How Panera Personalized Their Guest Experience with In-Store Kiosks and Mobile Ordering

Panera Customer Experience Design

Panera Customer Experience Design


No business or industry is immune to the disruptions of a mobile-first, on-demand world. In this series of blog articles, we’ll explore how a few rockstar businesses are tackling that challenge, leveraging connected, mobile solutions to level-up their customer experiences.

Some Background

Mobile internet traffic has increased every year since the event of the iPhone, and today mobile phone usage amounts to 52.2% of all online activity. In a world where more people have access to cell phones than toilets, the demand for convenient mobile experiences has birthed a new age of connected technology..

As industries and businesses adapt to the digital age, more and more companies are using Internet-of-Things-connected technology to meet customer demand for on-the-spot service and personalized experiences.

Panera’s Success – From Soup to Nuts

The restaurant industry has seen a major transformation thanks to the onslaught of change ushered in by the digital era. While 73% of diners agree that restaurant technology improves their guest experience, an overwhelming 95% of restaurateurs say it also improves their business efficiency.

Panera Bread is one of those restaurateurs. Known for its delicious soups and sandwiches, the chain has been in business for a quarter of a decade, priding itself on healthier options with a comfort-food feel, a warm atmosphere, and a friendly, knowledgeable staff. Unfortunately, Panera’s competition has increased in the last decade as more and more fast-casual restaurants have caught on to the healthy options trend.

To retain their edge in a highly competitive restaurant industry, Panera decided to relaunch its customer experience around digital and mobile – using connected customer platforms as the foundation for an improved guest experience both in-store and online.

In order keep up with new technology and elevated customer expectations, the popular restaurant chain knew it had to find a way to reinvent its brand. Panera wanted to create a more curated experience while simultaneously delivering faster, easier, and more secure ordering and payment options and keeping the quality of their menu high. Not an easy task, to say the least!

Where to Begin?

Panera started by taking a look at its current customer experience to identify where key pain points existed for its restaurant guests. The biggest concern that floated to the top was the need to reduce customer friction and create a better element of personalization while maintaining steady operations during high traffic store hours like lunchtime.

To truly understand the customer experience, the restaurant’s executive team needed to spend time in physical restaurants. They needed to see firsthand how customers would interact with their digital tools and verify that there would be an added benefit when integrated into the new customer experience. With this in mind, Panera’s team decided to test a new suite of tech tools for the chain that included mobile apps, an order-ahead service, in-store kiosks, tableside mobile ordering, and more.

  1. Panera Bread mobile app

  2. Order-ahead website portal

  3. In-store Rapid Pick-up display - digital orders

  4. Fast lane kiosks for dine-in and to-go orders

  5. Tableside mobile ordering

Another key element of the rollout was to ensure the experience was consistent across all stores – that a store in Lima, Ohio would offer the same personalized customer experience as one in Little Rock, Arkansas. To make sure that was the case, the Panera customer design team worked through one store at a time. With each new location, they launched the technology, ran it, and then took the time to learn from it — making sure they were providing the benefit they had intended.

According to Panera’s Mark Berinato, vice president of experience design, the real tech-focused win centered around its in-store kiosks. Diners order at their own speed and have access to all of the information they need, such as menu items, nutrition facts, and even You Pick 2 options. “It allows us to have a better conversation with our customers,” he said. And “it’s actually giving people a super power.”

The kiosks are able to access previous customer orders, giving customers a new level of personalization and connection with the brand.

These kiosks, as well as the mobile platform and other digital assets, are providing an even more valuable service to the brand than a convenient point of sale. Each customer touchpoint communicates with the others, enabling impressive personalization and providing the company with invaluable insights about its customers. This includes data about what customers want and what the beloved chain can do to ensure customers leave (and stay) satisfied.

What Were The Results?

At the risk of understating it, Panera customers took to the upgrades happily. The long lines that once annoyed customers are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Panera is fulfilling 3.1 million orders a week via its digital platform and 30% of its total sales are now digital, according to Blaine Hurst, company CEO and president. What’s more, the success looks to only continue with self-order kiosks representing 15% of sales in stores where they are available. Hurst also added that “ can spend more time helping the customer, and that leads to a better customer experience.” It’s a win all around.

Rather than pushing a new piece of technology en masse on a customer base, Panera’s team took the time to carefully research and experience for themselves the technology they thought their customers could benefit from. They worked hard to hone in on platforms that would provide the most personalized, on-demand service.

Stories like Panera’s illustrate the way the Internet of Things (IoT) has engulfed and transformed the customer experience in today’s digital world. Mobile apps talking to in-store kiosks talking to pick-up displays talking to prep workers behind the counter.

Today’s customers are often won or lost on the basis of personalized and convenient service — and, increasingly, this level of service is driven by IoT technology. This connected tech is a game-changer for the customer experience, provided companies take the time to seek out what their customers want, develop the technology that will benefit them, and continue to monitor their new connected platforms and revise them when needed.

Outside Source delivers the apps, integrations and strategy that power connected user experiences.

Apps, UX/UIMichael Kritsch