Panera Bread Adds Pizza to Its Menu Amid Ongoing Fast Food Decline

Amid the ongoing fast food decline, Panera Bread is hoping to one-up its competition by expanding [...]

Amid the ongoing fast food decline, Panera Bread is hoping to one-up its competition by expanding its menu. Customers headed to the fast-casual bakery-cafe chain will soon be able to sink their teeth into pizza, as a new flatbread pizza menu category is rolling out to locations nationwide this week.

Announced Wednesday and rolling out to a location near you sometime soon, the three pizza options include Cheese, Margherita, and Chipotle Chicken & Bacon. According to the chain, each of the three pizzas "begins with a foundation of crispy dough," which is finished on a pizza stone and topped with "delicious and clean ingredients," such as fresh mozzarella and fresh cilantro and basil. The new menu items were fine-tuned by Head Chef Claes Petersson, who described the flatbreads as "delicious" and "hearty."

"At Panera, baking is at the core of who we are and what we're known for – we knew that we had all the elements to bring our delicious, hearty flatbreads to life," Petersson, Panera's Chief Food & Innovation Officer, said. "With the launch of Flatbread pizza, we are looking to redefine the expectation of pizza and carve out a niche for Panera in the pizza category. Our Flatbread Pizzas encompass the best of what Panera has to offer: clean, delicious ingredients from our pantry on top of oven-baked flatbread that is expertly crafted for our guests."

The three dishes, which boast a "delicate yet crisp crust," are priced starting at $7.99 and offer a "hearty and satisfying" meal for one or a shareable meal for family and friends that pairs perfectly with Panera soup and salad. Panera says that with the launch, it is aiming to offer customers an exciting new category" that gives guests "more variety and options."

"Our guests choose Panera because they want to eat delicious food, that they can feel great about eating. Flatbread Pizzas — done the Panera way — are the perfect offering for this moment and beyond," Panera Bread Chief Brand & Concept Officer Eduardo Luz said. "Our guests have been asking for this for years. We think Panera's bread heritage and outstanding ingredients meet both the desire for high quality, crafted pizza as well as a growing customer off-premise behavior."

CNN reports that the launch of the new menu category comes as fast food chains have felt the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with interest in fast-casual breakfast on the decline. Panera had begun shifting its focus to its dinner business, which represented more than 30% of the company's sales, prior to the pandemic.