Panera has opened a new to-go only location in Chicago. It is the first of three set to open this year. California and Washington D.C. are scheduled to open later this year.
Panera To Go will offer pick-up and third-party delivery options. Orders will be prepared and placed on shelves for customers picking up. There is no seating available inside the store.
The concept is Panera’s own answer to limited real estate in crowded urban areas. Traditional Panera stores require considerable space to operate, typically housed in stand-alone buildings with a large parking lot or in strip malls.
These new stores will allow Panera to have a presence in areas they traditionally cannot exploit. The five ghost kitchens being tested now will also help to touch these markets. In fact, Panera has plans to open more ghost kitchens this year. They differ in that, To-Go is only available and payable through online and app-based ordering. The ghost kitchens, in a not-so-ghost-like way, will be branded locations operating for customer pick-up and an on-site pay option.
For customers that only have the option of traditional stores, Panera still offers digital order and pick-up, along with Panera Curbside, a service launched in 2020 that gets orders directly to customers waiting in their cars.