Panera invests $42 million in mobile ordering, in-store kiosks

Panera Bread Co. (NASDAQ: PNRA) is planning to invest $42 million in an overhaul of its technology and roll out mobile and kiosk ordering companywide.

The upgrades include a new "Rapid Pick-Up" program, which lets customers place to-go orders via a mobile app, and an "Enhanced To-Go and Eat-In" option, which lets customers order at a kiosk, pick up their order at the counter and eat in the cafe.

Panera executives revealed the developments this week via a video post on the company's website.

"I know that this is key to the future of Panera," said Panera CEO Ron Shaich in the newly released Panera 2.0 training video. "If Panera isn't able to make the step and really figure out how to use technology to enable a better and different guest experience, Panera won't be the success it has been in the past."

The "Rapid Pick-Up" option is already in the testing phase in roughly 150 Panera locations, and the company plans to make it available nation-wide by the end of this year. The kiosks will be rolled out over the next three years. Both initiatives are designed to decrease wait times and encourage more Panera customers to grab their food while on-the-go.

"With long lines eliminated, our to-go customers are easy in, easy out, and our eat-in customers can relax and enjoy," said Rich Childs, a multi-unit franchisee, in the training video.

The company also said that it is planning to upgrade its restaurant production spaces and procedures, to further reduce wait time and increase efficiency behind the counter.

Panera joins a growing list of retailers that have installed technology in stores to make it easier for customers to find what they want, and fast. Most recently, Men's Wearhouse (NYSE: MW) announced its new employee-facing Find-It app that allows store staff to check inventory levels across the entire network and add an item to the customer's order from any location. More than 650 retail stores will also be equipped with iPads with which employees can access and use the app.

For more:
-See this Panera video
-See this Panera press release

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Williams-Sonoma has record holiday, credits omnichannel strategy
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