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Panera’s Menu Makeover Could be Start of Big 2024 for Fast-Casual Chain

panera menu

EAGAN, Minnesota – With an eye towards efficiency (and, one presumes, improved profits), Panera Bread recently unveiled it’s largest menu revamp ever.

A visit to one suburban Minneapolis location on the day of the new menu’s launch, April 4, revealed signage that promised “More in Every Bite.” The fast-casual restaurant chain’s revamped offerings largely lived up to that billing, considering the menu featured 11 new or “enhanced” sandwiches and nine new salads.

According to the shift leader at this Minnesota location, Panera’s new menu is a bit less complicated and also has less bakery items (though bagels and cookies remain).

“We are getting back to Panera at its best with these menu updates …,” said Alicia Mowder, Panera’s SVP of Product Strategy & Insights, in a statement. “We’ve listened to thousands of our guests.”

Some of the highlights of the 21 new and enhanced items on Panera’s menu:

  • Ciabatta Cheesesteak
  • Tomato Basil BLT
  • Chipotle Chicken Avo Melt
  • Mediterranean Chicken Greens with Grains
  • Southwest Chicken Ranch salad
  • Bacon Mac & Cheese

The Reviews Are In …

In a sampling of a handful of Panera’s new items, the Chicken Bacon Rancher sandwich was the best of the bunch. The sandwich – which features black pepper focaccia, applewood smoked bacon, and white cheddar – was chewy, flavorful, and rich.

The Mediterranean Chicken Greens and Grains bowl was solid and sizable. The Ciabatta Cheesesteak sandwich, with ingredients like peppadew peppers, was nice and spicy, though it didn’t feature an abundance of meat.

The biggest disappointment of the menu items was their price. Despite Panera advertising that the revamped menu featured “More New Options Under $10” (at participating locations), the Eagan, Minnesota café charged $12.99 for a Cheesesteak and $11.79 for sandwiches like the Chipotle Chicken Avo Melt.

What’s Next for Panera

Panera Bread has been on a growth spurt recently, with monthly visits over the past 12 months consistently exceeding 2022-23 levels, according to recent Placer.ai findings. Placer.ai also noted that there are “rumors swirling of a potential Panera Bread IPO in 2024.”

The St. Louis-based restaurant chain would appear to be in good position to attract investors; as of February 2024, visits to Panera were up 5.2% year-over-year.

“Panera has been a standout with respect to visitation trends in the fast casual category the past few years,” noted R.J. Hottovy, Placer.ai’s head of analytical research. “At a time when many operators have struggled to introduce new products, Panera has been an innovator.

“This has helped Panera drive visits across multiple dayparts, something that few restaurant operators can say in today’s environment.”