Panera is Leading the Way with Calorie Facts on Menus


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  229 comments   :  40,388 Views

The Panera Bread Company announced last Wednesday they will introduce new calorie containing menu boards.

Panera has willingly shared full nutrition information on their web site for a while. We used their information to share our Panera Bread Food on the Run review. Now in addition to complete product nutrition information, you can also find an online nutrition calculator to evaluate and customize choices before your next visit. So with their existing commitment to complete disclosure, why the need to change the menu boards?

New York was the first to require restaurants to post menu calorie content with Philadelphia and California not far behind. We shared over a year ago that the Yum Brands, Inc. fast food giant will post calorie counts on menus voluntarily across the country. The parent company of popular fast food chains such as KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Long John Silver's are on track to have calorie counts on menu boards of more than 3,200 corporately owned restaurants nationwide by January of next year.

Panera Co. plans to have calorie counts posted on their menu boards by the end of March of this year in their 585 corporately owned stores compared to the current 147 stores that already post the information. This would also include Saint Louis Bread Co. and Paradise Bakery & Café locations as well. There are an additional 1,380 franchise owned restaurants that will not be expected to immediately display the calorie information but Panera expects they will eventually follow suit.

The Bottom Line

Stanford Graduate School of Business researchers found when calorie content was posted in New York City Starbucks there was a 6 percent reduction in calories sold per transaction. Chief Concept Officer, Scott Davis, reports Panera has seen an increased interest in the "You Pick Two" options in those stores where calorie counts are currently posted. With a potential mandate for nationwide calorie disclosure for chain restaurants looming and the increased cost associated with producing different menu boards for corporate stores, it isn't hard to understand why Panera is jumping in to voluntarily get this information in place nationwide.

However, for many of us, only having immediate access to calories without protein, carbohydrates, fiber or sodium doesn't give us a complete picture to make an informed decision at the point of purchase. Also, most of us will not know if our local Panera is a corporately owned or franchise run establishment and if calorie information will be posted.

The bottom line -- If you want to make a fully informed calorie and nutrient wise decision when planning to eat at Panera, do your homework online before heading to your local restaurant.

What do you think about this decision by Panera? Does it change your views about Panera as a fast food option?

