Panera Bread Chief Brand & Concept Officer Eduardo Luz is former Vice President and General Manager, Central Europe for AB InBev.

Consumers in Kansas City will soon be able to enjoy Boulevard Brewing’s Quirk Hard Seltzer in a surprising new location – Panera Bread. Pan American Group, a subsidiary of the Flynn Restaurant Group, is set to test beer and wine sales in five of its franchised Panera restaurants.

The hard beverage test drive is part of the new Panera Tonight: Beer, Wine & Dine program launched on Oct. 28, coinciding with the introduction of Panera’s new line of flatbread pizzas. The flatbread pizzas are available in cheese, margherita, or chipotle chicken & bacon.

Everything’s Up to Date in Kansas City

The Kansas City area restaurants are the first of any Panera Bread cafes to introduce alcohol to their menus. In order to bring hard drinks to the cafe, Pan American group is partnering with both the local Boulevard Brewing Co., and Ménage à Trois Wines, based in Napa Valley.

Beer, wine, and Quirk Spiked & Sparkling hard seltzer will be available first at two Panera locations in Overland Park, KS., and will soon expand to three other stores in the Kansas City market.

The restaurant will sell Boulevard’s Original Pale Ale, Unfiltered Wheat Beer, and Quirk Spiked & Sparkling Strawberry Lemon & Basil hard seltzer. On the wine side, it will sell Ménage à Trois Red Blend, Gold Chardonnay and Limelight Pinot Grigio.

“We are targeting our dinner and evening guests that are looking to pair a beer or wine with our great products like our new flatbread pizzas,” said Randy Bates, head of marketing at Flynn Restaurant Group. “Given the environment over the last 6 months we’ve been challenged to think differently about our business.  This is one of the areas we believe is a growth opportunity for our brand.  We always like to give our guests choices.”

Alcohol sales will be available after 4PM, and will be available (at least initially) only for dine-in customers. Bates hinted that the program could expand if successful, adding that the company “will continue to evolve to meet the demands and requests of our guests.”

“It’s honestly up to our customers,” Bates said. “If they show us that they want a beer with their flatbread or a glass of wine with their salad, I think it likely that others will jump on board.”

Boulevard Honored by the Pick

The partnership could prove to be a big deal for regional darling Boulevard. Founded in 1989, “Boulevard Brewing Company has grown to become the largest specialty brewer in the Midwest” according to its website. The Kansas City, Missouri-based brewery is excited to partner with Panera.

“Like mine, families on-the-go are always looking for dinner options that are delicious, healthy and please the entire family,” said Natalie Gershon, vice president of marketing for Boulevard.  “We are honored to team up with Panera for this pilot and offer fans Boulevard beer and seltzer in our backyard.”

In addition to Strawberry Lemon & Basil, which will be available at Panera, Quirk Spiked & Sparkling also comes in Blackberry Sage and Pear Yuzu. Each flavor contains 90 calories and 4.2 percent ABV.

Boulevard also has its own line of all natural, spirit-based ready-to-drink (RTD) canned cocktails called Fling which includes flavors like Mai Tai, Mojito, and Whiskey Mule.

Panera Adds Flatbread Pizza Nationally

Panera Bread recently launched flatbread pizza, as a way to build on strengths and further respond to a surge in COVID-19 at-home behavior.  They’re banking on that behavior having stickiness beyond the pandemic.

Our guests choose Panera because they want to eat delicious food, that they can feel great about eating. Flatbread Pizzas – done the Panera way – are the perfect offering for this moment and beyond,” commented Panera Bread Chief Brand & Concept Officer Eduardo Luz, who was formerly Vice President and General Manager, Central Europe for AB InBev.

Luz commented in a press release that the company anticipates pizza will become cornerstone for the company’s growing dinner
business. Prior to the pandemic, Panera was investing in the dinner daypart.   But without any particular focus, dinner was already in excess of 30% of corporate revenues.

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