Mar 13, 2021 | Report Announcements

Panera is the 2nd largest fast casual player with a well-established cafe-bakery positioning around a menu featuring fresh/healthful ingredients, “foodie offers” and seasonal options/flavors. The brand seeks to reposition the conversation from around diets (and what you can’t have) to discussions about wellness food you should have (getting to “yes”) with “food that tastes good & is good for you”. Its ongoing menu evolution includes the addition of: improved breakfast offerings; “hearty” dinner options; non-carbonated and moderately sweetened beverage choices; and an upgraded coffee/espresso platform consistent with its parent company (JAB holdings) portfolio of specialty coffee chains. The goal is to expand beyond its core lunch daypart with menu items better suited for breakfast & dinner. To this end, its new flatbread pizza rollout helps address dinner and is well suited to a post-lockdown world. An improved value equation includes its: $5.99 Panera Duets on the You Pick 2 platform; new menu offerings priced under $10; and a $8.99/month unlimited coffee & tea subscription program. Notably, the industry’s largest loyalty program (MyPanera) drives 50%+ of transactions, generating double the frequency of non-member customers. Even though Panera is well known as a sit-down chain providing a 3rd place oasis, its substantial E-commerce sales mix is driven by Rapid Pick-Up orders and a unique, cost effective in-house delivery program which is complimented by DSP partnerships. Access could further benefit from a new prototype (possible 3Q:21 intro) featuring smaller cafes and seating areas, double drive-thru lanes, external rapid pickup access counters and designated curbside pickup areas. All-the-same, post-lockdown sales initially declined by -50%, reflecting Panera’s predominant sit-down model and it is notable that the chain is challenged in a post-lockdown world by a system in which only 39% of its locations offer a drive-thru. Further, historical comps already had been trending down as Panera’s premium positioning was challenged by a healthy, quality upscale positioning which may appeal to its core customers but not so much to value seeking consumers at the margin. A near system low EBITDAR margin reflects: post-lockdown sales challenges; high labor costs; relatively high ad costs; and elevated “other” operating expenses associated with its forays into digital, off-premise and delivery. In conclusion, Panera is well positioned for the long-term given: its solid execution around a healthy halo; returning consumer demand for dine-in; and steady improvements in value, digital and access.


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