Panera Bread’s Next-Gen Bakery-Cafe Has 2 Drive-Thru Lanes

The fast-casual chain’s newest concept focusing on the contactless customer opens in Missouri.

December 14, 2021

Panera Bread Location with Drive Thrus

ST. LOUIS—Panera has reimagined its restaurant design and opened its first bakery-cafe featuring its next-generation restaurant design in Ballwin, Missouri, according to a news release.

The new concept features a modern and revitalized dine-in experience around its signature fireplace coupled with enhanced digital, personalized options and dual drive-thru access.

Updates include moving the bakery to be in full view of the guests; a double-lane drive-thru, with one lane specifically for the brand’s Rapid Pick-Up service; new digital innovations including contactless dine-in and delivery, updated ordering kiosks, automatic loyalty identification, and a fully digitized menu both in-cafe and in drive-thru; updated logo and intuitive customer wayfinding throughout the restaurant.

The redesign also features a fully contactless experience to allow mobile ordering for dine-in, Rapid Pick-up, drive-thru or delivery. Once the order is made, guests are notified via mobile notifications when their food is ready, minimalizing interaction with cashiers, kiosks, paper receipts or pagers.

“We undertook the development of the next generation Panera bakery-cafe with a relentless focus on guest experience,” said Rob Sopkin, senior vice president, chief development officer, Panera Bread. “Every step of the guest journey was scrutinized to find ways to make it more intuitive and convenient, and the result represents the very best of our design and development teams that we are proud to open today.”

Panera’s loyalty program was mentioned on a recent Convenience Matters podcast episode. Unlimited coffee and hot tea for $8.99 a month plus exclusive rewards for subscribers is the centerpiece of the new loyalty program. Many subscribers don’t leave the restaurant with just a cup of coffee because Panera is focused on the cross-sell and the upsell, according to Paula Thomas, loyalty expert. It’s also a simple and transparent loyalty model.

“Transparency […] is required and making it clear and easily understandable. Loyalty is something that people need to feel, they need to understand. Let’s get away with the asterisks and the conditions and the poor redemption experience. Because if I’ve learned anything as a loyalty professional, the moment of truth and the time that you really earn trust is actually when you do reward the customer,” Thomas told Convenience Matters.