Panera Just Announced Its Biggest Menu Change In History

Panera had a pretty wild last year, and it's not slowing down in 2024 as the company announces a massive menu change. The cafe chain has already experimented with changing its menu by cutting down on some of its vegan soups and cold brews, and at the same time faced mounting concerns and a wave of lawsuits over its controversial Charged Lemonades. Panera also saw a major change in leadership last year as it announced plans to pursue an IPO and take the company public, with the Financial Times reporting that recently filed paperwork means it could happen this year. 

All these changes could very well be moves to try and boost the chain before its sale, but for fans who may be worried that Panera is changing too much, it looks like the restaurant's new menu is focused on doubling down on what it does best. Panera says that its new menu will include 20 different updates that "refocuses attention on beloved favorites including soups, salads, sandwiches, and mac and cheese," according to a press release sent to Tasting Table. 

While the menu will include nine brand new items, 12 other Panera menu item favorites like the Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt and Fuji Apple Chicken Salad are getting "recipe enhancements." Debbie Roberts, Panera's COO, says, "Panera's New Era is incredibly exciting, not only for our guests but also our associates, who will be able to renew their focus on our core menu and serve our guests more efficiently with enhanced portions and better value."

Panera's new menu includes four new sandwiches and four new salads

The new menu at Panera is set to roll out on April 4, 2024, at Panera cafes across the country. The first new sandwich, the Toasted Italiano, will finally provide the Italian sandwich roll that has been missing on the menu, with Black Forest ham, soppressata, and provolone topped by lettuce and onion, pepperoncini peppers, and garlic aioli with Greek dressing. There is also the Chicken Bacon Rancher with applewood smoked bacon on Black Pepper Focaccia, and the Ciabatta Cheesesteak with provolone, garlic aioli, caramelized onions, and Peppadew peppers. Finally, the Tomato Basil BLT is an interesting twist on the classic with garlic aioli on a Tomato Basil Miche.

The new salads also cover a wide range of flavors. The Mediterranean Chicken Greens with Grains has farro and red rice with chicken, hummus, feta, onions, Peppadew peppers, cucumbers, Greek dressing, and Panera's Mediterranean shawarma seasoning. A balsamic variation pairs pepperoncini peppers, fresh avocado, feta, pumpkin seeds, and Green Goddess dressing with the greens, chicken, and grains. The new Southwest Chicken Ranch pairs its namesake ingredients with romaine, avocado, grape tomatoes, corn, cilantro, and blue corn tortilla strips. And finally, there is the Ranch Cobb Salad with tomatoes, pickled red onions, bacon, feta, and a hard-boiled egg.

The only new menu item that's not a sandwich or salad is the Bacon Mac and Cheese. So, while this is a huge overhaul for Panera, it seems like the fast casual restaurant chain is really staying focused on its core classics.