What is in this article?:
- Panera to roll out pasta systemwide
- New initiatives, new CFO
The new platform is one of many culinary initiatives planned for bakery-café chain.
Panera Bread Co. executives said Wednesday that the bakery-café chain would introduce pasta systemwide by the end of the first quarter, the result of tests over the past two years.
Ronald Shaich, chairman and co-chief executive of St. Louis-based Panera, said the pasta platform was among other culinary initiatives planned at the 1,652-unit chain, which reported Tuesday that fourth-quarter profit increased 34 percent from the prior-year period.
The company's culinary and catering initiatives of the past year contributed to a fourth-quarter systemwide same-store sales increase of 4.9 percent, with company-owned same-store sales rising 5.1 percent and franchised units increasing 4.7 percent. At company locations, transactions declined 0.3 percent year-over-year, but check averages rose 5.4 percent, the company said.
For the new pasta category, which has been in regional tests, Panera will initially roll out three pasta items systemwide, Shaich said. The dishes —tortellini alfredo, pesto saccottini (“purses”), and rustic penne Bolognese — will likely be permanent menu additions, according to the company.
“For more than two years, we have been at work developing several high-quality pasta offerings that fit within our production system and complement our soup and salad platforms," Shaich said.
The pasta dishes will be offered in two sizes and both will include a half salad or cup of soup.
In addition, the company is seeing success in convincing customers to trade up to items with higher prices. During 2012, the higher-priced “Signature” and hot sandwich categories performed well, Shaich said, adding that sales of those items increased 34 percent in the fourth quarter and 18 percent for year.
“The strong result in the quarter was the continued success of our roast and avocado BLT sandwich and the introduction of the Big Kid Grilled Cheese,” Shaich said. The Big Kid features Vermont Cheddar, Gruyere and American cheeses with applewood-smoked bacon.
“We saw an interesting trend with the Big Kid Grilled Cheese, which illustrates the power of the choice we provide our guests,” Shaich said. “Our initial belief was that the Big Kid Grilled Cheese would take share away from the other sandwiches, however we saw a lot of customers trading up out of café sandwiches to the Big Kid Grilled Cheese, which provided check growth.”