The business market has become highly saturated and competitive, so organizations must be effective and attract a large customer base to gain a competitive advantage and increase their sales. According to Kenyon & Sen (2016), organizations cannot attract or retain customers without a competitive advantage. Companies should understand and fulfill their clients’ needs and preferences to gain a competitive advantage. One of the fastest-growing segments in the United States catering industry is the fast-casual segment, which grew by 13.5% in 2014 and 10.4% in 2015 (Ha, 2020). Panera, a fast-casual restaurant in the United States, aims to attract more Gen-Z customers to its restaurant to increase its sales and gain a competitive advantage over its major competitors like Chiptole. Panera has formulated some strategies that it will follow to ensure that it attracts Gen-Z customers. This paper will analyze those strategies to determine whether they will help the company acquire and retain Gen-Z customers. It will also provide recommendations on strategies the organization should add or remove.
Assessment of the Strategies and Areas of the Plan that need Improvement or Change
Panera created goals with the primary objective of increasing brand awareness and purchases from Gen-Z customers. The first goal is to launch the Menu Contest and establish stores that can extend their operating hours to cater to the needs of Gen-Z customers and increase brand awareness. The organization will have accomplished this goal if 300,000 contestants participate, and it increases its transaction per week by 10% (Ha, 2020). The Menu Contest will consist of the audience’s participation in naming certain foods every month, which will help increase brand awareness. Panera recognizes that social media is an essential tool in attracting Gen-Z customers because they are the greatest uses of social media, and it influences where they eat or how they do things. Therefore, having a contest will make more people aware of the restaurant. The company will motivate the participants in the contest by providing prizes for the winner, which they will share with their loved ones because research shows that Gen-Z enjoys sharing things (Ha, 2020). However, although the Menu Contest is an excellent strategy for creating brand awareness, it has its challenges. The first challenge is the criteria for choosing the winner. For example, Chrissy Teigen tweeted that Panera should name its Broccoli Cheddar Soup Delicious Cream Times. Another customer may want to refer to the soup as something else because one can refer to a dish in many terms. Therefore, if the criteria that the company uses to decide on the winner is inaccurate, it will damage the brand’s reputation. Instead of the Menu Naming Contest that can negatively impact the organization, the company can use its social media platforms for advertising its dishes and offering certain foods on a certain day, which will get users’ attention and create a brand awareness that will last. For example, it can have an offer on vegetarian pizza every first Thursday of the month, where one buys one and gets one free to attract Gen-Z customers who are health conscious.
Panera will also identify stores where it will extend their operating hours to meet the needs of Gen-Z customers who are students studying or going to parties late at night. This is an excellent strategy by Panera because the convenience of accessing the stores at late hours will create customer retention. According to Kenyon & Sen (2016), customer retention is crucial for the success of any organization. Therefore, even when concentrating on attracting new customers, every company should work towards retaining the customers it has by providing quality and convenient products and services. Panera should choose stores that are near where Gen-Z individuals live or often visit, such as near universities and malls. On top of increasing the operating hours, the company should have dishes that appeal to this clientele during those extended hours. Gen-Z is health-conscious, and the company should have healthy dishes remaining for the extended period. Otherwise, the extension will have no positive effect on the organization. For example, suppose the restaurants extend until midnight, and the remaining meals are fries. In that case, the extension will be for nothing because the Gen-Z customers will prefer to buy their meals from other restaurants with healthy meals.
