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Saint Louis Bread Co. parent Panera ends in-house delivery operations

The company has slowly phased out its self-delivery channel during the pandemic, and now relies on third-party delivery services
Credit: Panera Bread Co.
Artisan flatbreads are among the new categories Panera Bread Co. is testing during dinner hours. From top: chipotle chicken and bacon, steak and blue cheese, and Margherita (tomato with mozzarella and fontina cheeses).

ST. LOUIS — Panera Bread Co., the Sunset Hills-based operator of the bakery-cafe chain, is shutting down its in-house delivery operations after five years.

The company, whose cafes are known locally as Saint Louis Bread Co., has slowly phased out its self-delivery channel during the pandemic, and now relies on third-party delivery services, officials told trade publication Restaurant Business last week.

“Panera continually evaluates our model to put guest preferences at the center of everything we do,” Chris Correnti, senior vice president of off-premise channels for Panera, said in a statement to Restaurant Business. “This change enables Panera to offer a broader delivery range to serve increased demand for delivery, in response to an off-premise market that has grown and shifted dramatically over the past year.”

Panera began offering delivery in 2016, quickly scaling up the in-house operation by hiring thousands of its own drivers. However, the chain in 2019 began offering delivery with third-party providers Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Easts to expand delivery, although most deliveries were to be made by Panera employees. Those employees could serve other duties when delivery demand was low.

It's unclear what impact the delivery switch has had on employees who previously performed delivery service. However, Panera has been reopening inside dining at its locations as local Covid-19 restrictions have allowed, and the move could be related to staffing issues, one analyst told Nation's Restaurant News.

“For Panera to abandon their vehicles and the capabilities they built in years ago, I can only think they did not want to do this and they are so short on employees that they had to,” John Gordon, a restaurant analyst with Pacific Management Consulting Group, told NRN.  

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