Breakfast, lunch and dinner: Panera Bread is hoping to be a go-to dining destination any time of day. The company announced Wednesday that a new dinner menu with 10 items will be tested in Kentucky and Rhode Island. This comes less than two weeks after the fast-casual restaurant announced its foray into lobster rolls. If all goes well, you may soon be scarfing down a chicken teriyaki bowl at your local cafe.
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The menu, which will be available in addition to the traditional salads, soups and sandwiches, can be broken down into four sections: flatbreads, hot sandwiches, bowls and sides. While the chain has always been open during dinner hours, this is the first time it will be offering special items after 4:30 p.m. The new dishes will also be available via rapid pick-up and delivery in the test markets.
While adding some heartier sandwiches leans closest to the restaurant's tradition, the teriyaki and pesto bowls are the biggest addition to the menu. They may not be an ooey, gooey mac and cheese, but the chicken-based dishes are meant to satisfy the balance of protein, vegetables and carbs - a choice you'll probably feel better about in the morning.
Adding a shareable component to the menu, the new flatbreads are cooked on a stone to add a crisp, coal-fired crust, according to the Panera team. That will probably beat the traditional sheet pan dinner you had planned.
"Bread is in our name, so it was important to us to figure out how we were going to represent flatbread on our menu," the chain's vice president of product development, Tom Sadler, said at the launch event in New York.
Created for mixing and matching, the veggie-heavy sides include sweet potatoes, broccoli and a cucumber and tomato salad. The sides were created with those on a plant-based diet who don't want to just be eating leafy greens all day in mind, Sadler added.
Here are all 10 menu items that Panera will test in Lexington, Kentucky, and Providence, Rhode Island:
Teriyaki chicken and broccoli with brown rice and quinoa
Pesto chicken with brown rice and quinoa
Steak and blue cheese with caramelized onions, shredded fontina and mozzarella cheeses and garlic cream sauce
Chipotle chicken and bacon with grape tomatoes, shredded fontina and mozzarella cheeses and garlic cream sauce
Margherita with grape tomatoes, sliced fresh mozzarella and fontina and mozzarella blend
Tomato basil and cucumber salad
Sweet potato mash
Hot and Hearty Sandwiches
Toasted pastrami with melted Emmental cheese, creamy mustard sauce and caramelized onions
Toasted Tuscan grilled chicken with provolone, Parmesan, arugula, smoky tomato confit and basil mayo
Maybe one day the Panera faithful will be sharing the tales of their first special dinner menu experience just like parents and grandparents now reminice about what dinner at home was like 50 years ago.