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  • 179
    don't know the company as they're not in the UK, but I do think that knowledge is power, and people are often surprised by the calorie count of foods. If they can look at two foods they like and know that one has fewer calories, then they would likely pick the lower calorie option - 3/17/2010   9:52:55 AM
    Absolutely love Panera. Very happy to see the nutrition values so my choice is the best possible for me. Love all the food so making a good choice based on calories will be easy, not a sacrifice at all. - 3/17/2010   9:13:01 AM
    love Panera - 3/17/2010   8:23:11 AM
  • 176
    I'm on the road a lot for work and Panera is my 'go to' place where I know I can find something healthy and tasty. The hard part is to totally ignore the goodies but with the great soups and salads it is a litttle easier! - 3/17/2010   7:05:48 AM
    LOVE PANERA BREAD - 3/17/2010   6:59:33 AM
    I like this idea and I hope more resturants follow suit. - 3/17/2010   6:34:49 AM
    I used to work @ Pamera....Do check the sodium and the amount of sugar in things esp. the dressings! People make the food, so the sizes and amounts of spreads will vary.Everything in Panera is frozen (soups,dough,cookies)and thawed, then heated, except the salads. You can buy the bread, make the stuff and control the portions on your own at home. They could also come down a bit in price, but they're not the only ones with pricey quick food.Oh, and they are called St. Louis Bread, but only in Mo. - 3/17/2010   1:10:41 AM
  • 172
    Panera was the first restaurant I noticed had calorie information which made it so much easier to have lunch with my friend. I was so excited to be able to find something I could eat and not worry about the calories. I'm thinking if more restaurants start doing that, then more healthy choices will be available as people slowly switch to the less caloried foods, too embarassed to admit they are eating so much. - 3/17/2010   12:39:55 AM
    I LOVE Panera! They have some great choices on their menu and their on-line nutrition info has been accessible for quite some time now. I only wish all restaurants were required to be as thorough with listing the nutrition facts on their menus! - 3/16/2010   10:31:15 PM
    i like this and i hope bigger sit down chains will do the same like chiles and 99's - 3/16/2010   9:51:58 PM
  • 169
    We dont have a Panera in Vermont. I hope that other restaurants will start doing this. Also hope they will offer more sensible healthy foods with less calories,fats and sodium. - 3/16/2010   9:47:54 PM
  • JESAK327
    I love panera and it will be easier to make appropriate choices when eating there. - 3/16/2010   9:08:05 PM
  • 167
    I think this is an awesome idea because I feel like I can go now and not have to spend the time online researching how many calories my meal will be. It will truly be fast food now :) - 3/16/2010   8:09:30 PM
  • 166
    I have never been to one of these places but may have to try it sometimes. One of my friends is always trying to get me to go. - 3/16/2010   7:17:42 PM
  • 165
    It is definitely a step in the right direction. I have eaten there once or twice and felt guilty about it. This info does however at least makes me feel better when I visit the restaurant the next time. - 3/16/2010   7:12:10 PM
  • PRESHA911
    I think this is awesome of Panera. It will eliminate indecision when I'm unable to plan ahead because I'm on the go and need to find something healthy to eat. - 3/16/2010   6:59:15 PM
    For all the folks that are not familar with Panera it is a step above, and I do mean a giant step, fast food. There are a number of easily recognizable healthy choices. There are a number of delicious salads and light soups. It is worth doing a little online homework. Kudos to Panera and other restaurants for taking the lead. - 3/16/2010   5:11:11 PM
  • 162
    No Panera nearby but I enjoy when we travel. Good to know I can check ahead. - 3/16/2010   4:40:09 PM
  • 161
    I think this is an awesome idea. The only way if you are really concerned about 100% accurate count is to never eat out or have ALL the condiments put on the side. I personally like to know a ballpark of what I am eating when I go out. I usually budget in for human error and can not wait for the day that all states mandate a calorie count on every menu. - 3/16/2010   3:09:09 PM
  • 160
    This is a great idea, but the skeptic in me wonders if the numbers they cite are accurate... didn't Spark People have an article about how many of the corporate calorie lists are actually misrepresenting what the REAL counts are?? If I remember correctly, the REAL numbers are actually higher than what the list shows 30% of the time. - 3/16/2010   2:54:49 PM
  • 159
    I LOVE IT!! Food on the run is just that you pick up on the run. I don't have time to look on the internet sometimes before I go out. There are times that I am out and plan on eating at home however, I may be out longer than planned and need to grab something. This will help me to make a better choice when it comes eating out. - 3/16/2010   2:38:35 PM
  • 158
    It helps; I get really frustrated with restaurants that don't share ANY nutrition information, so at least this might put more pressure on those restaurants. I prefer having access to all the information, but putting calories on the menu boards can still help on days you don't want to work as hard ^_^ - 3/16/2010   2:35:05 PM
  • 157
    Our region already requires all fast food chains to display calorie count on the menu board. Panera probably had to change for our stores and just decided to go national with it. In for a penny, in for a pound. - 3/16/2010   1:03:55 PM
  • 156
    well that is good, subway hs nutrition facts on their website as well here

    burgerking also has food/nutrition facts on their site as well.

    so does McDonalds at this link:
    - 3/16/2010   12:35:03 PM
  • 155
    I think this is awesome- it would be very helpful for their business as well to come up with healthier items:) - 3/16/2010   12:29:25 PM
    I appreciate both their honesty and the convenience of this service. - 3/16/2010   12:26:39 PM
  • SBATES63
    I always appreciate when food facts are available in a restaurant or online. I hope that if restaurants are required to publish nutritional facts on their menus, more people will make healthier choices. I also think some restaurants might look at their preparation methods if they have to be accountable as to what goes in the foods they serve. - 3/16/2010   12:01:45 PM
  • 152
    Panera Bread is a great place to eat, but Corner Bakery also posts their nutrition information on their website as well and their food is also very delicious and filling! Their chicken noodle soup is only 150 calories for a cup and I find that is more than plenty! - 3/16/2010   11:30:11 AM
  • 151
    My husband loves Panera bread. I haven't been there yet, but I will definately go there sometime. It's good to know there are healthier options, & some calorie content available. - 3/16/2010   11:26:58 AM
  • 150
    I applaud the restaurants that are willing to inform us about what we're eating. Not only will this help us immediately, but it will encourage them to do a better job of providing healthy choices. - 3/16/2010   11:23:54 AM
  • 149
    I love Panera. Who can say no to a nutritious apple for dessert! - 3/16/2010   11:21:57 AM
  • 148
    Love Panera Bread! - 3/16/2010   11:16:24 AM
    One more reason to keep my loyalty to Panera! I love it!!! - 3/16/2010   11:15:08 AM

