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Panera Bread connects

Technology builds a more user-friendly store.

Long lines and slow service have hurt Panera Bread—a problem the St. Louis-based chain is addressing with the launch in April of Panera 2.0. It’s a new prototype that integrates technology and design to reduce crowding and wait times. Stores are wired for advance mobile ordering and payment, kitchen display screens improve execution and a Rapid Pick-Up station separates to-go and dine-in customers.

Two locations of the 1,800-unit chain now sport the new prototype—Charlotte, N.C., and Boston. Another opens in Coralville, Iowa, in August, says John Kauffman, marketing manager for Panera Bread of Iowa, a 21-unit franchise based in Cedar Rapids. “Panera 2.0 will allow us to provide better customer service and a more personalized experience,” he says, adding that employees also benefit from hi-tech enhancements in the front- and back-of-house. Kauffman details the upgrades:

  • A customer-facing monitor provides real-time updates on orders.
  • Digital screens alert staff to orders; ingredients are color coded and no longer abbreviated to boost accuracy.
  • Dine-in guests order from iPads at the table or kiosks in the store.
  • Team members locate customers using GPS instead of buzzers.
  • A wall made of noise-reducing materials divides eating and production areas for a better guest experience.

Kauffman admits that construction and IT fees are higher than for the old  prototype, but “costs will balance out with increased sales from the drive-thru. We’ve been surprised how much this feature has boosted sales in other locations,” he says. 

Concept: Panera Bread
Location: Coralville, Iowa
Footprint: 4,100 square feet
Seating: 96 inside, 26 outside
Key features: Drive-thru, digital ordering and payment, Rapid Pick-Up area, walled-off kitchen with noise barrier 

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