The Major Fast-Casual Trend That Started At Panera Bread

What about Panera Bread keeps customers coming back? Clearly, people enjoy this fast casual spot, making the company $5.7 billion in 2021 alone (via Statista). Of course, the free Wi-Fi, the classical music creating a relaxed ambiance, the smell of bread baking, and the legendary soft and chewy bread bowls all contribute to Paneras's success.

When you think of Panera Bread, you might envision comforting and decadent foods like a Grilled Mac & Cheese Sandwich, or maybe you're dreaming of something light and healthy, like the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich. Panera's menu has so many options that you're bound to find exactly what you're craving.

But do you ever wonder about the nutrition facts such as the number of calories, the amount of fat, or the sodium content? Eating at a fast-casual restaurant like Panera Bread once left you wondering about these crucial details when you placed your order, and many people may have considered ignorance to be bliss and would have happily stayed in the dark. Nothing ruins an appetite faster than learning that your favorite meal is the unhealthiest item on the menu.

Panera knows that nutrition facts matter

In 2010, Panera Bread blazed a trail by including nutrition information for its menu items (via CNBC). The company would have been required to do this anyway, under the Affordable Care Act which, as of 2016, mandated restaurants with over twenty locations to provide complete nutrition information to customers. Many chains followed Panera's lead, like McDonalds, which started listing nutrition facts in 2012 (per Eater).

In 2018 Panera Bread stated it continues striving to be more transparent with consumers and wants them to really "think about food." When they started providing nutrition information before it was required, it was done to help customers make better decisions. "It puts everything out in the open, obviously," said Scott Davis, the company's chief concept officer. "So when you look at making a choice between a soup with 100 calories and a sandwich with 300 or 400 calories, it puts it pretty clearly what's in your best interest," (per USA Today).

Making delicious nutritional choices

While listing nutrition facts at restaurants is meant to help consumers make better dietary decisions, some of the information may come as a shock. According to Panera Bread's website, the Mac & Cheese Bread Bowl has a whopping 1,150 calories, about half the number of calories recommended to be consumed by an adult in a full day, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Add an Iced Caramel Latte to your order, and you're looking at a grand total of 1,650 calories, 52 grams of fat, and 62 grams of sugar — definitely not the healthiest choice.

For those who are keeping to a specific diet to improve their health, nutrition information is vital in helping them make good decisions regarding their well-being. By simply choosing a different menu item from that high-calorie bread bowl, such as Panera's Autumn Squash Soup, you'll end up with fewer calories than the Iced Caramel Latte alone. And there are many options to choose from, as Panera is considered one of America's healthiest chains.

Love them or hate them, these nutrition facts provide vital information for many, and they go a long way toward educating consumers about healthy eating. Of course, some live by the words "everything in moderation," so enjoying a Mac & Cheese Bread Bowl now and again is acceptable.