Panera is getting serious about breakfast

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In recent years, fast food and fast casual restaurants have built up their breakfast offerings. Now, with healthier menu items, better coffee and tech designed to maximize speed, Panera thinks it’s in a good position to compete.

Earlier this month, Panera started serving breakfast wraps: an indulgent maple bacon egg and cheese, a healthier chicken, egg and avocado, and vegetarian egg white, spinach and feta. It also started serving cold brew coffee. And since January, it’s been upgrading its hot coffee stations with new equipment to improve quality, a process that should be completed by mid summer.

With better breakfast options, Panera can be “more relevant to more customers,” Dan Wegiel, Panera’s chief growth and strategy officer, told CNN Business. If Panera can get people to come in (or order out) throughout the day, “volume, and the growth, and all that follows.

The fast-casual chain makes most of its sales in the afternoon and evening. But over the last few years it’s started chasing the breakfast crowd with more options and morning deliveries. For Panera, the increased focus on breakfast is also a nod to the fact that at lunch, some of their stores may be maxed out. “In many cafes, we’re also recognizing that we’re hitting capacity, physical capacity, in our ability to drive that volume,” Wegiel noted.

But it’s not the only restaurant trying to get more customers at breakfast — a meal restaurants have started paying closer attention to in recent years.

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