Panera Bread unveils new ordering, payment technologies to improve customer experience

St. Louis - Panera Bread has unveiled a series of integrated technologies to enhance the customer experience at its restaurants. The new “Panera 2.0” initiative brings together new capabilities for digital ordering, payment, operations and consumption for patrons who choose to eat in as well as for those who order to go. In test for several years, the solution is now live in 14 of the chain’s locations and is slated to be deployed in nearly all locations over the next 36 months.

"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," said Blaine Hurst, Panera's executive VP of technology & transformation. "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."

Key elements of the new program include an ordering option called Rapid Pick-Up that 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. To facilitate easy pick up, restaurants will be equipped with a special "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.

In other key features, eat-in customers can place an online/mobile order from anywhere within the restaurant and have the meal delivered directly to their table.  The chain is also rolling out “fast lane” kiosks, equipped with iPads, for dine-in and to-go orders, with a goal of reducing wait time for guests.

Customers can save customizations, past orders and favorites at kiosks and through online or mobile app ordering, and link them to their MyPanera loyalty or credit card.

Panera’s new digital ordering processes are enabled by an online ordering web function on its website and a mobile app that will allow customers to store their purchase history and credit card information for future use.

Beyond technology, Panera has invested in new production equipment and systems, such as upgraded kitchen display system (KDS), auto-load balancing, and a new, 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. A comprehensive training program has been developed to help associates adopt and master the processes and systems that are part of the new initiative.

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