Panera Bread Company (NASDAQ: PNRA), the restaurant founded on a commitment to fresh baked bread, is announcing a new test bakery facility.
At the bakery in New Haven, CT, the company is testing new products while reimagining Panera favorites, like breads with new grains and croissants with updated fillings and flavors. It’s also experimenting with staffing models. The goal is to enhance the bakery side of the company’s business.
But instead of doing all this work behind closed doors and during traditional bakers’ hours — in the wee hours of the morning — Panera has its test bakers working in full view of customers, during the day.
“Panera began with bread,” explained Tom Gumpel, the company’s Head Baker. “It’s our passion, soul and expertise. Our test bakery is an example of our continued focus on our identity as bakers, as we push ourselves to keep learning how best to lay out, staff and operate our bakeries.”
Panera is studying the test location to understand how updated products and staffing models could affect its nearly 1,800 bakery-cafes.
Several innovations are already planned to roll out across the chain this year. A new sprouted grain bread offering, currently testing at the New Haven bakery, will be available in all Panera locations as a bagel flat beginning in May.
“We are one of the first restaurant chains in our industry to offer sprouted grain bread products to our customers,” Gumpel said. “This grain wasn’t available to purchase at scale when we started testing, but through relationships with our millers we’ve been able to grow the supply.”
“Sprouted grains are a good source of fiber and rich in taste,” he continued. “This is another nutritious whole grain that Panera is making accessible to its customers in popular bagel form. It’s an incredible step forward for our bakeries.”
Staffing models that allow bakers more customer interaction during the day are also planned to roll out system-wide this year. In the meantime, the brand remains committed to baking fresh bread at all locations.
“Our commitment to baking is on display in every one of our 1,800 bakery-cafes,” said Scott Davis, Panera Bread Chief Concept Officer. “Our test bakery is an extension of that commitment and bakery leadership.”
On May 7th, the bakery-cafe company introduced a lineup of flatbread sandwiches nationwide. In test for more than a year, the flatbread itself is Panera’s take on traditional Indian “naan” with fillings inspired by the global travels of Gumpel and Panera’s Head Chef, Dan Kish. The three flatbread varieties include Mediterranean Chicken, Thai Chicken and Southwestern Chicken. Flatbreads will be baked daily by Panera bakers at all locations.
Panera Bread currently employees more than 6,000 bakers who craft more than 250 million bagels and 50 million baguettes each year.