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Panera Bread Well Positioned for Possible IPO

by 
Shira Petrack
 on 
March 25, 2024
Panera Bread Well Positioned for Possible IPO

With rumors swirling of a potential Panera Bread IPO in 2024, we dove into the data to find out how the St. Louis, Missouri-based company is performing – and what sets Panera apart from its competition. 

Panera Bread’s Foot Traffic on the Rise 

Panera Bread has been on a growth spurt recently, with monthly visits over the past 12 months consistently exceeding 2022/2023 levels. Part of the traffic increase may be due to the brand’s larger store fleet – Panera expanded into urban and non-traditional markets with small-format locations focused on pick-up and digital ordering. And the company is not resting on its laurels, with Panera revamping its menu to compete more directly with meal-focussed fast casual concepts.

Panera Plays a Unique Role Within the QSR/Fast Casual Landscape

Because Panera straddles the line of coffee QSR and fast-casual lunch spot, there is no one dining chain that directly competes with Panera on all fronts. Instead, Panera plays a unique role in the QSR/fast casual landscape: The chain has a strong café feel, with the company’s “Sip Club” membership program seems specifically designed to appeal to customers looking for frequent coffee fixes. But Panera also offers more substantial fare, and the upcoming menu overhaul promises to add even more hearty salads and affordable sandwiches to its array of options. 

The new menu may be aimed towards attracting more budget-conscious diners thanks to a focus on larger portions and the addition of several items priced at under $10. Some speculate that the changes are also part of the company’s broader refocusing towards the lunchtime daypart. Comparing Panera to Starbucks, which competes with Panera on the coffee shop and affordable foods front, and to Sweetgreen, a strong presence in the fast-casual lunch market, can shed light on Panera’s role within the increasingly competitive dining landscape. 

Panera’s Visit Trends Reveal Its Appeal During All Day Parts

Panera’s hourly visitation pattern highlights its unique place within the wider QSR-fast casual landscape. Like Sweetgreen, Panera experiences a lunchtime foot traffic rush – 30.8% of daily visits to the chain take place between 12 PM and 2 PM. But Panera also receives almost a third of its visits before noon – 30.2% of visits to the chain take between 6 AM and 11 AM, compared to just 13.2% of visits to Sweetgreen. Between 9 AM and 11 AM, Panera’s hourly visit share of 20.8% is almost on par with Starbucks’ 25.3%. (The small number of morning Sweetgreen visits is likely also driven by a difference in opening hours, with most Sweetgreen locations only opening at around 10:30 AM). 

Meanwhile, Panera also seems to be a strong dinner contender. Although Panera’s evening performance may not be quite as strong as Sweetgreen’s, the St. Louis-based dining chain still sees 17.3% of its daily visits between 6 PM and 8 PM – almost double Starbucks’ 9.8.%. 

These hourly visitation patterns indicate that while a significant contingent of Panera patrons treat the chain as their go-to coffee shop, many others tend to consider Panera as a lunch or early dinner destination. 

Demographically, Panera’s Visitor Base is Most Similar to Starbucks’

Although analyzing hourly visitation patterns highlight similarities between Panera and Sweetgreen, focusing on the three chains’ visitor bases reveals many more similarities between Starbucks and Panera. 

The median HHIs in Panera and Starbucks’ trade areas stand at $79.2K/year and $76.4K/year, respectively. Around 34% of both chains’ trade areas consist of non-family and one-person households and 28% consist of households with children. Meanwhile, Sweetgreen tends to attract a much larger share of affluent singles – 42.9% of households in Sweetgreen’s trade area are non-family and one person households, and the salad and grain-bowl focused chain has a trade area median HHI stands at $102K/year.

It seems, then, that although Panera appears to compete with Sweetgreen for the lunch rush – and to a lesser extent, for dinner visits as well – the two brands’ audience bases are substantially different. On the other hand, Panera’s visitor base seems to overlap significantly with that of Starbucks – which may explain Panera’s move towards enhanced portion sizes and affordable meal options, which may set it even further apart from the Seattle-based coffee giant.

Bright Future Ahead 

Panera Bread is one of 2024’s most anticipated IPOs – and location intelligence metrics suggest that the buzz is well substantiated. 

For more data-driven dining insights, visit our blog at placer.ai.

This blog includes data from Placer.ai Data Version 2.0, which implements improvements to our extrapolation capabilities, adds short visit monitoring, and enhances visit detection.

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