Panera Bread is now catering to remote and hybrid employees as it moves to regain sales in the once high-ticket sector.
The chain’s new program, Panera Connects, enables companies to host catered meetings regardless of where attendees are located. The service is now available to all loyalty customers and will also be open to the general public later this year, reported Forbes (July 19).
“It’s a new world and work has changed,” Chris Correnti, senior vice president of Off-Premise Channels, told Forbes. “That means finding a way to cater to traditional, hybrid, and remote workers.”
In tests, Panera Connects successfully catered to meetings with hundreds of attendees in different locations. To streamline the experience, Panera relies on its robust technological infrastructure to send push notifications to attendees and collect order requests and delivery locations.
From there, the company finalizes orders by utilizing its large national footprint — approximately about 2,200 locations — along with its background in third-party delivery services and partnerships.
Adoption has been significant across a wide range of industries, from finance and insurance to hospitals and higher education. The program supports an inclusive, collaborative environment, which is what Correnti believes employers are looking for in the post-pandemic climate.
Panera Connects is also positioned to further strengthen Panera’s loyalty program, which currently exceeds 40 million members. A growing number of restaurants have been leveraging loyalty programs to generate sales and stay competitive in recent years, amid rising customer expectations for their dining experience
When the catering service reaches the general public later this year, Correnti expects an uptick in orders outside the standard business-to-business, as consumers are eager to host more catered events post-pandemic.
Nearly 72% of consumers plan to hold an in-person event in 2021, with hotels and private restaurant space among the top selected sites for hosting, after hosting at home or at a “unique venue,” according to a report from Tripleseat and SevenRooms.
“It’s a little too soon to tell what the future of catering looks like,” said Correnti. “It’s evolving really rapidly and we’re recognizing these new occasions and getting in front of them.”