Restaurant Business recently honored Panera Bread with the Tech Accelerator of the Year award, which is the top technology award in the restaurant industry. Panera received the award for their efforts in expanding the boundaries of how technology is used in-store.
The strategy that Panera has implemented is called Panera 2.0, which began in 2014. Panera is now implementing a mobile app for placing orders to be picked up when most convenient for the customer. They have also added self-service kiosks for customers to place their order, which helps eliminate lines and gives customers an easier way to customize their orders.
In an April 2014 news release announcing the project’s launch, Panera CEO Ron Shaich described Panera 2.0 as "an integrated, comprehensive, end-to-end solution that we believe will reduce friction such as wait times, improve order accuracy, and minimize or eliminate crowding.”
The strategy’s primary purpose is to improve the guest experience. In Panera’s 2014 annual report, Panera stated: "[We] upgraded equipment, such as kitchen display systems, to improve order execution and increase throughput, especially at lunch. Our increased focus on process disciplines has also improved speed and accuracy, which is crucial as customization grows."
Kelly Killian, group editor of foodservice for Winsight Media, the publisher of Restaurant Business, says Panera 2.0 is an indicator for what is to come in the restaurant industry.
“It’s integrated, technology-driven approach has helped make ‘frictionless’ service a pillar of the fast-casual experience, resetting customers’ expectations around speed of service and producing enviable results in sales and utilization,” Killian said.
Over a year into the transition, Panera has seen a positive return on their 42 million dollar investment into the Panera 2.0 technology. The annual report also saidIt'sat sales had increased and guest friction has decreased in the stores where Panera 2.0 is implemented. The growth that Panera has seen so far is promising, and they are targeting a 2-3.5 percent increase in sales for the fiscal year of 2015.