Where’s My Salad…?

Where’s My Salad…?

You go to Panera to fulfill that craving for your favorite salad—and, oh no, it’s not on the menu! What gives? We explain menu changes here. (Hint: Some favorites do come back!)

How many times have you stepped up to the counter at your local Panera Bread® hungry for your favorite salad—or soup or sandwich—only to find it’s no longer on the menu? Maybe you take a step back, scratch your head, and scan the menu for another option while wondering why the dish you crave has disappeared and whether it’s ever coming back.

We asked one of our food team members to give us a behind-the-scenes look at how the menu is created and explain why certain items swap in and out. Seasonality, says food team member Leonie Jackson, is one reason certain items disappear at certain times of year: “The menu is about a commitment to craft, and a large piece of that is the fact that some ingredients are at their best only at certain times of the year.” Food—real food—is seasonal.

That explains why our beloved Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad is only on the menu during the summer months, when strawberries turn ruby red and blueberries are at their sweetest. And it’s also why our attention turns to heartier fare as temperatures drop and the leaves begin to change. “Everyone looks forward to the Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad returning, but as we head into cooler weather and those ingredients are past their growing season, most of us are ready to warm up with a bowl of Vegetarian Autumn Squash Soup or try the new Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt” says Leonie.

So a commitment to fresh food helps explain seasonal rotations of items. But what about when items disappear and never come back? While it may be hard for some people to stomach (pun intended), the truth is that it’s less about taking something off the menu and more about adding something new. It’s about innovation. “We appreciate the fact that our customers get attached to certain menu items, and [we know] it can be a disappointment when those items are phased out to make room for something new. But the good news is [there’s] something new,” adds Leonie. “We are always on the lookout for creative culinary ideas.”

So where exactly does something new come from? Our food scouts continually take the pulse of innovative food trends. World cuisine? Check. Flatbread? Check. Vegetarian options? Check. “We are testing and tasting all the time,” says Leonie.

Getting something new on the menu begins with our concept team in the field. Once an idea is hatched, a test recipe is created. New menu items get a trial run in one of our bakery-cafes, but as soon as those customers give us the thumbs-up, we expand into larger regional markets. “We spend a lot of our time eating and talking to our customers, our growers—everyone in the food chain,” says Leonie. And while it could take up to nine months for a new dish to find a spot on the menu, we think it’s worth the wait—and the sacrifice.