With 1,845 bakery-cafes in 45 states and Ontario, Canada, and with plenty of following to open another 1,000, Panera Bread is one of the rare franchises that blends artisan sandwiches with an ambient atmosphere reminiscent of European cafes. Having just cut artificial additives from their sandwiches, Panera looks to a very progressive future.
So what about their website? Does their website reflect their burgeoning artisan culture?
After looking through their site, I’ve identified 10 great things about the Panera Bread website. If you own a small town bakery looking to build a website, or if you’re just looking for great websites, here are 10 things to emulate.
- Unique and Interesting Tabs
First off, the tabs reflect Panera’s brand. You see not only “Menu Items,” but also “Craftsmanship” and “Community,” “Locations,” and “MyPanera.”
Of the tabs, I love the use of that word, craftsmanship. You’re not getting food hot off the assembly line: you’re getting a well-crafted sandwich made in the kitchen.
Likewise, community fits Panera’s purpose well, “We are a symbol of warmth and welcome.” To be a symbol of warmth and welcome, you have to reach out to your community. And that’s what Panera does.
So yeah. Panera’s tabs reflect the brand.
2. High Def. Images
After the tabs, I immediately notice the images. Now, for one, these are damn good pictures. As many photographers know, taking pictures of food is hard, mostly because of the absence of other sense stimuli. In person, you don’t just look at food: you smell it, touch it, and taste it. How, then, can you activate these senses through photography?
Panera does this through vivid colors. The soft tortellini squares, mixed with greens and onions. The yellow soup in the bread bowl, the contrast of reds and greens and browns, the forks and spoons and knives remind me of lunch. And, then, I feel hungry.
Notice, too, how the images fill the screen. These aren’t thumbnails. These are high definition photos.
3. Check out that “Freshly Baked Breads”
Okay, so now that I’m hungry, I’m going to check out some of the menu items. The first I click is “bread.” Again, I am confronted with a beautiful picture of a slice of cinnamon raisin bread. Perfect.
After scrolling down, I see a collage of breads. From Miche to Ciabatta, from Sesame Semolina to Asiago Cheese Bread, I see plenty of great images. In addition, on the bottom right corner, I see calories. Now, I’m not big on calories. But I like Panera’s honesty here. Bread contains a lot of calories. Reality faced. Now, let’s eat.
4. How to Make “Today’s Soups”
After the bread listing, I look at the soups. Just like the bread, I see a nice collage of images. But notice the consistency here: each photo is an overhead shot that shows the same size bowl with the same portion of soup in each bowl. Again, the calories are listed on the bottom right.
Somewhere in the middle, you’ll find a video. Though I love the high def. photos, this video catches my attention. For the video I’m watching, Dan Kish shows me how to make Panera’s legendary tomato soup. The video is made well, the steps are easy to follow, and the soup is, well, delicious.
By far my favorite part of Panera’s website is their stories section found under the “craftsmanship” tab. The mission statement says it all: “these are stories that define our commitment to the craft.”
Indeed, once arriving on the stories page, you’ll find yourself in a University of great tips and culinary crafting genius. You’ll find anything from kitchen tips to cooking, from how to cook butternut squash to spicing up iced tea for the summer, from making salads a healthy meal, to growing spinach the right way. If crafting a culinary masterpiece is your thing, you must check out Panera’s stories page.
Panera Bread, however, doesn’t stop at food. Keeping true to their mission statement—to serve communities—Panera’s blog showcases volunteer work, community involvement, profiles of food banks, even profiles of educators. They have lifestyle articles, such as “Bond over Breakfast,” an activities blog, “Bad Weather Buster,” and even garden tips. In short, Panera writes about, well, everything.
Like their stories section, Panera feeds curiously minded cooks interesting recipes. What I like most is the style: the arrangement of recipes is clean, easy to follow, and compelling.
Notice, too, that each recipe is broken down into easily digestible steps. When content marketing, or when you are writing for an Internet audience in general, your copy should be scannable and easy to read. Anything less will turn the reader off. Just tell the essentials: Step 1, Step 2, Step 3,…, Final Step.
7. Community News
I absolutely love this page.
Not only can you discover what Panera as a brand does for communities, you can discover what your local Panera Bread does for your community. Just click your state and city and bam. Local news emerges.
Rarely do you see a national brand attempt localization. But Panera does it well, which leads us to our next section….
In addition to their website, Panera Bread had a second website called PaneraCares. “PaneraCares” are Panera cafes build around the country to help communities fight food insecurity in their cities and states. As they say:
“What do we do at PaneraCares community cafes? We feed people. We uplift. We restore dignity. We make you feel welcome. We fill bellies and self-esteem. We care. Simply put, in these non-profit locations, we will feed anyone.”
While, right now, Panera has opened only a few of these non-profit cafes, the idea is quickly growing.
What a great way to localize your brand: help your community fight problems. Having made artisan sandwiches and bakery items for years, and having the influence to make a difference, Panera perceived a need. Then, they fought to satisfy that need. Localization at its finest.
Let’s go back to the Panera Bread website.
This is something any franchise can emulate: an online rewards program.
Most franchises have a rewards program. But if you don’t, or if you don’t have a good one, I recommend you look at Panera’s online rewards program. Not only can you accumulate rewards in store and check them online, you can also take challenges and win prizes.
How LocalMark Could Help
LocalMark could certainly help Panera Bread. For one we could help each of Panera’s franchisees build websites that share to their communities the recipes and stories published by Panera’s writers.
Secondly, we could help PaneraCares build websites for their locations. When you’re running a non-profit, one of the hardest things is getting people to discover your services. Usually, word of mouth spreads your name like wildfire. Since Panera’s brand is recognized for their businesses, and not their non-profits, spreading the word could be difficult. So yeah. Website can certainly help.
We love Panera, and we’re happy they take website development seriously!