- Panera is revamping its dinner strategy, testing a new dinner-only menu of heartier, hot items.
- The fast-casual chain is trying to bring in customers at breakfast and dinner, moving beyond its lunch-centric reputation.
- “There’s probably a diminishing return of how many more lunch occasions we can get,” Dan Wegiel, Panera’s chief growth and strategy officer, told Business Insider.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Panera is revamping its dinner strategy as the fast-casual chain tries to win over customers outside of lunch.
On Wednesday, Panera announced that it is testing an entirely new dinner menu featuring items such as flatbreads, bowls, heartier sandwiches, and side dishes like roasted parmesan broccoli and sweet potato mash. The chain wil begin testing the 10-item menu in Lexington, Kentucky, in July and Providence, Rhode Island, in September.
“Our customer was telling us … there’s opportunities, there’s definitely permission, but the biggest single gap is more dinner-appropriate food, because we are lunch-centric,” Dan Wegiel, Panera’s chief growth and strategy officer, told Business Insider.
According to Wegiel, roughly a third to a fourth of Panera’s business comes from dinnertime customers. The chain has never made a major push for dinner customers. The menu test, Wegiel says, is intended to use “hot, hearty, filling” foods available after 4:30 p.m. to signal to customers that they should consider Panera more seriously as a dinner option.
Panera is working to win over customers outside of the lunch rush, both earlier and later in the day. Earlier this year, the chain debuted a new breakfast strategy with three new breakfast wraps and updated coffee options.
Panera is primarily looking to increase frequency among existing customers, convincing them to visit for dinner and breakfast as well as lunch.
“When you look at where they’re coming to us, it is still disproportionately lunch,” Wegiel said. “And so there’s probably a diminishing return of how many more lunch occasions we can get.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.