Panera Bread is joining catering marketplace ezCater, adding to its considerable catering capabilities as bulk orders continue to be an area of growth for restaurants.
Nearly half of Panera’s more than 2,000 restaurants are now accepting orders through the ezCater app and website, and the chain plans to add hundreds more in the coming months, the two companies said Wednesday. Workplaces can use ezCater to place group orders from Panera and about 100,000 other restaurants.
Panera has been one of ezCater’s most requested brands, said ezCater Chief Partnerships Officer Mike O’Hanlon. “Not only is Panera a market leader in fast casual, but they’re also a powerhouse in catering,” he said in a statement. “We’re excited to launch this partnership and continue expanding it in the months and years to come.”
The St. Louis-based bakery-cafe brand has long been a leader in catering, and already offers the service via its own website and app, with options for events, virtual meetings and group ordering. Being part of ezCater should only expand its reach.
“An ideal complement to Panera’s existing catering service, ezCater adds additional reach and scale to expand to more businesses and take Panera Catering to the next level,” said Lisa Hamblet, Panera’s VP of off-premise, in a statement.
The partnership comes as both ezCater and Panera owner Panera Brands prepare for initial public offerings.
Catering has boomed coming out of the pandemic as workers return to offices and large gatherings resume. EzCater bookings grew 87% year over year in 2022, for instance, and more restaurants are adding the service as an option for the first time.
It is an attractive business for operators because large orders tend to be more profitable and can often be prepared during off hours or before stores even open.