ST. LOUIS — Panera Bread Co., known locally as Saint Louis Bread Co., wants to boost its evening business by testing a dinner menu, including new hot sandwiches.

The bakery-cafe chain has always been open during evening hours, but targeted the breakfast and lunch crowd. Adding dinner items follows Panera's revamp of its breakfast and coffee menus in April. Dinner comprises about 25 percent to 33 percent of Panera's sales, according to CNBC.

Lion's Choice is donating a former north St. Louis County location of the St. Louis-based fast food chain to the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. The restaurant chain, known for its roast beef sandwiches, is donating the 0.95-acre site as well as the more than 2,771-square-foot building at 3407 Dunn Road to the nonprofit organization.

The test menu will include 10 items available to order after 4:30 p.m. Panera will start testing the new dinner menu in July in Lexington, Kentucky, and bring it to Providence, Rhode Island, in September, officials said. The company already has been testing the dinner menu at one location in Jacksonville, Florida, CNBC reported.

The dinner-test items include hot sandwiches and three new categories for the fast-casual chain: artisan flatbreads, "hearty" bowls and seasonal side dishes. The dinner menu complements existing salad and soup options.

Chicken Salad Chick, a fast-casual chicken salad restaurant, is expanding its St. Louis-area footprint with the June 26 opening of its Edwardsville location, and a second Metro East store is planned for 2020. The new Chicken Salad Chick location is at 2323 Plum St.

Panera's new dinner menu test will offer:

  • Dinner bowls: teriyaki chicken and broccoli, and pesto chicken
  • Artisan flatbreads: steak and blue cheese, chipotle chicken and bacon, and Margherita (tomato, and mozzarella and fontina cheeses)
  • Signature sides: Parmesan broccoli, tomato basil and cucumber salad, and sweet potato mash
  • Hot sandwiches: toasted pastrami and toasted Tuscan grilled chicken

Bread Co. officials said that like its other menu items, all the new offerings are "100% clean," with no artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors or colors from artificial sources.

The test menu will be included in Panera's digital ordering platforms, including pickup and delivery, the company said. Panera, which launched breakfast delivery in November last year, currently receives over 60% of its delivery orders during lunchtime, according to CNBC. That might shift if Panera takes its dinner menu nationwide, but boosting delivery orders during dinner wasn't the primary reason for the new initiative, Dan Wegiel, Panera’s chief growth and strategy officer, told the news network.

A brew for the zoo. In an effort to raise awareness and funds for animal conservation, the Saint Louis Zoo is partnering with Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. to release its first official beer. Every case sold of Grizzly Ridge Kölsch, which will be available at St.

As of March 26, there were 2,130 company-owned or franchised bakery-cafes in 48 states and in Ontario, Canada, operating under the Panera Bread or Saint Louis Bread Co. names.

Sunset Hills-based Panera Bread Co. posted $5.6 billion in domestic sales in its most recent year, according to Nation's Restaurant News. Panera was publicly held until it was acquired by JAB Holding Co. for $7.5 billion in July 2017.

Panera hired Niren Chaudhary, who had been Krispy Kreme International's chief operating officer and president since 2017, as its next president and CEO, effective May 23. Panera's parent company, JAB Holding, also owns Krispy Kreme.

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