Panera Bread (NASDAQ:PNRA) wants to be the new corporate cafeteria — even if employees are still working remotely or only popping into the office a few days every week.
The soup and sandwich chain, which claims to have been the largest restaurant caterer in the U.S. before the pandemic, has been working on several initiatives to adapt its catering business to how the U.S. workforce has changed.
Demand for Panera’s catered meals, which primarily comes from companies and universities, cratered during lockdowns as many workers stayed home.
Now, many employees are preparing to return to the office, if they haven’t already. A survey conducted in June found that 45% of respondents expect to have a hybrid workforce model in the second half of 2021. Roughly one-third of company executives who participated indicated that they’ll be following a majority in person model instead.
“When you have certain people coming in on certain days, some people not coming in at all, how do you maintain that culture, collaboration, relationship?” said Chris Correnti, Panera’s senior vice president of off-premise channels.
One of the initiatives that Panera has been working on is to cater company meetings, no matter where that company’s employees are working. Panera’s large restaurant footprint, which includes more than 2,200 locations, makes it possible. Correnti said it has catered meetings with hundreds of employees spread out across the country.
PNRA shares opened Monday up a nickel to $314.93.