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6 Major Changes You'll See at Panera in 2024

From new menu items to the loss of old favorites, here are most sweeping Panera developments this year.
FACT CHECKED BY Chris Shott

Even the biggest and most beloved restaurant chains are constantly evolving to improve their businesses and food offerings—and Panera Bread is no exception.

The bakery-café chain, best known for its soups, salads, sandwiches, and baked goods, rolled out a series of exciting changes just in 2023 alone. Some of the most notable developments included new menu launches, the expansion of Panera's Value Duets options, and the debut of a new Crunch Time Ordering feature, which allows customers to order their go-to items with just one swipe.

This year is already shaping up to be another period of significant change for Panera. The chain has unveiled several sweeping shifts taking place across its restaurants and way of operations, some of which will directly impact customers. Think brand-new food options, menu discontinuations, and even ingredient policy shifts.

Read on for the six major changes you'll see at Panera Bread in 2024!

A major menu transformation

Panera Bread Toasted Italiano & Balsamic Chicken Greens with Grains
Courtesy of Panera Bread
Nutrition:
Toasted Italiano (Per Whole Sandwich)
Calories: 1,250
Fat: 61 g (Saturated Fat: 18 g, Trans Fat: 0.5 g)
Sodium: 3,660 mg
Carbs: 114 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 5 g)
Protein: 59 g

Though it's just a few months into 2024 now, what's likely to be the biggest Panera change of the year has already taken place. On April 4, Panera rolled out the biggest menu overhaul in its history.

The transformation included the debut of nine brand-new menu items, including a Toasted Italiano sandwich, Bacon Mac & Cheese, and a Ranch Cobb Salad. It also included recipe enhancements for 12 existing menu items such as the Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt, Strawberry Poppyseed Chicken Salad, and Bravo Club Sandwich. That totals 21 brand-new or new-and-improved food options hitting Panera's menu this year. To top it all off, Panera promised bigger portions of chicken and steak on many of its salads and sandwiches.

"The New Era at Panera marks an important and exciting evolution for the brand, one where we are focused on listening to our guests and delivering what they want most," Panera CEO José Alberto Dueñas said in a statement in April. "That means serving great food made just for you, with the right combination of amazing taste, quality ingredients and value. We are transforming and returning to what our guests love, which will propel Panera into the future as we continue to serve food our guests feel good about eating."

 I Tried Every Soup at Panera & One Can't Be Beat

Dozens of discontinued menu items

panera flatbreads
Panera Bread / Facebook

While Panera customers were likely happy to see new options and new-and-improved recipes, the downside to the menu overhaul was a plethora of discontinuations. Upon announcing the menu transformation in February, Panera confirmed to Eat This, Not That! that some menu categories would be eliminated so it could refocus on its core offerings of soups, salads, and sandwiches. This reporter recorded a full list of the options available on Panera's old menu, compared them to the new menu once it launched on April 4, and found that dozens of items had been eliminated with the transformation.

The eliminated options included the flatbread pizzas, all cold brews, all of the Stacked Toasted Baguettes that debuted last October, all grain bowls, several sandwiches, multiple bagel flavors, and a handful of other bakery items. Customers can view the full list of discontinued items here.

When previously contacted for comment on the menu eliminations, Panera shared the following statement with Eat This, Not That!

"Our new menu is refocused on our core offerings with the goal of adding more options, more innovation, and more value within the categories our guests love the most – soup, salad, sandwiches, and mac & cheese.  The menu offers more new salads and sandwiches, better value with more new options below $10, and more in every bite with additional chicken and steak on many menu items."

"We have listened to over 30,000 guests on the journey to land on our new menu – it's also grounded in feedback from our bakery-cafe teams and makes it easier for our teams to give our guests a faster and better experience," the statement continued. "With nine new items and 12 enhanced classics, along with the addition of iconic flavors like ranch and balsamic, the menu reflects the very essence of Panera at its best."

 I Tried Every New Panera Salad & the Best Was Bold and Tasty

Ingredient policy changes

Panera Bread ordering kiosk
ZikG / Shutterstock

In March 2024, Chick-fil-A announced that it was loosening its strict policy on antibiotics in chicken. But Chick-fil-A may not be the only chain easing up on its ingredient policies in 2024. 

Reuters, citing internal company documents, reported in March that Panera would no longer require its suppliers to only use cattle that are pasture-raised. The chain also purportedly began allowing the use of some antibiotics in pork and turkey products and permitted chicken and cattle to be fed with feed that contains animal products. The documents noted that Panera's previous commitment to keep its pork free of antibiotics was very limiting because only 5% of all the pork available is antibiotic-free.

