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Take a first look inside Panera's next-generation cafe

The new design will be about 20% smaller on the inside than one of the company's typical restaurants
Credit: SLBJ

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Panera Bread is rolling out the design for its next-generation cafe Thursday with the opening of a new cafe in Ballwin that will emphasize the national fast-casual chain’s origins as a bakery while adding double drive-thru lanes and technology that can greet customers by name.

In doing so, CEO Niren Chaudhary, who works from Boston, visited St. Louis to tell the story of Sunset Hills-based company's new "bakery-cafes," of which the Ballwin location, at 14646 Manchester Road, will be the first.

“Out of respect for our heritage and the residents of St. Louis, we want to showcase our best thinking here first, learn from the feedback, and then take it to the rest of the country,” Chaudhary told the Business Journal this week on a visit to the Ballwin location.

Chaudhary, however, declined to discus the company's plans to go public. Panera last week said it plans to file for an initial public offering with federal regulators. Now owned by Luxembourg-based private equity firm JAB Holdings, Panera said its IPO will be done in partnership with Shake Shack founder and St. Louis native Danny Meyer and his special purpose acquisition company, USHG Acquisition Corp.

Credit: SLBJ

In his visit to St. Louis this week, Chaudhary kept the focus on the new store, which, unlike other local Panera locations, will not retain the company's original name, St. Louis Bread Co.

The new design, which will be branded Panera, will also sport a different look from the traditional Panera. It will be about 20% smaller on the inside than one of the company's typical restaurants, while emphasizing its origins as a bakery and adding double drive-thru lanes outside for easier curbside pickup.

The “Panera of the future,” as officials have called the initiative, was in the works before the pandemic but takes into account customer changes in behavior in the last 18 months, such as the acceleration of takeout rather than dining in.

To read the full story and take a look at more photos, click here.