Restaurant Roundup: Panera, Tim Hortons Open Off-Premise-Only Locations


Major bakery-café fast-casual chain Panera Bread is turning its focus to off-premise channels with its new digital-order-only format.

On Friday (June 10), the brand announced the opening of a new “Panera To Go” concept in Chicago, the first of three test locations planned throughout the rest of the year. While the format is billed as “digital-only,” it is not a ghost kitchen that only exists in virtual spaces, but rather a small-format restaurant with drive-thru pickup and shelves for consumers and third-party delivery drivers to collect online orders.

“We strive to make it easy for our guests to access Panera’s chef-curated menu, in the most convenient way. Panera To Go creates yet another access point for our guests … in locations where Panera has not historically operated,” Eduardo Luz, chief brand and concept officer at Panera Bread, said in a statement. “We are excited to launch into more trade areas, where we know people are craving for what Panera offers.”

The move targets how consumers’ dining habits have evolved in the past few years. Findings from PYMNTS’ 2021 How We Eat Playbook, created in collaboration with Carat from Fiserv, revealed that consumers now are 31% more likely to buy meals for delivery or pickup than they are to dine on-site. Moreover, 43% of all consumers reported that they are ordering home delivery for their restaurant meals or groceries more often now than they did before March 2020, and 48% said the same of pickup.

See also: Restaurants and Grocers See Path to Picking up 200M New Customers

Tim Hortons Announces Drive-Thru Only Location

Panera is not the only major brand rethinking its store designs with an eye towards changing ordering habits. Tim Hortons announced on Monday (June 6) that it is launching a small-format, drive-thru-only concept, which will open in a handful of states later this summer.

“This is an exciting time for Tim Hortons as we update certain aspects of our model to maximize the experience for Guests and improve efficiency for the operators who are driving our expansion in the U.S.,” Alexandra Caplan, the brand’s senior manager of business development, said in a statement published in QSR. “These two restaurant formats allow franchisees to develop a model that fits their local demand. That flexibility is key to growing our brand in various markets.”

Indeed, drive-thru is a top priority for many restaurant customers, according to findings from the February edition of PYMNTS’ Digital Divide study, “The Digital Divide Report: Technology As A Catalyst For Restaurant Purchases,” created in collaboration with Paytronix. In fact, the study, which drew from a census-balanced survey of more than 2,400 United States adults in early December, found that 38% of consumers say that drive-thru pickup options would incentivize them to make more purchases from a restaurant.

Read more: How Eateries Can Tap Order Throttling Tools as Delivery Demand Grows

“Our guests are looking for great service, high-quality coffee and food, and they want to feel safe when visiting Tim Hortons restaurants,” Jay Pritchett, head of marketing at Tim Hortons U.S., said in a statement. “Our new restaurant design offers all of that and more.”

Restaurant Prices Rise With Inflation in May

Restaurant prices continue to rise with no end in sight. According to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Friday (June 10) that restaurant prices grew 0.7% month over month in May, up from 0.6% in April, and increased 7.4% year over year in May, up from 7.2% in April.

The consumer price increases come as restaurants deal with rising costs for ingredients, commodities and supplies, leaving them in a position in which they must constantly reevaluate their menus.

Read more: For Restaurants, Inflationary Challenges Prompt Menu Creativity

Changing menu items and prices is not the only way eateries are handling these challenges. Some have been slipping additional fees onto checks, and others have been reducing portion sizes.

Related news: Restaurants Slip in New Consumer Fees as Their Costs Skyrocket

Domino’s Scales Back on Promos to Offset Costs

Miso Robotics Partners with Amazon Web Services to Accelerate Expansion

As restaurants’ ongoing labor challenges step up the pressure to automate, Miso Robotics, a leader in the foodservice robotics space, announced Tuesday (June 7) a partnership with Amazon Web Services to speed up development and expansion of its technology using AWS RoboMaker.

“Integrating into AWS RoboMaker has been a gamechanger for us to scale our products and make sure the software and its updates are ready to deploy with units in the field,” Chris Kruger, CTO of Miso Robotics, said in a statement. “We will go from running 12 simulations a month with single units to doing 100 in a night. By testing hundreds of configurations in parallel, we are able to save costs and develop products faster.”