Panera’s second goal is to launch a Pick-a-Box which the restaurant can pack various products. This idea will appeal to Gen-Z customers because food presentation is important to them, and they will find the packaging appealing to post on their social media platforms (Ha, 2020). Gen-Z individuals are always on the internet, and it influences their decision-making. Therefore, having people post about the meals’ appealing packaging will increase the brand’s awareness and attract new customers. Panera should ensure that the packaging they use is environmentally-friendly because Gen-Z individuals are cautious about the environment. Any packaging that harms the environment can negatively impact the brand. Social media is beneficial but can also be harmful because if a person posts a negative comment about a particular brand, a considerable number of people can view it, and as stated earlier, the contents of social media influence the decision-making of Gen-Z individuals. This is an excellent strategy by Panera, which will increase its customers and purchases, but if only they are consistent with the initiative. Kenyon & Sen (2016) indicate that an organization’s consistency is the key to retaining its current customers. Panera intends to make itself visible in digital applications such as Uber Eats, Food for All, and Sweatcoins to make it attractive to Gen-Z customers (Ha, 2020). Being in these apps will build brand awareness and increase purchases among Gen-Z customers because most of them rely on these applications to order their foods. This option is better than only delivering through their private channels because it will be visible to a much larger clientele. Understanding the target market’s needs and preference is essential for the success of the organization, and this idea by Panera will lead the company to success. However, the competition is immense in these applications because multiple restaurants offer similar dishes. Therefore, Panera has to ensure that it stands out to gain a competitive advantage. For example, it can offer various healthy foods at an affordable price to attract Gen-Z customers who are health conscious and have limited financial capability because they are primarily in school or have recently started working. They should also maintain the quality of the food they deliver to retain their customers. Panera should develop an attractive profile and images of their meals to entice customers to purchase from them. The company will have achieved the goal if it increases its weekly transactions by 10% in the next six months.
The third goal Panera developed to increase brand awareness and purchases is to open stores in areas where Gen-Z customers hang out in the long term. The company will determine its success if its transaction increases by 30% (Ha, 2020). This strategy will help the organization capture more Gen-Z customers. Having stores in prime locations in areas where Gen-Z customers live and hang out, such as shopping malls and university campuses, is one advantage that Chiptole has over Panera. The location of a business is a significant contributor to its success (Kenyon & Sen, 2016). For example, if Panera positions some of its restaurants near university campuses, students can conveniently access their meals, leading to customer retention. One may argue that the restaurant does not need to open stores in such locations because of online ordering and delivery. However, restaurants serve as a place where people can socialize, and having a store will be more advantageous. However, the company should open a few stores in specific prime locations to avoid massive expenses, which the restaurant cannot recover due to the increase in online purchasing. The organization should use social media platforms to interact with customers, understand their needs and acquire information on the areas that need new restaurants and the outcomes opening the restaurants will have on the company. For example, the company can post on Facebook requesting people to highlight areas they are in and the ease of accessing their meals. From that post, they may receive 30,000 responses from people around the University of Florida who feel that the company should have a restaurant in the area. This strategy will significantly benefit the company because it will create brand awareness. After all, the restaurant will be in numerous locations, especially near Gen-Z customers, who tend to post about everything they do and everywhere they go. It will also increase purchases among Gen-Z customers because they are price-sensitive, and Panera’s meals are less expensive than Chiptole’s. Panera also offers more products than Chiptole, giving it a competitive advantage. It also has health foods that appeal to Gen-Z customers who are health conscious. In addition, the restaurant should add or remove products and services that do not appeal to Gen-Z customers. For example, the restaurant can provide the customers in this location with smaller meal-size portions at a reduced price. However, they have to ensure that they do not reduce the price too much to make profits.
Opinion on the Success of the Strategy
Panera’s strategy is to help it increase brand awareness and purchases among Gen-Z customers. The strategy will successfully achieve the two primary goals for several reasons. First, the organization considered the preferences and needs of the consumers during strategy formulation, which is essential to gain a competitive advantage ((Kenyon & Sen, 2016). Panera identified that Gen-Z individuals spend most of their time on social media and online forums and decided to create a strategy to make the brand visible in applications such as Uber Eats, Food for All, and Sweatcoin and using digital marketing to advertise their products and services. It also identified that food presentation is essential to Gen-Z customers and created a strategy to launch a Pick-a-Box with various healthy foods (Ha, 2020). The company’s strategies will be successful because it has based them on research about the target customers and not on mere assumptions. The strategies will also be successful in increasing brand awareness and purchases among Gen-Z customers because they give the company a competitive advantage against its rivals, such as Chiptole. For example, if the organization manages to open restaurants in areas where Gen-Z customers hang out, such as in malls and near university campuses, the customers will more likely purchase from the restaurant than Chipotle because it has a variety of products and the price is much lower.
