Panera Pizza Makes Its Debut

Pizza holds up well for customers who order delivery or take-away, especially during the pandemic.

October 29, 2020

BOSTON—Foodservice operators know that some foods lend themselves better to delivery than others. To take advantage of that, Panera Bread is adding pizza to its menu this week with the roll out of three flatbreads, reports Business Insider. The offerings include cheese, Margherita, and chipotle chicken and bacon, with prices starting at $7.99.

According to Panera chief brand and concept officer Eduardo Luz, the rise of Panera's take-out, drive-thru and delivery business during the pandemic helped convince the chain to add pizza to the menu. “As the pandemic hit and we saw ... our guests moving more and more off-premise—ordering food to be delivered or picked up or via drive-thru—we believe that it's a platform that fits really well with what Panera can do" said Luz.

Panera's off-premise sales have exploded in recent months, with delivery growing in the triple digits, while pick-up and drive-thru have increased in the high double digits, said Luz, adding that pizza is an ideal menu item for the pandemic because it holds up during delivery and take-away.

Pizza chains like Domino's and Papa John's have been thriving during the pandemic. Domino's reported in early October that U.S. same-store sales grew 17.5% in the most recent quarter, while Papa John's preliminarily reported that same-store sales for the quarter were up 23.8%.

Luz says that Panera isn't necessarily trying to compete with delivery pizza providers. The chain simply hopes to make a pizza that people will "feel good about eating," said Luz said. The retailer will emphasize its pizza’s fresh ingredients and is launching a massive campaign around the flatbreads next week. Ultimately, Panera wants pizza to be a long-term sales driver.

Luz also predicts customers won’t give up delivery and curbside even when the pandemic is over, making pizza a strategic bet for Panera's future.  

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