Panera undergoes digital makeover

April 10, 2014

Panera Bread today officially unveiled Panera 2.0, a series of technologies to enhance the customer experience at every turn — from digital ordering and payment to operations and even consumption.

"Panera 2.0 is an investment in the customer enabled by technology and powered by operational excellence," said Ron Shaich, founder, chairman and CEO. "It's more than a mobile-payment system or simply a digital-ordering process. It's an integrated, comprehensive, end-to-end solution that we believe will reduce friction such as wait times, improve order accuracy, and minimize or eliminate crowding — all while creating a platform for an ever more personalized experience."

Separation between "to go" and "eat in"

The new platform separates "to go" and "eat in" guests, delivering a more customized experience, Shaich said, that includes a better way to order, pay, receive food, make food and a better way for the chain to train employees.

"It enables a differentiated food experience – when and where you want it – from customized menus and tailored content to offers through the MyPanera loyalty program," Shaich said.

A better way to order

Advanced ordering for to-go: An ordering option called Rapid pick-up enables customers to place an online/mobile order from their office, car, work or home, up to five days in advance, and pick up their food at a pre-determined time without waiting in line.

Order from table: An in-cafe dining enhancement that allows customers to place an online/mobile order from anywhere within the bakery-cafe and have the meal delivered directly to their table.

Fast-lane kiosks: A new way to order in-cafe from iPad kiosks. Kiosks are available in addition to cashier stations so that wait time is reduced for all guests. The kiosk is highly visual and includes a product builder to assist with order accuracy and customization.

Customized ordering: At the kiosks, and through the Web or mobile app, guests can save customizations, past orders, and "favorites" for easy ordering on their next visit. Also, when linked to the MyPanera Loyalty program and a credit card, it creates a frictionless and faster experience for users.

A Better Way to Pay

The new digital ordering processes are enabled by an online ordering Web function on and a mobile app that allows customers to store their purchase history and credit card information for future use, Shaich said.

A differentiated approach to production

Operational excellence: New production processes are necessary to deal with the volume generated by new ordering pathways. Operational excellence, including a commitment to order accuracy, is required to fulfill on the promise of an enhanced customer experience, Shaich said. Beyond technology, Panera has invested in new production equipment and systems, including upgraded Kitchen Display System, auto-load balancing and a centralized phone system. Moreover, to increase capacity and accuracy, Panera 2.0 cafes feature customer-facing order displays at checkout and an expeditor station, where an associate confirms and verifies every order before it is delivered to the customer.

Training: As with any system-wide upgrade, a comprehensive training program has been developed to help associates adopt and master the new processes and systems being introduced as part of Panera 2.0, Shaich said.

A Better way to receive food

Delivery to tables:Guests who order from cashiers or kiosks for dine-in orders will have their meal delivered to their table by an associate using an electronic table locator. This means that, once guests place their order, they simply walk to their table where the food will be delivered in a matter of minutes, Shaich said.

Rapid Pick-up for to-go orders: For customers who have ordered their food "to go" (from the Web, mobile app, kiosk or cashier), Panera 2.0 bakery-cafes will be equipped with a "to go" pick-up area, featuring dedicated seating, an order-status monitor providing real-time information as orders are prepared and completed, and shelf space, all to facilitate easy pick up. "To-go" guests can claim their food without waiting in line using a travel path through the cafe that is unique and different from that of "eat-in" customers, said Blaine Hurst, Panera's EVP of Technology & Transformation.

"Panera 2.0 is an integrated experience that meets the differentiated needs of 'to go' and 'eat in' customers, so they don't bump into each other," he said.  "Panera 2.0 provides new mechanisms for ordering, payment, food production, and, ultimately, consumption. We took a totally integrated approach, and believe what we are providing is a truly enhanced guest experience."

After several years of testing the technology and investing in operational improvements, the full Panera 2.0 experience is now up in two markets and 14 cafes, Hurst said. Panera expects to roll out Rapid Pick-Up to the entire cafe system by the end of 2014, and the full suite of Panera 2.0 elements to all cafes over the next 36 months.

Topics: Systems / Technology

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