Panera is Leading the Way with Calorie Facts on Menus

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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I went to Panera almost every day while my mother was undergoing rehab for her stroke. It's a little pricey but I always found nutritious things to eat for lunch and good variety too. If you go there often sign up for their card and get a free item every now and then. I just have to stay away from their tempting sweets. Love that they are calorie and health conscious. Report
I absolutely love Panera. Right now I have been eating the chicken hummus bowl from the hidden menu....It's low carb and I feel like I am getting some decent nutrition. They also have some good breakfast items on their hidden menu. They just came out with their fall menu and the turkey wheatberry salad is delicious! Report
I love Panera and their Mediterranean veggie sandwich. Sadly though, my fave dish there, the portobello panini, was discontinued. Ah well, still love them! Report
I don't eat much fast food so it's been awhile since I've been to a Panera (probably a couple of years). However, after reading this post, I will certainly keep Panera in mind the next time I do find myself going the fast food route.

I will say though, that the times I do have the need for fast food, I often find myself at the places where I know I can make informed decisions because they already have been posting their nutritional info for a long time now. Report
Never went to Panera. Sounds good, I'm going to have to find one in Florida... I have enough trouble trying to keep the resturants that I've been to keep the GRAVY off my plate. Report
I went to a Panera's near me which had the calories posted for the meals but not the desserts. I asked him if he had a paper with the calorie count on it for the desserts. The store manager was waiting on me. He told me no, that I would have to look it up on line. I was surprised to read on someone's comment that Panera's has a big book with the information. Report
Restaurants in New York have had this for a while and it's very helpful. Calorie contents aren't always obvious. Sometimes the "healthy" choice is actually very high in fat, sodium and calories. Report
I live on Long Island in New York and all fast food restaurants clearly have calorie information posted next to each item in the menu or on the menu board (even on the drive-thrus). It's eye-opening to see the massive amount of calories in the choices you think are healthy! Admittedly, we eat out less often BECAUSE of this! When I'm away from home, I miss it. What really confuses me is seeing people simply ignore calorie information...Do they not care? Are they ignorant? Or do they simply not know that in one meal they are consuming for than a day's worth of calories?

When I went to Sweden this past summer, it was absolutely REFRESHING to order food that was not only healthy, BUT portions smaller in size! Another this that really bugs me...order more and pay less? It's nuts! Report
I google nutritional information (calories, protein, carbs, fat, sodium) always before I order anything in a fast food place. Eye opening. Report
Lets hope more restaurant chains jump on this wagon! :-) Way to go Panera (by the way there food is so yummy)! Report
I just went to Panera's 2 days ago. Before I went I visited their website to get nutritional info. I had already decided to get the Chicken Caesar salad but was very happy to see the calories posted right at the restaurant! (By first going to the website, I knew not to get the croutons and to substitute a vinagarette. ) Good job, Panera! Report
I have this at the Panera's in my area and I think it's wonderful! It really has helped me decide to eat that isn't going to be tons of calories. The first time I saw it I was shocked to see how many calories was in something I was planning on eating and I changed my mind after seeing it. Report
The calories are posted on the menu but if you want the other info you can ask & they'll show you the "big book" which has all the nutritional info on all their foods. I've found Panera's to have foods that are overly high in fat content. 15g of fat for vegetable soup? That was excessive in my opinion. I wouldn't run to eat there. Report
So happy to read this article! I love Panera's Caesar Salad without dressing (yeah I know it's weird but I really don't like dressing and enjoy the taste of lettuce) and get it every Wednesday for dinner! Report
So glad about this. Report
Panera has always seemed more health focused than other chains. I hope to one day see every restaurant providing nutritional information to customers! It makes it much easier to bargain out a meal, mix and match, and create the healthiest option for yourself! Report
I currently use Panera's nutrition calculator after I return from eating there. Having the calorie counts right there when I order will certainly help me make better choices. Report
This is great news. I will have to try them out. Report
I think what Panera is doing is great. Jason's Deli is a similar food chain with organic food and nutritional values posted. Report
This is wonderful! Panera has delicious foods, full of healthy ingredients (as well as unhealthy ones!), so it will be great to know what is what. Since it's a nationwide chain, it will help when we travel. Report
It think its WONDEFUL! It will make eating out so much easier! I hope there will be a day when all restaurants will do this! It will help us be more informed and it will encourage the restaurants to cook healthier and smarter! Report
I visited a St. Louis bread company (in what else...St. Louis) a few weeks ago and noticed the calories on the menu. Having them there right in front of me definitely helped me make a calorie conscious decision. It will also make me visit again when i am out on the road and want to make a healthy choice quickly and easily. Report
I think it's great that Panera Bread is doing this voluntarily. It would be great if all restaurants were required to post the information. When I'm planning to eat out, I try to look up information online beforehand and decide in advance what to order. But there are times when I'm with a group of people that I end up someplace I didn't expect to go, and it would be very helpful to have the nutrition information available, wherever it happens to be. Report
This will help make informed choices for the rest of the day. Report
I absolutly love panera and I am so glad that they are ahead of the game!!! They have so many options that fit into a healthy life style. Report
I think this is great and hope all restaurants jump onto the bandwagon. Calorie count information may not give us a complete picture, but it gives us part of it, and to me, having a partial picture is better than having none of it when I haven't anticipated being in a restaurant and, therefore, haven't done my homework beforehand. Report
I love panera I eat there once in a while,up to yesterday,after leaving the Doc with DH we went there for lunch,we both had chicken salad and leave out the bread,because we don't eat bread, Report
I love Panera and I eat there often...there are many choices on the menu that fit into a healthy lifestyle! Report
I go to Panera Bread and will continue to go Panera Bread. 8 D

