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Saturday
Feb162019

Panera

Panera is well positioned around its "Concept Essence": food that tastes good and is good for you with an elevated experience (Panera is where food, wellness & the digital experience comes together). Key brand elements include: a cafe-bakery image which provides a "3rd place" oasis (beyond home & work place) with the comfort of a living room and the spirit of a village coffee shop; clean foods; and quality artisan products. As the first & only national restaurant chain with a 100% clean menu, Panera provides a unique consumer currency that is highly valued by its “foodie” customers and its menu is further distinguished by foodie offers like: Lentil Quinoa Bowl with Cage-Free Egg; Spicy Thai Salad with Chicken; and Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt sandwich. Panera's digital leadership (33% digital sales mix possibly on its way to 50%) provides improved access, customization capabilities and a platform to highlight its clean menu brand equity. Its digital platform is largely based upon its innovative 2.0 roll-out (75% complete) which includes: ordering kiosks; advanced ordering with app for Rapid Pickup; and web-based catering & delivery. A steadily increasing average retail check reflects growth in high ticket catering, delivery and Rapid Pick-Up orders and the brand also benefits from its MyPanera loyalty program which drives 50% of transactions, generating double the frequency of non-member customers. Having said all this, Panera's sales have been muted by: a difficult consumer environment marked by a sharp increase in QSR discounting; rapid growth from new fast casual entrants; and growing external competition from QSR+ and casual players providing greater value & faster service speeds at lunch. Its business model which emphasizes a healthy, quality upscale positioning may appeal to its core customers more so than marginal, value seeking consumers and, to this end, middling comp performance even after 75% system implementation of 2.0 suggests challenges to the brand's menu positioning (particularly as it relates to value). In conclusion, Panera must continue to exercise patience as it waits for its forward thinking strategy and positioning to gain traction in a challenging consumer environment which is currently marked by a higher demand for discounts more so than quality.

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