• Location(s): Downer's Grove, IL

Panera Bread Company has been the leader in fast-casual chain restaurants offering a menu that is delicious and healthy. In conjunction with their commitment to remove artificial additives from their food, Aria was tasked with analyzing and rebuilding what a Panera should look and feel like.

We focused on flow and layout of the order counter and kiosks, beverage, and dining spaces. In the dining room, providing a variety of seating types to accommodate patrons working on their laptops, dining solo, dining with their families, or meeting with a larger community group presented a challenge to the existing open floor plan. A semi-transparent screen was used to divide a cozy lounge area inspired by a traditional living room, including loose armchairs and tables that can be rearranged.

With recent efforts to advance technology and the evolving service flow came the need for a new front-of-house layout. Elements of the layout needed to be adjusted to better suit patron experience and crew efficiency. For example, in this prototype Panera transitioned to running food to the table and the customer food pick-up counter was no longer needed. The Panera Rapid-Pick-Up Program called for all beverage stations to be located closer to the entry. One of the more drastic shifts in plan was the combination of all beverage and condiment stations into one easily accessible millwork piece, centrally located in plan, and adjacent to the order counter. Creating this freed up space for the more unique seating opportunities as well as a sizable new bakery display.

Locally produced architectural systems and interior finishes were used to highlight Panera’s commitment to environmentally conscious and sustainable food. All of the millwork, booths, banquettes, and table tops in the prototype were fabricated in the Midwest. An Amish furniture maker in Wisconsin hand-crafted the custom dining chairs, lounge tables, and large community table. Aria Group worked with American artists to hand-make features like the concrete pendants and decorative canvas flour bag panels. The lighting design includes complete LED solutions, both architectural and decorative, as well as a new dimming system to better control light output for energy savings.

To this bakery-forward concept, healthy food means real food, made by real people, with real ingredients, prepared fresh daily. The best way for Panera to stay true to what they do best is to showcase their bakery process and product, allowing for greater kitchen transparency. Aria Group designed an enticing new bakery display and order counter that celebrates Panera’s small-batch, daily baking program and a dining space with layered texture and soul. The Panera Bread redesign is a representation of a food service company very familiar to the public, coming into their own through syncing their identity with their brand messaging and restaurant design.