In one of the most high-profile pivots from a major restaurant brand, Panera Bread has begun selling grocery items like milk, bread and produce alongside its traditional soups, salads and sandwiches. The new service has been quickly launched as grocers experience sudden increases in volume, leaving many customers to schedule delivery and pickup orders relatively far into the future compared to the pre-COVID era.
Officially called Panera Grocery, the new service leverages Panera’s existing supply of produce and ingredients, which can be ordered through the Panera app or through the brand’s website for pickup or drive-thru. It’s also being offered for delivery via Grubhub.
“From limited choices on grocery shelves to the growing need to limit the number of trips outside of the home, it is an incredibly stressful time when it comes to putting wholesome food on the table, and we knew Panera could help,” said Panera CEO Niren Chaudhary. “With this new service we can help deliver good food and fresh ingredients from our pantry to yours, helping provide better access to essential items that are increasingly harder to come by.”
Items currently available on Panera Grocery include freshly baked breads and bagels, its classic white and whole grain loaves, French baguettes, bagel packs, as well as skim and 2% milk (at participating locations), and yogurt, cream cheese, and produce like apples, avocados, blueberries and tomatoes. The company bills the new service as a “separate, ingredients-based home service operated out of Panera bakery cafes.”
Plugging in a hypothetical order, with the nearest open location nearly five miles away from my home, Panera quoted a delivery window of 30 to 40 minutes. A French baguette, whole grain loaf of bread, bag of red grapes and a gallon of skim milk came to a total of $27.86, including a $30 delivery fee, $5 tip and $1 in tax.
For comparison, a similar pickup order placed through my local upscale grocery store came to a subtotal of $13.46—but that would require getting in my car to pick up the order myself. Panera’s pricing is clearly at a premium, so it’s hard to see this service becoming a significant long-term revenue driver, even among customers facing temporary shortages or delayed pickups from their local grocery stores.