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With more than 2,000 locations throughout the United States and Canada, the Panera Bread Company has evolved into a household name brand within the fast-casual restaurant niche. Panera is known for its fresh bread and baked goods, which it prepares daily at Panera Fresh Dough Facilities throughout the country. These facilities are located strategically across the Panera network, to ensure daily distribution and timely delivery to Panera café locations.


Recently, WJCA was tasked with designing or improving several Fresh Dough Facilities for the Panera brand. The major challenge of this project was meeting Panera’s lofty standards for food quality, health, and safety. Panera goes above and beyond the “minimal” standards established by Health Departments. The company has a specialized team to review every facet of a new facility, from the design to the implementation and beyond. The goal is to ensure that customers enjoy safe, fresh, and healthy food every single time.


As an ongoing Panera partner, WJCA is very familiar with Panera’s policies and procedures. We coordinate closely with the specialized review team on each project, to ensure maximum success and satisfaction. We also approach each job with our own technical skills and attention to detail—facets that allow us to adapt our strategies to meet the specific challenges of each facility.


For instance, one recent Panera project involved replacing a chiller system while facility operations were still ongoing. Another involved a considerable facility expansion, which in turn required site zoning approvals. WJCA adapts to challenges such as these by following a diligent phase-based process. On every project, one of these faces is entirely devoted to planning and pre-design. This step enables us to identify challenges or long-lead approval items ahead of time. Looking ahead to these hurdles helps us plan for them before they become roadblocks.


Our pre-planning and phasing strategies have yielded numerous benefits for Panera, depending on the type of project. On jobs that involved designing and building brand-new dough facilities, our phase-based approach has allowed us to maximize productivity and get the required work done ahead of schedule. On jobs involving expansions or improvements to existing spaces, our habit for planning everything ahead of time enables us to segment and seal off food preparation areas, so the facility can continue to operate while we work.


Panera Bread is committed to delivering quality products to customers at every single one of its café locations. The company is also staunchly dedicated to observing and surpassing food health and safety requirements. Panera Fresh Dough Facilities are ground zero for these quality commitments, and Panera is adamant about ensuring that those facilities are smartly designed and up to date. Indeed, Panera is always looking to add new facilities to support its burgeoning network of cafes or to modernize existing facilities and improve upon existing processes. At WJCA, we are proud to play a role in this quality assurance process by helping Panera to design and enhance its Fresh Dough Facilities.