Panera puts pizza on the menu for the 1st time

The fast-casual chain is offering three varieties of flatbread pizza.
Panera's three flatbread pizza varieties are Cheese, Margherita and Chipotle Chicken and Bacon.
Panera's three flatbread pizza varieties are Cheese, Margherita and Chipotle Chicken and Bacon.Panera
/ Source: TODAY

Could your next pizza night be at Panera?

Panera is offering pizza on its menu for the first time. This week, the fast-casual food chain is rolling out three flatbread pizza varieties: Cheese, Margherita and Chipotle Chicken and Bacon.

The casual chain is rolling out three types of flatbread pizza this week. Panera

With prices starting at $7.99, the pizzas will feature crispy dough finished on a pizza stone and topped with “delicious and clean ingredients,” the company said in a press release.

Although it has a reputation as a casual lunch chain offering soups, salads and sandwiches, Panera has been focusing on expanding its dinner offerings in recent years. The company had been considering adding pizza to the menu for a while, and they tested it out at a few pilot locations last year.

The cheese pizza includes "market tomato sauce and a blend of finely shredded fontina and mozzarella cheeses," the company said in a release.Panera

These days, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many customers prefer to order for pickup or delivery rather than dine in — and likely as a result of this, Panera has doubled its delivery business over the past year, according to CNBC. So, it does seem like the perfect time for the chain to officially add pizza to the menu.

“Flatbread Pizzas — done the Panera way — are the perfect offering for this moment and beyond,” Eduardo Luz, Panera Bread’s Chief Brand & Concept Officer, said in the release. “Our guests have been asking for this for years. We think Panera’s bread heritage and outstanding ingredients meet both the desire for high quality, crafted pizza as well as a growing customer off-premise behavior.”

Two out of Panera’s three new pizza offerings appear to be vegetarian, reflecting the company’s recent pledge to make its menu more vegan and vegetarian friendly.

Panera has been working on expanding its dinner menu offerings.Panera

“To keep up with our guest’s interest in plant-based options, Panera plans to increase its plant-based mix of entrees from the current 25% to at least 50% over the next several years,” Sara Burnett, Panera's vice president of wellness and food policy, told TODAY Food in January.

She added that the chain will “continue to offer responsibly raised, lean animal proteins so guests can eat the way they want."

Panera’s new chipotle chicken and bacon pizza, for example, contains “smoked pulled chicken breast raised without antibiotics,” the company said.

Panera has more than 2,100 bakery-cafes in 48 states and in Ontario, Canada. The new pizzas will be rolled out starting Oct. 28.