    kudos to Panera for bing proactive
    - 3/16/2010   11:04:58 AM
  • 145
    I have been a fan of Panera for awhile. Before they started this, I used to be able to go in, ask for nutritional information, and they would give me a binder that had everything listed. Now I can go online and do it. - 3/16/2010   11:03:26 AM
  • 144
    Our St Louis Bread Co. has been doing this for a while and it really helps me stay on track. - 3/16/2010   11:00:46 AM
  • ROWAN813
    It is about time! I wish all restaurants made it easier to eat healhfully. - 3/16/2010   10:57:43 AM
  • 142
    Great Idea! - 3/16/2010   10:49:26 AM
  • 141
    I have never eaten there and it is pretty far away, so I doubt I'll eat there. Especially because calories do not tell me anything. I need to know where those calories are coming from. How much fat? How much protein? Is everything low-calorie but RIDICULOUS in the sodium department? For those with allergies, brochures with the ingredients list would be incredibly helpful.

    Although, I am impressed that they are volunteering to do this. - 3/16/2010   10:44:41 AM
  • 140
    I love the idea. I will be much more likely to eat their in the future if I can easily get at the information. - 3/16/2010   10:40:07 AM
  • 139
    This makes me more likely to eat at Panera when I have to eat out, and it's an option. I think that this decision is a smart one, business-wise. They know that a lot of people are watching what they eat, and it's a good idea to get the calorie counts up before they're forced to by some governments. - 3/16/2010   10:34:50 AM
  • 138
    I think restaurants are afraid that people will stop eating there if they know how hi-cal their food is. I think it's just the opposite. I'm more likely to eat at a restaurant if I know what my choices are ... otherwise I go elsewhere. Nothing wrong with a little transparency! - 3/16/2010   10:33:36 AM
  • 137
    Have you seen Red Robin's nutrition calculator? I like going there just to play with it. - 3/16/2010   10:30:47 AM
    This does change my opinion, I've always been a fan but avoid it due to with the information at my finger tips I'd be more likely to eat there and benefit from an educated decision. - 3/16/2010   10:30:09 AM
  • 135
    I never had them. Sound good! One day I will try them. - 3/16/2010   10:18:22 AM
  • 134
    I love the "pick two" combo and that the website has the information for the database. My favorite is chicken noodle soup and greek salad or Mediterranean veggie sandwich. Those combos fit in with my daily calorie range. Gotta love Panera, despite their portions and prices ... - 3/16/2010   9:59:06 AM
  • 133
    Way to go Panera! (I do think most of the items @ Panera are a little more pricey than my idea of "fast food") - 3/16/2010   9:50:11 AM
  • 132
    Their web site has been a big help. Lots of healthy options. I really like going there. Alas, the chicken salad sandwich was my favorite until I looked it up. Well, there are better things on the menu. - 3/16/2010   9:49:28 AM
  • 131
    I've always appreciated Panera's openness in providing their nutrition facts. They have some very tasty options that are reasonably healthy -- I love their "You Pick Two" combos. The fact that they're moving at least some of their info right out front makes me appreciate them even more. With this news, Panera just took another step toward the very top of my personal "preferred eating-out venues" list! - 3/16/2010   9:49:22 AM
  • 130
    Having caloric info is better than no nutritional info. I don't have ready access to Panera, I live in the country, but when I go to town it is one of the places that I like to eat. I use calories more than anything right now to determine if I want a food item.

    It is a start, hopefully it will catch on. Maybe as consumers we should ask for that information every time we go out to eat????? - 3/16/2010   9:45:42 AM

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