Panera Bread adds pizza to menus as consumers crave more options during pandemic

Pizza Hut, Dominos and Papa John's have seen sales surge during pandemic, now Panera wants a piece of the pie

Panera Bread wants a piece of the pizza delivery market.

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The sandwich and salad chain announced Wednesday that it is now selling flatbread pizza in an effort to cater to the ongoing consumer demand for quick-service takeout during the coronavirus pandemic.

Panera's new chipotle chicken and bacon flatbread. (Panera)

The St. Louis-based restaurant chain added a new flatbread menu category, with varieties including cheese, margherita, and chipotle chicken and bacon, each priced at $7.99.

Panera said it had doubled its delivery business this year, with more than half of its sales being made outside of restaurants through third-party services.

"Our guests have been asking for this for years. We think Panera's bread heritage and outstanding ingredients meet both the desire for high quality, crafted pizza as well as a growing customer off-premise behavior," Panera Bread's chief brand and concept officer Eduardo Luz said in a statement.

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The restaurant began investing in the dinner category before the pandemic, and pizza could be a way to further carve out a piece of the business. The amount of people ordering pizza over the last several months has skyrocketed, with Yum! Brand’s-owned Pizza Hut in May posting its best week for takeout pizza sales in eight years, Fortune reported.

And Domino’s Pizza profits surged 29% in the three months through June with more eaters ordering food from home.

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Papa John’s, meanwhile, saw three consecutive months of double-digit sales growth, the company said in June, with sales up 24% that month.