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Panera stirs up sales with video foreshadowing recipe revamp

Panera Bread is ramping up sales in 2016 with Facebook advertisements featuring a mobile-optimized video that teases a new recipe for a fan-favorite item.

The quick service restaurant chain is rolling out the video ads on targeted consumers’ Facebook newsfeeds, hoping to stir up excitement and sales among individuals seeking a tasty meal. Panera is also readying its fans’ taste buds for a recipe change involving one of its most popular menu items – rumored to be the French Onion soup by an employee in the video comments section.

“Creating suspense and mystery on social media is a great way to curate greater interest in menu items and Panera Bread’s restaurants,” said Paul Valle, vice president of Boston Retail Partners. “The mobile-optimized video with a chef hiding his secret recipe by filming from behind with glimpses of some ingredients is captivating and spurs social media dialogue guessing what the recipe will be.”

Tapping into social
Panera has spent the better part of the year attempting to recharge its mobile strategies and maximize digital sales made by on-the-go consumers. Its eponymous mobile application has received a positive response from users, but overall profits experienced a rocky few quarters in 2015.

Panera is kicking off the New Year by ensuring its brand stays at the forefront of QSR customers’ minds, thanks to its new sponsored ads on Facebook. Facebook users scrolling through their newsfeeds may spot the short clip embedded among other posts.

The ad informs consumers that an iconic recipe is about to get remade, urging fans to prepare their taste buds. Smartphone users can press the “play” button to view the fifteen-second video, which features a chef passionately creating and reworking an unidentified meal.

The #ComingSoon hashtag does not offer a specific date for the release of the revamped recipe, leaving commenters to excitedly speculate when it will be available in-store.

This tactic is likely to bolster first-quarter sales for Panera. If individuals thinking about purchasing lunch or dinner stumble upon the ad, they could be swayed to place a mobile order at their nearest Panera location instead of visiting a competitor.

Customers may also wander in-store to try to deduce which recipe is undergoing a serious change – though an employee suggested via a Facebook comment that it is indeed the popular French Onion soup.

Another similar video reveals that Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar soup is also undergoing a revamping with a “clean” focus, meaning no artificial flavors, sweeteners, preservatives or colors will be used.

After watching the video, Facebook users may feel inspired to visit the chain’s official social page, which showcases the nearest Panera locations.

Mobile-first outlook
Panera is undoubtedly attempting to leverage a mobile-first mindset for its earliest 2016 initiatives. The targeted Facebook ads will help the brand reach a millennial audience that typically responds well to quick service marketers with mobile ordering capabilities.

One option of increasing the social-enabled video advertisements’ effectiveness would be to offer a direct link to download the Panera app for those who have not yet already done so.

Nevertheless, the marketer’s decision to cloak its recipe revamp in secrecy while providing teases on social media is set to resonate positively with its customers.

As 2016 progresses, Panera is continuing to convert more of its locations into its Panera 2.0 initiative, which includes a bigger focus on mobile ordering, payments and delivery options, after the company experienced downtrodden profits in 2015’s Q3 due to costs (see story).

Executives from Panera Bread and Westfield Group claimed at CXNYC 2015 that mobile has a critical role in driving the future of commerce at shopping centers and restaurant locations, thanks to disruptive innovations and the growing use of technology such as beacons (see story).

“Creating social media buzz on Facebook and Twitter will rejuvenate brand awareness and interest in Panera, which will likely drive increased store visits and sales,” Mr. Valle said. “With so many restaurant choices available, the key to success depends on constant innovation of new menu items and staying at the forefront of consumers’ minds.”