Viral TikTok video inspires Panera Bread to curate new menu

The chain’s Roman Empire menu gathers items from the existing lineup that fans “can’t stop thinking about.”
Roman empire menu
Panera's Roman Empire menu taps into a viral trend exploding on TikTok. | Photo courtesy of Panera Bread.

Is Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar Soup something fans think about often—as frequently as many men think about the Roman Empire?

The Roman Empire hashtag recently went viral on TikTok after a video revealed that many males think about that period in history multiple times a week when questioned. St. Louis-based Panera Bread jumped on the trend by curating a Roman Empire menu made up of existing items that fans “can’t stop thinking about.”

Among the eight favorites in the lineup are several signatures, such as Broccoli Cheddar Soup, the Cinnamon Crunch Bagel, Frontega Chicken Sandwich, Mac & Cheese and, of course, Panera’s Caesar Salad.

“In the whirlwind of the Roman Empire trend sweeping TikTok, we couldn't resist the opportunity to get involved,” said Drayton Martin, Panera’s senior VP of brand building, in a statement. “Our iconic favorites are touchstones for our guests that spur all kinds of passionate conversations. We decided to quickly (and very quickly, as in less than 24 hours we had the menu on our site) jump in on the conversation with the introduction of our Roman Empire menu—our take on all the favorites you can’t stop thinking about.  And of course—the Caesar Salad just had to be part of it.”

TikTok’s Roman Empire trend supposedly started back in August, according to the Washington Post, after Artur Hulu, a Roman reenactor from Sweden with a large social media following wrote on Instagram: “Ladies, many of you do not realize how often men think about the Roman Empire. … You will be surprised by their answers!”

Women began asking their husbands and boyfriends the question and some were pretty surprised. Responses ranged from several times a day to once a week, and creators amassed hundreds of thousands of views.

TikTok is playing a bigger role in menu R&D and brand building these days, with chefs and marketers drawing inspiration from home cooks and viral trends on the platform. Just this month, Vitality Bowls, a small, emerging chain compared to Panera’s more than 2,000 locations, launched Chia Seed Pudding based on a recipe trending on TikTok. 

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