The soup-and-sandwich café chain has been rethinking customer service across its 2,000-plus outlets, implementing a series of technology-infused initiatives it calls Panera 2.0. The project drives orders through digital platforms that simplify food prep in the back of the house while expediting the customer experience. And it’s paying off: Twenty-four percent of the company’s sales are made through in-store kiosks, on the web, or on the Panera app (only the pizza giants drive more digital business), and 9% of customers opt to order ahead and pick up in a café. Panera’s same-store sales growth in 2016 was 4.2%, well above the industry average. “We asked ourselves, ‘What’s going to be next?’ ” says CEO Ron Shaich, “and then we made the long-term commitment to build it ourselves.”
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