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Panera eyes new tap-and-go setup for coffee sales

Photograph courtesy of Panera

Panera Bread is planning to test new technology that will enable morning customers to zip into a store, pour themselves a coffee and register the purchase by tapping their smartphones on a poster before exiting. 

The capability will be in addition to a beefed-up version of Panera’s Rapid Pick-Up app feature, which enables patrons to place a breakfast order remotely and have it waiting for them when they enter the store. The order-and-pay-in-advance system has been tweaked to include a reorder function, so habitual morning orders can be placed with a single touch of the phone screen.

Both initiatives are part of a new push for breakfast business by the bakery-cafe chain, which faces competition from Starbucks and Dunkin’, both of which have embraced technology to speed service for morning customers. Both of those brands allow customers to order and pay in advance, and both accept contactless payment through patrons’ phones.

Like those two brands, Panera is also tweaking its a.m. menu. The strategy, according to the chain, is to spare customers from having to weigh quality against convenience when choosing where to get breakfast or a coffee to start their day. 

The additions include three new breakfast wraps: egg, cheese and maple-flavored bacon; egg, chipotle-flavored chicken and avocado; and Mediterranean Egg White. Each will be offered before 10:30 a.m. and carry a suggested retail price of $5.29. They range in calories from 270, for the egg-white wrap, to 470, for the version that includes maple bacon.

The chain stresses that all are “clean,” or consistent with the brand’s pledge to forgo artificial additives and flavorings.

In addition, Panera has switched to a cold brew for iced coffee, and said it is upgrading its coffee across the board. The chain is owned by JAB Holding Co., which is also the parent of coffee specialists Peet’s, Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Caribou and Keurig. 

Ten new bakery items were also added to the menu, including additional varieties of croissants, cinnamon rolls and scones. 

“Our focus on breakfast isn’t just about a single item or category—it’s about looking at the market and bridging a gap for guests. People are compromising between convenience and quality in the morning, and we know that’s a problem Panera can help solve,” Blaine Hurst, Panera’s CEO, said in a statement. 

Earlier this year, the chain expanded its delivery service to include small breakfast orders. Previously, customers needed to hit a certain dollar threshold to have food brought to them before lunch.

Hurst noted that the strategy parallels the plan Panera successfully used to boost its lunch business.

The new frictionless pay option, called Panera Tap, is scheduled to be tested starting in May in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area. 

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