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Digital Demands Influence Panera's Next Gen Store Design

The fast-casual brand's new look includes a double drive-thru, enhanced digital capabilities, personalized options and streamlined pickup; however the brand is still betting on dine-in.
a bench in front of a store
Scheduled to open in in November, the new Panera design will feature contactless dine-in, updated ordering kiosks, automatic loyalty identification, and a fully digitized menu both in-cafe and in drive-thru.
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Panera unveiled its next-generation Panera bakery-cafe restaurant design.

Panera's  redefining its modern experience to serve today's guest with enhanced digital capabilities, personalized options and more drive-thru access for an increasingly off-premise world. The brand is still betting on dine-in with comfortable seating around its signature fireplace and a focus on its unique bakery experience within a vibrant, warm and welcoming environment.

a dining room table
Panera's new design features a double drive-thru, one lane is dedicated to digital order pickup.

The new restaurant design builds upon Panera's innovation in digital and positions the concept to continue to thrive in off-premise channels including Delivery, Drive-Thru and Rapid Pick Up– both in-cafe and via a dedicated drive-thru lane.

Demand for Drive-Thru

For the restaurant industry, drive-thrus have always been the ultimate in convenience and speed but during the pandemic they were the lifeline for QSRs and fast casual brands. Consumer demand for drive-thru has spurred brands to revisit their store development plans, adding drive-thrus and contactless pickup options to their new designs. Panera is joining the list that includes Shake Shack, Taco Bell Go Mobile restaurants, Starbucks and Chipotle, to name a few.  

Equal in importance in Panera's new design is a modernized and revitalized dine-in experience.

"Innovation is core to who we are and with our new next-generation Panera concept, we are doing what we've always done – keeping a personalized experience for the guest at the heart of everything we do," said Eduardo Luz, Chief Brand & Concept Officer, Panera Bread. "We're doubling down on what has always made Panera unique—creating human connection through caring associates and a warm, inviting environment filled with the smell of freshly-baked bread—while continuing to be a leader in digital access for the off-premise world."

The Panera next-generation bakery-cafe, the first of which will open this November in Ballwin, Mo., right outside of Panera's hometown of St. Louis, will include:

  • Dual-Drive Thru with Dedicated Rapid Pick-Up Lane – Panera aims to significantly increase its locations with drive-thru and the new concept features a double-lane drive thru, with one lane dedicated specifically to the brand's signature Rapid Pick-Up service.
  • Enhanced Digital Experience – The new Panera concept will feature contactless dine-in and delivery, updated ordering kiosks, automatic loyalty identification, and a fully digitized menu both in-cafe and in drive-thru.
  • Contactless Ordering – This new service will allow guests who choose a fully contactless experience to easily order their meal from their own phone for dine-in, Rapid Pick-Up, drive-thru or delivery. Once the order is made, guests are notified via mobile notifications when their food is ready, minimalizing interaction with cashiers, kiosks, paper receipts or pagers.
  • Refreshed Brand Identity – The next-generation bakery-cafes will introduce an updated Panera Bread logo and brand identity, unveiled in 2021. The refreshed Panera "Mother Bread" logo 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.
  • Intuitive Guest Journey – A core focus of the next-generation design has been improving the guest journey and making it more intuitive. This includes deploying clear and concise wayfinding on the exterior of the cafe and refining how the guest routes through the cafe after entering the front door – from experiencing our bakery, ordering (either through a traditional register or a digital kiosk) and picking up their food. Guest convenience is one of the highest priorities of the new design.

The next-generation Panera bakery-cafe is the latest update in a series of digital and menu innovations from the brand over the course of the last year, including Panera Curbside, its $8.99/month plus tax premium coffee subscription. By seamlessly integrating orders with the company's loyalty program—MyPanera —guests can save their favorites, earn and track rewards, and receive one-to-one tailored content.

Panera worked with leading brand design agencies BrandOpus to develop the updated Panera brand identity and logo, and ChangeUp to design the next-generation Panera restaurant concept.  

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