- Panera Bread just added flatbread pizzas to its menu after testing the item last year.
- The company is responding to customers' shift to eating more of their food at home, rather than inside a restaurant.
- Pizza could also lift Panera's delivery and dinner sales.
Panera Bread just added flatbread pizzas to its national menus as the coronavirus pandemic has pushed more of its customers to order carryout and delivery.
Starting Wednesday, chipotle chicken and bacon, margherita and cheese pizzas will join Panera's other offerings. The flatbread pizzas are large enough to be shared and are created to travel well, no matter how long delivery takes.
Eduardo Luz, Panera's chief brand and concept officer, said the pandemic has led to a shift in customers' behavior. More of them are eschewing its comfortable indoor seating and choosing delivery or takeout for safety reasons. Drive-thru orders, for example, have climbed by "high double digits," according to Luz. Panera, which is privately held by Krispy Kreme's owner JAB Holding, is among the many chains seeking to add more drive-thru lanes to its store footprint as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.
Delivery is also fueling sales. Luz said that delivery orders have doubled compared with the same time a year ago. And pizza on the menu could push those numbers even higher. Domino's, Papa John's and Yum Brands' Pizza Hut saw their sales soar during lockdowns as customers looked for easy and inexpensive meal options.
"We believe that flatbread pizza is a perfect fit for those channels," Luz said.
Panera's efforts to slim down its menu earlier this year helped make way for the new flatbread pizzas, according to Luz. Like McDonald's and Taco Bell, Panera had to cut menu items to reduce the workload for its kitchen staff, who were also dealing with the extra complexity of social-distancing measures.
The company began testing the new menu item last year as part of push for more dinner customers. Panera's soups, salads and sandwiches were too light for an evening meal for some, so the company focused on heartier fare, like the flatbread pizzas.
Pricing will start at $7.99.