According to Reuters, Panera recently had its stores remove signage and artwork with phrases such as "No Antibiotics Ever," "Vegetarian Fed," and "Grass Fed Pasture Raised." The shift is notable because Panera has long highlighted its high-quality ingredients and selective sourcing as a key part of its brand. When contacted for comment on the reports, a Panera spokesperson shared the following statement with Eat This, Not That!:

"Panera has always stood for food that you feel good about–food that we proudly serve our own families, and that will not change. We source high-quality ingredients, our products are fresh and made to order, and each recipe is filled with ingredients we feel good about, and none of those we don't. Our food does not contain artificial preservatives, flavors, sweeteners, or colors from artificial sources as outlined on our No-No List. Everything we do is in service of a great guest experience, and in our new era we're doubling down on listening to our guests and what quality means for them, and that means the right combination of delicious taste, high-quality ingredients, value, and consistency."

 I Tried Every New Panera Sandwich & One Was Flawless

Trendy marketing tactics

Woman wearing a Panera Bread Head hat next to table with several Panera bread bowls
Courtesy of Panera Bread

Panera may be nearly 40 years old, but the decades-old company isn't afraid to jump on modern-day trends and current events to promote itself. Look no further than the new "Bread Head" hats that the chain recently debuted in celebration of the May 4 Kentucky Derby. Created by A-Morir Studio, a designer who has worked with stars such as Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga, the hats featured a 3D-printed replica of Panera's famous bread bowl surrounded by colorful ostrich feathers. 

The hats went on sale online for $21 on April 29, providing customers with a $100 Panera gift card as a bonus to try the new and enhanced items from the menu transformation. As of publication time, the hats were already sold out. 

Panera made another trendy marketing maneuver in January 2024 with the limited-time launch of its "North Sea Soup Menu." The menu featured seven of Panera's coziest and most comforting soups that the chain said could be used to "soothe your North Sea scaries." 

Panera got its inspiration from a surge of TikTok videos highlighting the fascinating yet frightening North Sea, often with ominous music playing in the background. This is the second time that Panera has created a limited-edition menu in response to a TikTok trend in the past year, so customers shouldn't dismiss the possibility that the chain will try to jump on a viral moment again in 2024.

 The #1 Unhealthiest Lunch Order at Panera, According to a Dietitian

No more self-serve Charged Lemonades at some stores

Panera Charged Lemonades
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While this recent change doesn't seem to impact the entire Panera system, news reports indicate that at least several locations were affected. This past January, both Nation's Restaurant News (NRN) and People reported that Panera's caffeinated Charged Lemonades had been removed from the self-serve stations at handful of restaurants. This policy effectively forced Panera customers to have employees fetch the beverages for them instead of serving themselves at those stores. Panera didn't respond to ETNT's queries for confirmation and comment back when the reports first emerged, so it's unclear exactly how many locations purportedly made the switch.

The reports came shortly after Panera was hit with three separate lawsuits surrounding its Charged Lemonades. Two of the lawsuits claimed that two Panera customers with underlying heart conditions had died after drinking the caffeinated beverages. The third came from a Panera customer who alleged that she started experiencing heart palpitations after drinking the Charged Lemonades despite having no underlying conditions. 

Panera has stood by the safety of its products and said the lawsuits from the families of the customers who died were without merit. The Mayo Clinic says that most healthy adults can consume up to 400 mg of caffeine per day. Large (30-ounce) sizes of Panera's Charged drinks contain between 233 and 302 mg of caffeine depending on the flavor, according to the Panera website.

 I Tried Every Breakfast Sandwich at Panera & the Best Was Big and Cheesy

A potential IPO

Panera Bread logo on phone screen
NYC Russ / Shutterstock

Panera was once a publicly traded company until 2017, when the private equity firm JAB Holding acquired it, according to CNBC. Now, reports are circulating that JAB wants to take Panera public once again this year. 

The Financial Times and CNBC, citing anonymous sources, both reported in December 2023 that the firm had filed confidential paperwork for an initial public offering (IPO) in the United States. Panera has also reportedly taken other steps to prepare for this planned IPO, such as laying off 17% of its workforce to streamline its business and improve its financial performance, per The Financial Times.

Panera has declined to comment on the reports to several news outlets. If Panera does end up going public this year, that would allow its shares to be bought and sold on the open market again—and it would also give consumers greater transparency regarding the company's plans and other changes that may be on the horizon, as well.

Zoe Strozewski
Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe