders on restaurants’ apps and third-party services, such as Uber or DoorDash, have exploded over the past year. Panera is a privately held company, so it’s unclear how much it has benefited from the trend, but the company said 85% its business over the past year has come from apps or third-party services. Panera’s curbside, delivery and drive-thru business also “grew materially,” the company said.

Its rewards program, called MyPanera, has grown to 43 million members, it said. Rewards programs have become enticing for fast food chains because they increase sales and give customers incentives to keep coming back. The programs also give restaurant owners access to customers’ data and ordering habits that help target diners with customized deals.

The newest location to include all these features will open in November near St. Louis.

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