Panera Adds One-Swipe Ordering as Restaurants Race to Provide Frictionless Experiences

Panera Crunch Time ordering app

As consumers increasingly demand quicker and more convenient digital ordering and payment, Panera Bread has added a feature that allows them to make restaurant purchases with one swipe.

The fast-casual giant, which has more than 2,100 locations across the U.S. and Canada, announced Wednesday (Sept. 20) the launch of “Crunch Time Ordering,” which enables consumers to preload their go-to orders in the brand’s app and schedule the times when they will need this quicker option. Then, they have the option to order those items at those designated times with a single swipe in the restaurant’s app.

“We are thrilled to introduce Crunch Time Ordering as the ultimate one-swipe ordering option on the Panera app,” Panera Senior Vice President, Chief Digital Officer Meenakshi Nagarajan said in a press release. “Our guests lead busy lives and need convenience more than ever.”

Nagarajan added that the technology enables quicker ordering at times when consumers are especially pressed for time, such as “between meetings, practices or recitals, or other moments of crunch time in their lives.”

The news comes as restaurants compete to offer increasingly frictionless digital experiences, with Panera and other brands implementing technologies such as in-car ordering through the vehicle’s dashboard and voice-assistant ordering through smart home devices. Plus, more restaurants have been opening up mobile drive-thru lanes and adding designated pickup locations and parking spots for digital customers.

Many consumers opt for specific ordering channels for the express purpose of having more control over their time. PYMNTS Intelligence, in a January survey of more than 2,100 consumers for the Connected Dining series, revealed that 45% of those who ordered restaurant meals for pickup said an advantage of the channel over delivery is that it gives them greater control over when their food is available. Plus, 17% of delivery customers stated that the channel had the same advantage over pickup.

Overall, many consumers opt for restaurants’ direct channels when they are looking for this convenience. Supplemental findings from a census-balanced survey of nearly 2,000 U.S. consumers for the study “Connected Dining: The Robot Will Take Your Order Now” reveals that 14.3% had placed their most recent order online through a restaurant’s app or website. That share amounts to more than three times the 4.7% that had placed theirs through a third-party aggregator.

Panera, for its part, is focused on improving the overall digital experience, both as a response to increased adoption of these channels and as a way to drive further engagement. In an interview with PYMNTS earlier this year, George Hanson, the restaurant’s then senior vice president and chief digital officer, spoke to the brand’s effort to integrate digital technologies wherever they could improve the customer journey.

“We’re leveraging what the guests have told us and what they continue to show us, which is that they’ve increased their digital adoption,” Hanson said. “They expect their phone to be a part of every interaction at every access point. We’re looking at all the areas that traditionally have been offline and adding value to the experience, leveraging our digital capabilities, and the guest is responding very favorably.”