Panera Bread to test smaller menu at some locations

The cuts are designed to boost speed and simplify operations. They follow years of menu expansion at the bakery-cafe giant.
Panera's menu currently has more than 100 items. | Photo: Shutterstock

Panera Bread is testing a smaller menu at some locations to boost speed and ease operations. 

The 3,852-unit bakery-cafe chain confirmed the news Friday after a Panera employee said on TikTok that their location was cutting its menu in half.

“We are currently testing a streamlined menu in a small amount of Panera bakery-cafes, providing guests with a faster and more convenient experience while also simplifying operations for our associates,” Panera said in a statement to Restaurant Business.

The chain did not respond to a question about how much smaller the test menu will be. But a picture posted to Reddit shows a list of nearly 50 items that are slated to disappear, including a number of sandwiches, soups, breads, bagels, drinks and sweets. Panera’s full menu for summer 2023 contains more than 100 items.

The test of a smaller selection follows years of menu expansion at Panera. It now serves warm grain bowls, chicken sandwiches, pizza and toasted baguettes in addition to its core group of sandwiches, soups and salads.

It also comes as owner Panera Brands prepares for an initial public offering under new CEO José Alberto Dueñas, the former chief of Panera’s sister concept, Einstein Bros. Bagels. While at Einstein, Dueñas led a simplification of its operating model that improved unit economics and profits, according to a press release announcing his promotion. 

It was unclear whether that included a smaller menu, but it would not be surprising if it did: Many restaurants have been shrinking their menus since the pandemic in the interest of efficiency. Fewer ingredients can help keep costs down and also make items easier to execute, which can improve quality.

Of course, this strategy risks disappointing customers by dropping things they love. Panera could be testing the smaller menu in part to see how guests respond.

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