Inside Panera Bread’s plan to dominate the ‘Zoom lunch’ as the pandemic continues to decimate the $60 billion catering industry

catering image Panera

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Catering is a $60 billion business – an important foodservice revenue channel that cratered during a prolonged pandemic that has forced offices to host remote meetings and discouraged social gatherings like birthday celebrations. 

For Panera Bread, the pandemic has impacted its robust catering program, which normally represents 10% of sales. To revive this important revenue segment, Panera Bread is rolling out next week two new off-premise ordering programs.

The company is unveiling Virtual Catering after testing the program in December with about 50 customers, ranging from pharmaceutical representatives to medical facilities. The new catering program is geared for remote workers.

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It allows companies or individuals to buy digital vouchers and send them to remote workers or clients ahead of a meeting or networking event. The vouchers can be used to buy a sandwich, salad, or flatbread pizza from a local Panera Bread that can be eaten during a video conferencing meeting. 

“It provides this sense of community that when you’re having the meeting that everyone is sharing this meal,” Chris Correnti, senior vice president of off-premise channels at Panera Bread, told Insider in an exclusive interview. “So regardless, if you’re 10 miles away from each other, or 1,000 miles away from each other, we can make this a reality.”

Since the pandemic swept the nation last March, Panera Bread has been leveraging its much-envied tech stack to find new revenue channels to accommodate the growing demand for off-premise orders.  Years before consumers were forced to shelter at home, Panera Bread’s more than 2,000 locations were offering guests new ways to order from kiosks to rapid pick up through its app. 

The company was also one of the first fast-casual brands to add fast-food style drive-thrus lanes to boost off-premise sales. 

 Besides Virtual Catering, the company plans to also roll out Panera To You, geared for batching group orders into one delivery.

On Wednesday, Panera Bread also announced plans to add two more flatbread pizzas to its menu after selling 5 million since the delivery-centric food item rolled out nationwide in late October.   

“It’s been extremely well received, and we’re excited about this new platform,” Correnti said.

With the addition of the two new flavors, Panera Bread plans to add them as an option to the chain’s Family Feast program. 

Like other chains creating meal kits during the pandemic crisis, Panera’s program bundles menu items geared for families looking for value-oriented take-home orders. The new bundles offer two flatbread pizzas and two salads for $23 or three flatbread pizzas and three salads for $29. 

“Those [family meals] offer both value and convenience with products that are really highly desirable and travel really well and deliver really well,” Sara Burnett, vice president of food values, sustainability and public affairs at Panera Bread, told Insider.

Panera’s latest moves are aimed at capturing consumers whose “off-premise” buying habits have …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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