Panera Bread has announced the opening of its first “Panera To Go,” a new restaurant format offering digitally-enabled convenience for Rapid Pick-Up and Delivery orders. The Chicago-based restaurant is the first of three Panera To Go test locations scheduled to open this year.

Panera To Go is a digital-only bakery-café, with a reduced front of house where guests and delivery drivers can easily pick up orders from Rapid Pick-Up and Delivery shelves. Designed for densely populated areas that cannot accommodate a dine-in bakery-café, the new format allows Panera to meet the demand in these areas for easy off-premise options.

“We strive to make it easy for our guests to access Panera’s chef-curated menu, in the most convenient way. Panera To Go creates yet another access point for our guests, via Rapid Pick-Up or Delivery, in locations where Panera has not historically operated,” says Eduardo Luz, chief brand & concept officer, Panera Bread. “We are excited to launch into more trade areas, where we know people are craving for what Panera offers—freshly prepared delicious dishes, crafted by our chefs and bakers, using clean ingredients.”

As of the end of 2021, 81 percent of Panera’s sales were via one of Panera’s off-premise channels including Delivery, Rapid Pick-Up, Drive-Thru and Catering. The Panera To Go front of house does not offer any seating and is currently testing Delivery and Rapid Pick-Up on shelves that guests and delivery drivers can easily access.

Panera plans to open two additional Panera To Go cafés in California and Washington DC this year, and will also evaluate adding in Kiosk and Catering orders to the new format in the future. The intention of Panera To Go bakery-cafés is to service all dayparts including breakfast, as applicable.

Recently, the brand has been actively testing ghost kitchens, with five currently operational nationwide and more planned to open this year. The Panera To Go concept differs from ghost kitchens in that the new format offers a branded front-of-house experience where guests can quickly pick up digital orders on their own. Ordering and payment for Panera To Go orders are only available on Panera’s digital channels via web or on the Panera app.

“Panera To Go is another way we can make our guests’ lives easier through digital convenience, which is always at the heart of what we do,” says George Hanson, chief digital officer, Panera Bread. “We are already leaders in providing our guest with an exceptional digital experience and adapted our digital channels to provide our guest even more options in the Panera To Go format.”