Shaich comments on Panera delivery initiative

ST. LOUIS — During the Panera Bread Co. conference call April 29 with investment analysts, Ron Shaich, chairman and chief executive officer, spoke at length about a test program the company has undertaken, delivering menu items from Panera bakery cafes. His full remarks follow:

Ron Shaich, Panera's chairman and c.e.o.

Now let's turn our attention to delivery. This is a powerful sales building initiative, and something that everybody in our industry seems to be talking about at this point. In the case of Panera, we’ve been working on this for some time. Indeed, we have been testing delivery for over a year and are now operating in two markets with our own Panera driver model and in two markets with two partners providing third-party outsourced driver model.

To give you some sense of our commitment to this effort I should note that our delivery efforts are led by the former president of one of the big three pizza delivery operators and his former senior vice-president of operations.

Let me share some of what we’ve come to understand about delivery. We’ve come to believe that delivery offers us the potential to materially increase our sales volumes per cafe and to become a long-term driver of sales growth. In fact, I would call it a very powerful opportunity. Further, we have come to learn salads and sandwiches, because they’re generally not heated and because they travel particularly well in a vehicle, are a perfect product for delivery, especially at lunch. We’ve also come to understand that delivery is hard and the key to success with delivery is having the capabilities in place needed to execute delivery consistent with the high volumes it can generate and doing so all the while without damaging the retail business. Indeed, delivery is not something you want to throw into an already high volume cafe environment as doing so will appear smart in the short term but ultimately prove a limited long-term positive impact if not executed properly with high customer satisfaction and with a driver network that efficiently leverages cost.

Indeed, we’ve come to understand success in delivery requires several things. First, it requires digital and/or phone ordering with the full menu available. And that menu must be fully customized, consistent with what one would find in a retail environment. Simply put, you won’t be successful in delivery if you offer the guest a partial experience or if you offer a plain-vanilla outsourced e-commerce solution in which the customer needs to manually type in customization. It simply doesn’t get the job done to the satisfaction of the guest. Second, I would add that we’ve come to understand an effective delivery program requires integration between the ordering system and the food production system if one is to operate at high volume and with high levels of customer satisfaction. Indeed, we believe anything less than full integration leads to a flawed system and ultimately creates disappointed guests. Third, we believe an effective delivery program requires a driver network that is available and cost-efficient so that delivery fees ultimately charged to the customer make sense for frequent use. Indeed, it is our view that any company interested in really winning at delivery is going to need to resolve all of these issues or risk failure. In fact, we have concluded that for delivery to be successful at Panera we need to build it so our cafe managers experience delivery as simply another take-out order. Let me note that we believe we have in place today much of what we’re talking about. We have full digital access, and we have a powerful system, an e-commerce system that links order placement to our production system. Indeed we believe we have everything necessary to roll out delivery broadly with the exception of the driver network. That is why we are presently testing both internal and outsourced solutions to our driver network needs. So where do we go with delivery in the future? We will expand our test to additional markets in 2015 and will make a judgment relative to a broader roll-out in 2016. In any case, expect that when Panera does delivery it will do it right.


During questions and answers, Mr. Shaich was asked whether the delivery system the company was contemplating might overcomplicate the operation of the company’s bakery cafes. His response follows:

“Great question. Just to be clear, we are assuming the hubs are used primarily for catering, large order delivery, which we think of as different menu items, different production processes and different delivery mechanism. It would be used for small order delivery but that’s sort of secondary and tertiary.

“On our present model, delivery will be done in our retail store. Now our mission, as I defined for you earlier, when we think of delivery, it has to manifest itself or show up to our store managers as simply another to-go order. If they get more involved in it then that it is going to complicate their lives and be problematic. That is why it is so important that we have the digital ordering system. That is why it is so important the digital ordering system literally tie in to the production systems in their cafe, they don’t know it is any different. Now what our model calls for is the drivers that would deliver that delivery and the actual delivery structure would be essentially either outsourced or managed through a modestly different management system much like we manage our baking that is focused on those drivers, so that we’re able to move drivers around between stores, we are able to hire drivers in a focused way, district by district, market by market. And so understand it in that sense.