I am glad for any restaurant that makes more nutrition information available.

I love the tomato soup and the bread bowl. Don't guilt me into not ordering what I already enjoy! Report
Since I have become aware of Panera Bread, I have been impressed at how they encourage healthy choices. Report
I love Panera's. they are being accountable so I can be accountable! Report
yes. p bread Report
The Fuji Apple Chicken salad with reduced fat Balsamic dressing is to die for, and less than 500 calories!!!!! I never knew that was so good for you! Report
I would rather eat at a local place that makes everythign from scratch from locally-sourced goods. Report
About two years ago I went into a Panera Bread and asked if they had any nutrition information on their food. They handed me a book with each item listed! I quickly copied the foods I like and others that were better choices. I was so thrilled to know what I'm eating. I think this newest effort is even better. Good for Panera Bread!!!! Report
My friends wanted to go to Panera this week so I went on line and made my choice. When I got there they were out of the item I had chosen. I explained I was trying to watch my sodium intake and the clerk pulled out their binder that listed all the items and nutrient count. She quickly scanned the foods and gave me several suggestions. Very helpful and I didn't go over my sodium for the day. Report
I like Panera very much. I can't eat there often because they are costly. I know that they have quite a few things that are healthy, and now we can make decisions based on the calories and nutrients we are looking for at that timel Report
Panera's good about their gluten-free menu, too. I have not been 'contaminated' in this very gluten-y environment and I'm grateful to them for their options. Now, if we could get the MSG out of their salad dressing ... :P Report
I love Panera Bread! We always have it at work so I'm glad I will be able to stay on track! Report
Sounds good on paper, but it is about more than calories. The sodium and fat content of most of their items is too high. Solve that issue and I would eat there every day! Report
I think it is a great idea! There is not one where I live but it is nice to know that when traveling I have options with nutritional information. I look forward to all food establishments doing this if they can, since it is good for business. Report
this is WONDERFUL news! :) Report
It's a great trend- and I'm glad that Panera is one of the ones leading the way. Report
My office was ordering one day and I got online with the nutritional information to order something and ended up eating the kids turkey sandwich with lettuce tomato and mustard. .. I could have brought that from home for a LOT cheaper so I skip it. Report
Yes, this development must be new. One time when I went there and asked for nutrition info, they brought out a super thick binder with miniscule typeface from somewhere behind the counter. Report
I think it's great that more and more restaurants are providing this information. I always thought many items on Panera's menu were laden with calories and have stayed away from most of their food, but at least this shows people that not everything is as healthy as they seem. Report
Had just checked out their nutrition online a couple of days ago after stopping in for dinner...easy to use and love the fact you can customize the item (s) and total the individual items for a meal total. Also, the online breaks out all the nutrients, not just the calories unlike what they'll post in the stores. Agree with others who said they're more apt to go some place in spite of "high" calorie items because I can plan ahead for it. Report
I think it's a good idea. It'll just show folks how calorie laden some foods are. Most people don't realize that a muffin can contain 500+ calories. This might help folks make better choices.

This is really inspiring! As my recognition of nutritional content of restaurant foods has become more front-of-mind, I'm continually disappointed that I'll pick something from the menu that seems to have a healthy description, to then go home and find out that there was one ingredient that just blew it out the window. I like the trend of getting the information more readily available as you are making choices at the restaurant. Report
This is great! Also, props to AppleBees for adding a calorie friendly meal selection and a Skinny Margarita to their menu that I love. Report