Panera Opens First Digitally-Led New Bakery-Cafe Format in NYC

by Katie Lee

St. Louis — Panera Bread has opened the first of its new updated urban store format in New York, the newest of several new formats targeted at more densely populated and non-traditional trade areas. With digital sales at Panera now representing 50% of total system sales, Panera now offers a portfolio of store formats designed to cater to the needs of an increasingly digital and off-premise guest.

“At Panera, our innovation has always been rooted in the guest and associate experience, how we can reduce friction, drive convenience and bring Panera to new places where we know the demand is high for the freshly-prepared food we serve,” says Eduardo Luz, chief brand & concept officer, Panera Bread. “With a flexible portfolio of cafe designs, we’re now able to bring Panera anywhere, from suburban cafes with double drive-thrus, to a digital-only Panera To Go and everything in between.”

The new Panera urban format marries a 40% smaller footprint than traditional bakery-cafes with updated ordering kiosks, a fully digitized menu and a new tracking screen providing more detailed order status. Designed with only limited counter seating, the bulk of the bakery-cafe is geared toward a statement Rapid Pick-Up® experience, with dedicated shelves for pickup and to-go orders. It is also the first Panera bakery-cafe in the country that fully incorporates the new Panera brand world, featuring modern and inviting new art, and updated design touches and color palette. The new urban format will continue to provide the freshly-prepared menu offerings and bakery-forward experience that guests expect from Panera.

Following a successful test earlier this year, the first New York Panera To Go opens next month. Different from the new urban format, Panera To Go offers no dine-in seating, solely offering Rapid Pick-Up and Delivery shelves where guests and delivery drivers can easily pick up orders. With less front-of-house duties and simplified operations, Panera To Go associates can focus on crafting freshly prepared meals to meet the needs of a guest on-the-go. The two New York bakery-cafes are the first of several new Panera bakery-cafes planned for expansion in urban markets in the next year, along with a series of non-traditional locations in settings like hospitals and universities.

Future iterations of the new urban format plan to test new tap-and-go technology for an even more seamless experience for Unlimited Sip Club members. For associates, AI technology is used to auto reorder ingredients based on sales to labor scheduling and more.

Panera continues to test AI technology across multiple areas of the bakery-cafe. Earlier this year, it began testing Miso Robotics’ automated coffee brewing system, as it rolled out its Unlimited Sip Club subscription program. More recently Panera began testing OpenCity’s proprietary voice AI ordering technology, called “Tori,” for drive-thru orders, with the goal of maximizing efficiency and increasing speed of orders. Each AI test allows for Panera associates to focus more on freshly preparing orders and improving the guest experience.

Panera Bread opened in 1987 as a community bakery. As of November 3, 2022, there were 2,114 bakery-cafes, company and franchise, in 48 states and in Ontario, Canada, operating under the Panera Bread® or Saint Louis Bread Co.® names. Panera Bread is part of Panera Brands, one of the largest fast-casual restaurant companies in the U.S., comprised of Panera Bread®, Caribou Coffee® and Einstein Bros.® Bagels. For more information, visit





SOURCE: Panera Brands

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