Panera Bread tests out dinner menu as part of expansion beyond breakfast, lunch

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Panera Bread is attempting to expand beyond the breakfast and lunch crowd.

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The chain announced Wednesday it will be testing its new “dinner-centric” menu in restaurants in Lexington, KY, in July before expanding to locations in Providence, RI, in September.

The menu lists 10 hand-crafted items — including dinner bowls, flatbreads, sandwiches and seasonal sides — that will be available from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

“Panera’s craveable new dinner options are helping to meet guests demand to eliminate the trade-off between good for you and ease. Like all Panera menu items, all offerings are 100 percent clean with no artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors, or colors from artificial sources,” the chain said in its news release.

Panera Bread announced Wednesday it is testing a new dinner menu first in Lexington, Kentucky, and next in Providence, Rhode Island. (Panera Bread)

The new items are expected to go “hand-in-hand” with some of Panera customers’ favorite existing menu items “to give people a ton of options at dinner that don’t sacrifice taste or quality for convenience.”

Panera is best known for its lunch options that include sandwiches and bread bowls. Earlier this year, the chain expanded its breakfast menu, but now is looking to draw in a bigger dinner crowd.

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“We stepped back about a year ago...to say, ‘Over the next five years, where are we going to grow? Where are we going to get most of our value creation?’” Dan Wegiel, Panera’s chief growth and strategy officer, told CNBC about the company’s decision to test a dinner menu.

The dinner menu includes new flatbreads. (Panera Bread)

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Customers will also be able to order dinner options through its Rapid Pickup and delivery service. The chain is hoping to capitalize on Americans ordering delivery for dinner.