Fast-casual food chain Panera Bread has now rolled out its “Panera 2.0” upgrade to about 100 of its 1,845 cafes, adding online and mobile ordering and no-wait to-go orders, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.
The chain launched the new restaurant format in Boston and Charlotte, N.C., last March, and has since converted stores in Dallas, Seattle, and parts of California, Florida and Nebraska. Each conversion costs about $150,000, plus higher operating costs for labor, payment-card fees and technology support and depreciation, CEO Ronald Shaich said on a recent earnings call.
But the improved customer experience is worth it, according to Shaich. With Panera 2.0, customers can sit, place online orders via the website or mobile app, and have food delivered to their table. “Customers can just go and sit down after ordering, avoiding the mosh pit all together,” Shaich said.
Ironically, that means even though Panera is currently one of the Top 5 retailers for Apple Pay acceptance, customers are less likely to use Apple’s contactless payments in Panera 2.0 cafes. However, they can still use Apple Pay with mobile ordering.
The Panera 2.0 conversions, which will take three years to complete throughout the chain, also include ordering kiosks and dedicated areas for picking up to-go orders. But some elements won’t wait that long. Shaich said one of the most effective parts of Panera 2.0 was faster throughput with the “Rapid Pick-Up” area, where customers can grab their prepaid orders from shelves without standing in line.
“After seeing the power of Rapid Pick-Up in Panera 2.0 units, we decided to roll it out fully to the system in 2014, instead of waiting for full Panera 2.0 conversions,” Shaich said, adding that the chain plans to start promoting Rapid Pick-Up “more intensely.”