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America's Largest Bakery Cafe Chain Is Getting a New Look

With double the drive-thru lanes and cozier interiors.

Smaller restaurants and double the drive-thru lanes are just some of the major design changes you'll start seeing at America's largest bakery and cafe chain later this year. Panera announced its next-generation restaurant design last week, and from the looks of it, the company is betting on an "increasingly off-premise world" even with the pandemic in the rearview mirror.

Starting in November, the chain's newly opened locations will feature double drive-thru lanes. Besides the regular lane, another lane will be added solely for the Rapid Pick Up option—drive-thru orders placed ahead of time through the mobile app. In fact, customers will be able to place mobile orders for any service, including drive-thru, pickup, delivery, and even dine-in, for a fully contactless experience.

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But Panera isn't giving up on their signature cozy interiors to keep customers coming in and dining on-premises. While its new locations will be about a fifth smaller in footprint, the interiors will put the chain's freshly baked goods front and center. The bakery ovens will now be in full view of the guests, so they can "immerse themselves in the experience of baking happening throughout the day." Previously, the chain's artisanal baking process took place overnight and was hidden from customers, while the new setup will turn baking into a daytime attraction for the guests to enjoy.

The new locations will also feature both indoor and outdoor seating, as well as updated ordering kiosks with automatic loyalty identification, which will enable customers to see a personalized version of the menu highlighting their favorite and recently ordered items.

The first restaurant featuring the redesign will open in November in Ballwin, Mo., near Panera's St. Louis headquarters. According to Panera's chief brand and concept officer Eduardo Luz, all new restaurants will feature this design going forward, and most will be located in suburban areas to accommodate the new bigger drive-thrus. However, the bakery revamp will be retrofitted at some older locations, too.

"We're doubling down on what has always made Panera unique—creating human connection through caring associates and a warm, inviting environment filled with the smell of freshly-baked bread—while continuing to be a leader in digital access for the off-premise world," Luz said in a press release.

For more on design changes you'll see at your favorite fast-food chains, check out:

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Mura Dominko
Mura is ETNT's Executive Editor, leading the coverage of America's favorite restaurant chains, grocery stores, and viral food moments. Read more about Mura