Panera is an American chain store of fast-casual restaurants and is part of Panera Brands, among the largest fast-casual restaurants in the United States. Panera Brands comprise Panera Bread, Einstein Bros, and Caribou Coffee. The journey of Panera Bread began in 1987 as St. Louis Bread, and today it operates as Panera Bread or St. Louis Bread Company in 48 states, Canada, and the District of Columbia (Lucas, 2021). The company offers various products, but it mainly specializes in baked products such as bagels, brownies, croissants, cookies, scones, and muffins. Apart from baked goods, they have sandwiches, pasta, salads, soups, and specialty drinks (Lucas, 2021). Panera experiences intense competition due to the growth of the fast-casual industry, with some of its competitors being Chiptole, Panda Express, and Subway. However, Panera has a competitive advantage because they offer a variety of products at an affordable price.
Panera Breads Current Strategy
In 2021, Panera Bread announced a new strategy that would help it build customer loyalty. The company announced a new restaurant design that will feature double drive-thru lanes, a new focus on the dine-in experience, and added technology to transform the restaurant into a neighborhood (Lucas, 2021). The change in consumer behavior during the Covid-19 pandemic inspired the new strategy. The company will add familiar touches to their restaurant designs to make the customers’ experience more personal. The restaurants will also position their ovens in the open so customers can smell and see the pastries as they bake. The added technology will also improve the ordering of foods with limited contact, and double drive-thru lanes will enhance the ease of picking orders. The first restaurant with the new design opened in November in Ballwin, Missouri (Lucas, 2021). Panera Bread aims to use this strategy to attract and retain customers and increase its purchases.
Analysis of the Strategy
Organizations develop strategies to achieve their objectives. The way businesses develop their strategies has changed over time due to the unstable business environment, which has forced organizations to focus less on detailed plans and more on guidelines for success (Grant, 2016). Research is necessary while developing a strategy to ensure that it is successful and necessary. A poor strategy can lead to losses and the destruction of the organization’s reputation (Lucas, 2016). Organizations today have to keep changing their strategies due to the constant change in market trends. However, organizations must understand what areas to change and what not to change because persistent change in unnecessary areas can negatively impact the company. The Covid-19 pandemic altered the way people carried out their operations and consumer behavior. Most people worked at home due to social distancing measures, and working away from the office will likely continue long after the pandemic. Changing Panera designs to more familiar touches will increase the visits of consumers who wish to work or socialize away from the office and home by giving them a serene environment to carry out their operations. Panera, just like Starbuck, has always had comfortable seating in its restaurants, and adding the comfortability will make it more attractive to customers (Lucas, 2021). The added technology and ease of ordering and pick up will successfully retain customers and increase purchases. During the Covid-19 pandemic, online purchases and convenience became important aspects of shopping due to the fear of contracting the disease. The trend will continue even long after the pandemic, and improving online and promoting limited contact will attract and retain customers, increasing the organization’s sales. The added ease of ordering will also create brand awareness, especially among Gen-Z, who spend most of their time on the internet. Finally, placing the oven in the open so that customers can feel the smell and see the pastries as they bake will build customer loyalty and attract customers because customers will see the way the restaurants handle their baked goods. They will trust the product more than those that get baked at the back where people cannot see. Hygiene became essential during the Covid-19 pandemic, making people more inclined to hygienic places and products. The strategy by Panera will be successful, and after implementing it, the company will gain a competitive advantage, which is crucial to the success of an organization.
Organizations need a competitive advantage to succeed in the current highly competitive business environment. Panera Bread is among the largest fast-casual restaurant in the United States and aims to increase brand awareness and purchases by attracting and retaining customers. The restaurant has taken advantage of technology, which is highly attractive to Gen-Z customers. It aims to continue using technology by making itself visible in digital applications and using it to ease the ordering, delivery, and pick-up of products. Panera has excellent strategies that will be successful because it conducts its research and understands the internal and external environment when creating them.
Grant, R. M. (2016). Contemporary Strategy Analysis: Text and Cases. Wiley.
Ha, S. Introducing the “Healthy” Concept to Gen-Z Panera Bread. International Journal of Higher Education Teaching Theory, 90.
Kenyon, G. N., & Sen, K. C. (2016). Perception of quality. Springer London Limited.
Lucas, A. (2021). Panera Bread’s New Design Transform it into a Neighborhood Bakery in a Bid to Build Loyalty. CNBC.