By Emma Nitzsche
Panera Bread expanded its catering options for remote and hybrid workers as the U.S. business climate shifted post-pandemic. With over 45% of the workforce expecting to have a hybrid workforce model in 2021, Panera, which has claimed to be the largest restaurant caterer in the U.S., wants to continue serving its customers in the post-pandemic world.
The first program, Panera Connects, allows companies to host meetings with attendees scattered throughout the nation. The meeting host creates an event on Panera’s website, and the attendees are notified. Each member will place their order and address into a form sent to the attendees’ local Panera restaurant. After the food is made and delivered, the meeting host is billed.
Panera Connects is currently only available to MyPanera loyalty members, but the program will open to the public later this year. The restaurant chain hopes that by expanding the program to the public, they can reach other catering events such as remote baby showers or graduation parties. With over 2,200 locations, Panera can cater meetings with hundreds of employees spread out across the U.S.
Chris Correnti, Panera’s Senior Vice President of Off-Premise Channels, said Panera Connects “supports an inclusive, collaborative environment that employers are looking for in this new pandemic environment.”
The second catering option is called Panera Day at Work. This program allows individual employees to place their orders at a group discount. Then, after multiple employees place an order, the food is delivered to the office at a specific time. Correnti said the program has gained traction as internal cafeterias struggle to reopen.
“We’ve heard from a lot of companies that this is great because people don’t have the comfort or availability to leave the building and find somewhere else to eat,” Correnti explained.
Panera uses its second catering option as an incentive for employers to encourage workers to return to the office or come into work on a specific day. Since the program started six months ago, it has already contracted 250 locations, including Fortune 100 companies.
“Catering is super important for Panera. The good news is we’re seeing it come back, but not in the way prior to the pandemic. It’s a new world and work has changed. That means finding a way to cater to traditional, hybrid and remote workers,” Correnti told Forbes.
Before the pandemic, Panera made 10% of its profit off of its catering business. As the world begins to reopen, the company wants to regain those numbers and cater to all types of workers throughout the U.S.