Panera Bread introduces grocery pickup and delivery service

If whole foods are not being delivered to you, Panera may be able to help.

The sandwich, soup and salad chain, which already supplies meals from its extensive menu via its own driver team and via Grubhub, is now bringing Panera Grocery onto the market. With the new service, customers can order in-demand pantries, including milk, fruit and vegetables and (of course) bread. The goods are competitive with items similar to those in supermarkets.

“Our mission has always been to make good food accessible,” says CEO Niren Chaudhary. “We want to strengthen our off-premise channels so that we can better serve consumers and employ as many people as possible.”

[Image: courtesy Panera]

Panera will continue to use its locations to serve take-away meals to customers. (According to Chaudhary, employees are taking extra precautions, including frequent hand washing and disinfecting surfaces.) In stores with no drive-through access, roadside pick-up options known as “drive-up” have recently been introduced. All deliveries are now contactless. In addition, food is delivered in sealed packaging to minimize the risk of contamination.

Restaurants across the country have been busy delivering groceries for the past few weeks to help stay afloat during the COVID-19 crisis. Panera, with more than 2,100 bakery-cafes in 48 states and Canada (half of which are franchise companies), is the largest restaurant group in the US to offer such services. To do this seamlessly – it took the company two weeks to develop and roll out the service – Panera leverages its massive supply chain and enviable network of drivers. In particular, the cost of delivering food to customers remains the same regardless of the size of their order. “We hope that customers who order a meal like a soup or a sandwich from us will see the other offers and also order milk or apples, but the delivery price will not change.”

[Image: courtesy Panera]

According to Chaudhary, COVID-19 has halved the company’s business: Nearly 50% of Panera’s customers traditionally dined on-site. In response, Panera has put a significant portion of its non-franchise employees on leave, but is still maintaining the health benefits for unemployed workers, paying them a quarter of their salary while they wait to return to work. Other employees have also seen pay cuts.

“The best we can do together is to improve our return on sales, as we can get more people off vacation and get back into active employment,” says Chaudhary, adding that the company works for all employees, including them. offers weekly family meals on leave.

Panera is also helping employees on leave find temporary employment with companies that have been overwhelmed by the growth of their business due to the coronavirus, including CVS and Walmart. “CVS has its own homepage for Panera employees so that employees on leave can find temporary employment without much friction and then return at the right time,” says Chaudhary.

Chaudhary hopes the grocery delivery service can be of particular help to people who are quarantined and unable to leave their homes. “We already have the drivers and the delivery service. This is a natural addition to our offering, ”he says.

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