Panera Bread Test Bakery

St. Louis-based Panera Bread Co. announces a new test bakery facility in New Haven, Conn., where it is testing new products and reimagining Panera favorites, such as breads with new grains and croissants with updated fillings and flavors, as well as experimenting with staffing models. The goal, according to the company, is to enhance the bakery side of its business.

Instead of doing all this work behind closed doors and during traditional bakers’ hours, Panera’s test bakers are working in full view of customers during the day.

“Panera began with bread,” explains Tom Gumpel (shown), 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, for instance, will be available at all Panera locations as a bagel flat this month.

"We are one of the first restaurant chains in our industry to offer sprouted grain bread products to our customers," Gumpel says. "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. 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," says Scott Davis, Panera Bread chief concept officer. "Our test bakery is an extension of that commitment and bakery leadership."

On May 7, the company introduced a lineup of flatbread sandwiches nationwide. In test for more than a year, the flatbread 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.

Source: Panera Bread, Marketwired