Panera Bread unveils a major new menu overhaul

A streamlined menu launches in April with nine new dishes and recipe upgrades for 12 classics. But say goodbye to flatbread pizzas.
The Bacon Mac & Cheese is a new dish scheduled to debut in April. | Photo courtesy of Panera Bread.

Say goodbye to flatbread pizzas at Panera Bread. But say hello to Bacon Mac & Cheese.

The bakery-café chain on Thursday unveiled what it calls the biggest menu transformation in brand history. The “new era” menu, which is scheduled to launch April 4, will include nine new dishes and updates to 12 classics.

But the menu overhaul is also designed to streamline and simplify operations, including the elimination of entire categories, like the flatbread pizzas, and more.

Company officials did not go into detail about what will be cut, but last year reports indicated the chain was testing a menu that would have been roughly cut in half, and included the elimination of the entire kid’s menu, some specialty drinks, the French onion soup, and lots of other dishes.

A spokesperson, however, said Panera will continue to offer a kid’s menu with the overhaul this year. The French onion soup is also staying, but the spokesperson did not respond to questions about whether the Charged Lemonade will remain. The caffeinated drink has reportedly been blamed in three lawsuits involving two deaths.

The new menu is designed to focus on the categories guests love best, including sandwiches, salads, soups and mac & cheese, the company said.

Panera's new menu

Some of the new salads and sandwiches coming in April. | Photo courtesy of Panera Bread.

“We are getting back to Panera at its best with these menu updates that are centered completely on our guests and what they love about us,” said Alicia Mowder, Panera’s senior vice president of product strategy and insights, in a statement. “We’ve listened to thousands of guests on our path to unveiling more than 20 new or enhanced menu items and are thrilled to bring these products to Panera bakery-cafes nationwide.”

The company said portion sizes are also being enhanced, with more chicken and steak on many salads and sandwiches. And there are new menu options under $10, like a Tomato Basil BLT, the Ranch Cobb Salad and Mediterranean Greens with Grains. Specific pricing for the new dishes, however, was not disclosed.

Here's the lineup. There are four new sandwiches, including:

  • Toasted Italiano, with Black Forest ham, soppressata and provolone, romaine, red onion, pepperoncini peppers, garlic aioli and Greek dressing on toasted French baguette.
  • Chicken Bacon Rancher with grilled chicken, applewood-smoked bacon, aged white cheddar and ranch dressing on black pepper focaccia.
  • Ciabatta Cheesesteak with marinated sliced steak, provolone, garlic aioli, caramelized onions and sweet peppadew peppers on ciabatta.
  • Tomato Basil BLT with applewood-smoked bacon, mixed greens, tomatoes, garlic aioli and salt and pepper on tomato-basil miche.

There are also four new salads:

  • Mediterranean Chicken Greens with Grains, with romaine and mixed greens tossed with Greek dressing and topped with a blend of farro and red rice, grilled chicken, hummus, feta, red onions, peppadew peppers, cucumbers and a sprinkle of Panera’s Mediterranean shawarma seasoning.
  • Southwest Chicken Ranch with romaine tossed with ranch dressing, grilled chicken, a drizzle of chipotle aioli, avocado, grape tomatoes, grilled corn, cilantro and blue-corn tortilla strips.
  • Balsamic Chicken Greens with Grains, including romaine and mixed greens tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette, the blend of farro and red rice, cucumbers, pepperoncini peppers, avocado, feta, pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of Green Goddess dressing.
  • Ranch Cobb Salad with romaine and mixed greens tossed with ranch, topped with grape tomatoes, pickled red onions, applewood-smoked bacon, feta and a hard-boiled egg.

Another new item is the Bacon Mac & Cheese with shell pasta in a blend of cheeses that includes aged white cheddar sauce and, of course, applewood-smoked bacon.

The menu overhaul also includes recipe enhancements to some favorites, like the Bravo Club Sandwich, the Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt, the Fuji Apple Chicken salad and other dishes. Through March, Panera will be revealing more details and loyalty members will get exclusive sneak peeks.

“Panera’s New Era is incredibly exciting, not only for our guests, but also our associates, who will be able to renew their focus on our core menu and serve our guests more efficiently with enhanced portions and better value,” said Debbie Roberts, Panera’s chief operating officer, in a statement. “We are eager to get back to our roots with these core categories and unveil these delicious new menu innovations, all while providing an exceptional guest experience.”

The menu tweaks that went into test last year followed the promotion in July of José Alberto Dueñas as CEO of the Panera Brands platform, which includes the 2,160-unit Panera Bread, as well as Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels. Previously chief at Einstein Bros, Dueñas led a simplification of operations there that improved unit economics and profits, the company said.

The larger group, which is owned by investment company JAB Holding Co., last year reportedly filed confidential paperwork for an initial public offering. The timing of that move, however, remains unclear.


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