Feb 28, 2022 | Report Announcements

Panera is the 2nd largest fast casual player well-established around a menu featuring fresh/healthful ingredients, “foodie offers”, seasonal options/flavors and a cafe-bakery positioning comfortable for hanging-out. “Food that tastes good and is good for you” & “food as it should be” menu is distinguished by upscale offers like: Citrus Asian Crunch Salad with Chicken; Baja Bowl with Chicken; Thai Chicken Soup; and Smokehouse BBQ Chicken Sandwich. As a leader in food positivity, Panera is largely focused on grains, plant-based foods and lean-cut proteins. The chain 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”). The goal is to expand beyond its core lunch daypart with menu items better suited for breakfast & dinner (like its flatbread pizza platform). Panera continues to build upon its leading-edge digital ordering platform and multiple access points which include drive-thru, Rapid Pick-Up, curbside pick-up, in-store kiosks, order from my table, delivery & catering. Also, the chain benefits from the industry’s largest loyalty program (MyPanera) which drives 50%+ of transactions, generating 2x the frequency of non-member customers. All-the-same, a double-digit comp decline in 2020 primarily reflected Panera’s predominant model as a sit-down chain providing a 3rd place oasis for core boomer customers with money to weather economic downturns but with health concerns that make them more reticent to dine-out over the last couple of years. Also, the chain’s premium positioning can be challenged by industry discounting and while its business model (emphasizing a healthy, quality upscale positioning) may appeal to its core customers, it is less appealing to value seeking consumers at the margin. Also, growth in digital/off-premise orders translate into a lower dine-in mix which subtracts from the chain’s dine-in oasis core positioning. In conclusion, while Panera is well positioned for the long-term with a healthy halo and digital strength, near-term results may be tempered by the need for: more value in a difficult economy; a return to normal dine-in habits; and a solution to relatively high labor costs.

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