(Continued from page 1)

Executives said in locations like a test unit in Braintree, Mass., sales can reach $2,000 an hour, and the new systems allow workers to focus and reach those levels. In addition, Panera has created a “kiosk ambassador” to help customers unfamiliar with the technology.

“Everything we are doing is to make it less complex for our operators,” Shaich said.

In addition, Shaich said the technology helps increase order accuracy, which in many restaurant operations can have one out of seven orders coming out wrong.

“We’ve done a little better than most people, but it’s not good enough,” Shaich said.

The company is also looking at smaller footprints for new Panera units, at 1,500 square feet and below, Shaich said.

“We can’t assume that the same store we open in Lincoln, Neb., is going to work in Lincoln Center in Midtown Manhattan. It is different. It has different economics,” he said.

Panera executives also unveiled a new India-style flatbread similar to naan that will debut nationwide this year.

“In the process of talking about different sandwiches a year or two ago, we realized we needed something that felt a little lighter,” said Scott Davis, Panera’s chief concept and innovation officer.

The bread is unfinished on one side and grilled to order.

“It creates a wonderful flavor,” Davis said. “The great news is, if you want to use this cold, make it into a regular sandwich, you can do that too. It folds up nicely.”

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, Panera Bread Co. reported that profit increased 5.1 percent to $54.2 million, compared with $51.6 million in the prior-year period. Revenue increased 15.8 percent in the quarter, to $661.7 million from $571.5 million.

Same-store sales increased 1.1 percent systemwide in the fourth quarter, with same-store sales at company-owned units rising 1.7 percent over the prior year, and franchised units increasing 0.5 percent.

Please contact Ron Ruggless at ronald.ruggless@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless