Panera Bread Co. expands investment in delivery

Panera Bread Co. is looking beyond the walls of its bakery cafes for new customers.

While much has been made of the St. Louis-based fast-casual chain’s investments in new ordering technology, which is part of the company’s Panera 2.0 initiative, Panera has also been building up its delivery and catering capabilities to add sales growth in a competitive restaurant field.

In a conference call with analysts and investors, Panera CEO and chairman Ron Shaich said that the company likely has “the largest market share in the country in large order delivery-catering.” He added, “But it is still a very tiny slice of the potential market share we can obtain.”

Panera opened seven delivery “hubs” — dedicated primarily to largely order (i.e. catering) delivery — in the first quarter 2015, Shaich said. That brings the total to 28 across the company.

Schaich said Panera has learned that having facilities devoted to catering is more efficient for the company because it can keep its bakery cafe employees focused on retail. And because the hubs “operate with much higher volumes, they’re able to lower the sales volatility that makes a catering business so difficulty to efficiently execute,” he said.

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