Panera’s new grain bowls represent an entirely new category for the chain, which it plans to build … [+] on.
If it seems as though every restaurant chain is now experimenting with some type of “bowl” offering, you’re not imagining things. In the past few years, bowls as an entrée have increased by 30% in the restaurant space.
One brand that has found a particularly sweet spot with bowls is Panera. After a two-year test featuring more than 20 different flavor combinations, Panera’s grain bowl category was initiated in mid-September with two products: Baja and Mediterranean.
Since, the chain has sold more than 4 million grain bowls. According to Dan Wegiel, EVP, chief growth and strategy officer, these grain bowls represent Panera’s best product launch in years and are showing historically high repeat purchase rates.
“We had a pretty ambitious goal for this because we viewed it as a new platform. We’re trending slightly ahead of our aggressive forecast,” Wegiel said. “We put a lot of effort into this launch and it’s been very exciting internally, so we’re not surprised about its success so far.”
Sara Burnett, vice president of wellness and food policy, added that although the company has put a lot of marketing dollars behind the launch, the product “sells itself.”
“Grain bowls on their own are a little boring. These are not. They’re flavorful and hearty and filling,” she said. “We looked at this product based on where the consumer is going and this was an unmet need for them.”
There’s no doubt consumers are craving bowls, as