On October 28, 2021 Panera releases their Flatbread Pizzas. The original lineup included a margarita flatbread pizza, a cheese flatbread pizza, and a chipotle chicken flatbread pizza. Although this move looks like it might be a way to boost sales during the pandemic, flatbread pizzas have been in talks for over a year before the release.
Will pizza help with delivery sales?
The strategy behind this move seems to be sold as a way of providing more meal options with clean ingredients that customers can feel better about eating, rather than some other fast-food options. However, this move has seemed to be more of a push to boost their delivery sales. Delivery sales have almost doubled with the launch of the flatbread pizza, and with this increase in delivery orders, overall sales have increased by thirty percent (Ellwanger, 2020). Delivery has been able to take off for many fast-food chains during the pandemic because of its perceived safety.
For Panera, the flatbread pizza and the pandemic created a perfect storm. Along with delivery, Panera also quickly perfected curbside pickup which I have personally used. I have found it easy to order on the app, and the pickup was quick. I agree that Panera's delivery service is reliable, but was flatbread pizza a good fit for the company?
Does pizza have a place in the bakery café chain?
One of the biggest concerns is whether Panera is overstepping its boundaries. For example, where does pizza fall on the already-large menu that Panera offers?
Head Chef Clase Peterson explained that the cafes were already outfitted with the equipment and most of the ingredients needed to create these flatbread pizzas (Klein, 2020). Clase's answer makes me wonder if Panera's move to flatbread is less of an interest to make a “cleaner” pizza, or it is more of a decision to try to increase sales without adding food costs too drastically.
In the greater schemes of what a bakery café has to offer, people usually expect to find salad, sandwiches, soups, and an assortment of sweet and savory pastries. Pizza via the way of flatbread makes more sense in a bakery café like Panera. In this case, however, it may be an overreach. Flatbreads taste decent when they are fresh out of the oven, but after a few minutes, they can get told and tasteless.
So, is the excitement really about taste? Or, is the marketing campaign that made this move a successful one?
What role does advertising play to help promote Panera's flatbread pizza?
Panera's marketing campaign, like any other major fast-food chains', was extensive. One reason why the flatbread pizza campaign was particularly successful came from its partnership with Pepsi.
The campaign revolved around a sweepstake where the prize was a pizza party, or electronic gift cards from Panera to order flatbread pizzas (Williams, 2020). This advertising campaign also brought on influencers, such as King Batch, to help promote the flatbread pizzas to their followers. Such a marketing campaign used pandemic and virtual meetings to their advantage, with commercial spots and social media advertising focusing on this virtual meeting with friends.
While this marketing campaign was successful, I still feel pizza is out of place for a company like Panera. It might be better for Panera to focus on products they already have, such as the marketing campaign for their coffee subscription that was launched a year ago. This coffee subscription made sense for the company because coffee is already a staple for the company.
The biggest questions to come from this conversation include: Is it profitable for companies to tap into other markets? Or, should they focus on the fine-tune markets in which they already do well?
About the Author:
Ellwanger, S. (2020). Seeking bigger slice of takeout, Panera Bread adds pizza to menu. MediaPost.com 10/28/2020. https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/357255/seeking-bigger-slice-of-takeout-panera-bread-adds.html.
Klein, D. (2020). With digital surging, Panera joins the pizza category. QSR magazine. https://www.qsrmagazine.com/exclusives/digital-surging-panera-joins-pizza-category.
Williams, R. (2020, December 14). Panera, Pepsi bite into virtual pizza party trend. Marketing Dive. https://www.marketingdive.com/news/panera-pepsi-bite-into-virtual-pizza-party-trend/592089/.