Panera’s senior vice president of marketing, Chris Holland, published an article on Google’s ‘Think With Google’ site earlier this month. In the piece, he outlines how the quick service chain uses digital technology — everything from kiosks to search advertising, to ramp up demand at the company’s 2,200 locations.
According to Holland, the chain’s founder, Ron Shaich, noted a few years back that a Panera at noon resembled “a mosh pit.”
“Hundreds of impatient and demanding customers waited around to order and collect their food,” Holland wrote. “This was not the experience we wanted our customers to have.”
Panera decided to introduce some restaurant technology — a digital kiosk — to improve the customer experience by reducing wait times and remove some of the friction inherent wth an overcrowded space.
“Customers can explore and personalize menu items, and place orders more quickly,” Holland wrote. “Loyalty club members can even save preferences and payment details to earn rewards. We also introduced Rapid Pick-Up, a service that lets customers order via website or app and pick up without waiting in line.”
How has the public responded? Well, Holland noted that more than 30 percent of Panera’s orders now originate from the digital realm. The next step will be to begin using voice-activated ordering via the Panera app. Holland says that method can be 80 percent faster than the regular app ordering.
Panera’s MyPanera loyalty program has more than 30 million members and has been a “crucial” part of the company’s business, Holland states. Thanks to a wealth of data, the chain can use contextual and behavioral clues to customize messaging and give customers a more relevant experience when they use the app.
Ultimately, the company bases its technology decisions on what the customer wants. Those efforts appear to be paying off: Panera’s sales from mobile, web and kiosk orders have surpassed $1 billion annually.