Panera Bread has quietly ended its self-delivery operations, the fast-casual chain confirmed Monday.
Panera became a leader in the delivery space starting in 2016 when it quickly scaled up its operations and hired thousands of its own drivers rather than using third-party platforms.
In 2019, though, the chain signed deals with Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats to expand its delivery network, while stressing that most deliveries would continue to be made by Panera employees.
During the pandemic, self-delivery has slowly been phased out, the chain said.
“Panera continually evaluates our model to put guest preferences at the center of everything we do,” Chris Correnti, Panera’s senior vice president of off-premise channels, said in a statement to Restaurant Business. “This change enables Panera to offer a broader delivery range to serve increased demand for delivery, in response to an off-premise market that has grown and shifted dramatically over the past year.”
Panera started offering delivery in 2016 and steadily expanded the program. By 2018, delivery was available in just 56% of the chain’s units and digital sales made up 29% of the company’s business. The chain had hired more than 10,000 drivers and other workers to ramp up its delivery efforts.
In-house delivery was introduced as a way to control costs, while also having drivers perform work inside the restaurants when there was less delivery demand.
But Panera’s off-premise business has exploded since the beginning of 2020, when the pandemic pushed consumers across the country to try new ordering channels.
The chain doubled its delivery business last year, with more than half of sales coming through delivery, pickup, drive-thru and curbside, according to Panera. Off-premise sales volume is up by more than 60% since the beginning of 2020, the company said, and off-premise year-over-year growth has climbed more than 50%.
Delivery sales are growing by more than 100%, with sales mix in the mid-double digits, Panera said.