10 Secrets You Might Not Know About Panera Bread

It's more than just bread bowls and free wifi!

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Panera Bread Retail Location. Panera is a Chain of Fast Casual Restaurants
Shutterstock / Jonathan Weiss

It wasn’t always called Panera

Nope. In fact, it was originally named St. Louis Bread Co., and it’s still called that in St. Louis, or just “Bread Co.” by regulars. Part of the new name, Panera, is a word that has roots meaning “bread basket” in Latin.

If you love bread bowls as much as we do, here’s how to make a copycat Panera bread bowl at home. Plus, Panera bread lovers may also enjoy a free Panera toasted baguette from some of their largest stores.

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HDR image, Panera Bread sandwich restaurant, patio entrance
Shutterstock / QualityHD

There are more than 2,000 locations

What started out as just 20 shops in the St. Louis area is now a company with more than 2,000 bakery-cafes and 100,000 associates. Sadly, you won’t find Panera Bread in Utah, Idaho, Montana or Wyoming.

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child girl eats healthy food showing thumb up at kindergarten
Shutterstock / Oksana Kuzmina

Kids can eat like adults

Panera Bread wanted kids to be able to enjoy delicious and wholesome meals as opposed to nutritionally empty options typically found on kids menus (like pizza, fries and chicken nuggets), so children can pick almost any item on the menu as a smaller sized entree.

Looking for kid-friendly dinners that aren’t chicken nuggets? Check out these 50 recipes.

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Round Warm Everything Bagels Ready to Eat
Shutterstock / Brent Hofacker

Baked goods are made fresh daily

Every night, fresh dough is delivered to all Panera Bread locations from Fresh Dough Facilities across the country. To ensure fresh dough is always delivered, these facilities operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 364 days per year. We have to say we appreciate that commitment for their tasty bagels!

Try making your own bagels at home with these easy tips.

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Cash paid for food items sits in a box at the front counter inside a Panera Bread Co. restaurant, in Clayton, Mo.
Jeff Roberson / AP / REX / Shutterstock

Panera gives back to the community

Fresh-baked goods only sit on shelves for a one day. Any remaining bakery items that don’t get sold are boxed up and delivered to local hunger relief organizations as part of the company’s Day-End Dough-Nation program.

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 Panera Bread logo on the website homepage
Shutterstock / Casimiro PT

You can skip the line

If you’re like us, you love the food but hate to wait. Rapid Pick-up (where you can schedule your order online), Fast Lane Kiosks where you can place your order via a touch-screen tablet without approaching the counter, and delivery service (now nationwide!) are all designed to help you skip the line.

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caesar salad on table - Healthy food style
Shutterstock / gowithstock

The food is made with clean ingredients

Panera Bread has always been at the forefront of the healthy eating options. It was the first to start listing calorie counts on menus. It also eliminated all artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives from its foods in 2017.

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Macaroni Shells and Cheese on a Wooden Table
Shutterstock / P Maxwell Photography

Some foods are pretty indulgent

Just because it’s clean, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. The mac and cheese is outrageously tasty (a great sometimes treat), but a large bowl comes with almost 1,000 calories, 15 grams of sugar and a whopping 61 grams of fat! You can download the Panera Bread app to review the nutritional info before you order. Learn how to make Panera’s Greek lemon chicken soup, which is on the lighter side.

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funny kid with flour
Shutterstock / Alexander_Safonov

There’s a bakers-in-training program for kids

Select locations offer this two-hour culinary experience for kids ages 5-12. Participants get their own baking hat and apron, watch a baking demonstration, take a behind-the-scenes tour, sample the kids’ menu and decorate their own cookie.

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Taste of Home

Enjoy Panera at home

Next time you’re at the grocery store you might notice some of your favorite Panera Bread items on the shelves, like soups, mac and cheese, dressing and sliced bread.

Feeling creative? Try making these Panera Bread copycat recipes from scratch.

Lauren Naru
Lauren has been working in media relations for 20 years and branched into freelance food writing in 2016. Her work for Taste of Home covers subjects like gift guides, sales and must-have kitchen items. She lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley region where she spends time writing, working in marketing and volunteering at her local community center. In her spare time, Lauren is hard at work mixing batter and piping intricate designs for her custom cookie business, Claire’s Custom Cookies. Outside of working and designing cookies, Lauren loves to spend time with her family and adorable dog, Murphy.