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Panera expands drive-thru options

Panera storefront
Panera is combining digital ordering with the drive-thru window. (Photo: Business Wire)

Panera customers have a new ordering opportunity at the drive-thru window.

The fast-casual restaurant chain is combining digital ordering with the drive-thru experience with the launch of "drive-thru pick-up" at its stores across the nation. Customers can select the option when ordering ahead on the Panera app or e-commerce site and then pick up their online order without leaving their vehicle.

Panera stores featuring the option will still offer the traditional drive-thru experience with the ability to order directly at the drive-thru screen. With dDrive-thru pick-up, customers who order ahead can announce their name at the speaker and pull ahead to the window.

Panera goes high-tech for ordering and payment

The launch follows the rollout of other omnichannel ordering features, such as curbside, mobile order-ahead for plated dine-in, rapid pick-up, and delivery. Panera also began testing artificial intelligence (AI)-enhanced drive-thru ordering at select stores in August 2022.

In addition, the retailer is allowing members of its MyPanera loyalty program to order via Amazon Alexa, using Echo Show devices. With this new feature, MyPanera members can ask Alexa on an Echo Show device to order Panera items for pick-up or delivery, and the order will be completed.

Panera also recently began piloting Amazon's palm-based identification solution, Amazon One, at two stores in its headquarters city of St. Louis, with plans to expand to additional locations in the coming months.

Customers who link their MyPanera loyalty account to Amazon One be able to make frictionless, palm-based payments, as well as receive tailored meal recommendations from Panera associates based on their preferences and previous orders.

“Panera pioneered the idea of digital ordering in the restaurant industry, and for years, our customers have loved the option to order ahead and pick their items up on the Rapid Pick-Up® shelf,” said Chris Correnti, senior VP, channels and guest experience, Panera Bread. “Now we’re extending that convenience to the drive-thru, giving our customers another fast and convenient way to get their favorite Panera meal.”

As of April 25, 2023, there were 2,121 Panera Bread stores in 49 states and in Ontario, Canada, operating under the Panera Bread or Saint Louis Bread Co. names. Panera Bread is part of Panera Brands, one of the largest fast casual restaurant companies in the U.S., comprised of Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels.


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