Panera Bread planning major menu changes (very soon)

Many of us are familiar with the largest players in the fast food business, but one of the fastest-growing corners of the restaurant market is actually fast casual. 

Fast casual is more like fast food’s overachieving younger brother. It’s a newer concept compared to the drive thru, but in many areas of the U.S. it’s been punching above its weight for some time. 

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At a fast-casual restaurant, typically there’s no waitstaff and customers order food for themselves upon entry. You’ll then either pick up your food at a counter when it’s ready — or in some cases, a cashier or service member will bring it to your table if you’re dining in. Fast casuals typically charge a little more than traditional fast food restaurants, usually claiming their food is higher quality and takes more time for preparation. 

Some of the most successful fast-casual restaurants in the U.S. include Chipotle  (CMG) , Sweetgreen  (SG) , Shake Shack  (SHAK) , and Panera Bread.

And while it remains a trending and oftentimes profitable spot to be in the fast-casual restaurant industry is also ripe with competition and perhaps the biggest constant when it comes to many of these companies is change itself.

Panera prepares for major menu changes

As fast-casual spots are constantly trying to outdo one another to attract more customers and bolster their comps, they often make menu changes or not-so-subtle tweaks to dazzle prospective diners. 

Chipotle may be the best example of this. The fast-casual Mexican chain is known for testing out new menu items like its beloved Chicken al Pastor and creamy dip-able cheese queso in recent years to keep up with taste trends. 

Similarly, Panera has been testing dinnertime trends at its bakery, offering things like flatbreads and savory mac and cheese dishes at later hours to attract a later-than 9 to 5 crowd. 

Panera is making some major menu changes.

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But Panera has seen mixed results with some of its newer additions, and in late February it announced it would eliminate some of its more hearty dinnertime options and instead iterate on the things it’s known best for, like its soups, salads, and sandwiches. 

Starting in April, Panera will bring a laundry list of new and improved items to its stores. Nine of them will be brand new. They are: 

Toasted ItalianoChicken Bacon RancherCiabatta CheesesteakTomato Basil BLTMediterranean Chicken Greens with GrainsSouthwest Chicken Ranch salad Balsamic Chicken Greens with GrainsRanch Cobb SaladBacon Mac and Cheese

Panera will also work to revitalize about 12 of its fan-favorite items, including: 

Bravo Club SandwichChipotle Chicken Avocado MeltFuji Apple Chicken Salad

It’s also been keenly aware of rising food prices in recent months, so Panera says it will increase cost-consciousness and offer more items in the $10 and under category. 

“We are getting back to Panera at its best with these menu updates that are centered completely on our guests and what they love about us. We’ve listened to thousands of guests on our path to unveiling more than 20 new or enhanced menu items and are thrilled to bring these products to Panera bakery-cafes nationwide,” Alicia Mowder, SVP of Product Strategy & Insights, said.

The newly rolled-out menu will be available on April 4 across Panera U.S. locations.

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