Panera's Incredible Shrinking Menu, Explained

The chain is testing menus that are as much as 50% smaller in some locations.

Over the past few years, fast food and fast-casual restaurant menus have been steadily shrinking. Take, for example, this entire batch of items that disappeared from menus in 2020. Then, of course, there was the time Taco Bell 86'd the Mexican Pizza (which eventually came back, to the relief of fans). It's all in the name of streamlining operations and cutting costs, but there's another big reason to discontinue menu items: speedier service.

Industry publication Restaurant Business reports that Panera's now in on the tinier-menu trend, testing a more limited menu in a few unspecified test locations to "[provide] guests with a faster and more convenient experience while also simplifying operations for our associates." But of the many pared-down offerings we've seen at other chains, there's never been a set of changes quite this drastic.

Panera’s menu changes at test locations

Panera isn't just dropping a few underperforming menu items here or there—the aim is to cut nearly 50 of them. A photo posted to a Reddit thread by an alleged Panera employee shows what's being removed at these test locations.


Here's what is being cut from each section of the Panera menu:

  • Four sandwiches, including the Chef's Chicken Sandwiches
  • Two salads, both with chicken
  • Three soups, including the Bistro French Onion soup
  • Broccoli Cheddar Mac & Cheese
  • Three hot entrées
  • All flatbread pizzas, which were added to the menu in 2020
  • Three flavors of tea
  • Four types of bread (Classic Sourdough, White Whole Grain Loaf, Asiago Focaccia, and Brioche Roll)
  • Over-easy and runny egg options
  • All souffles, sausage, and brioche
  • Three bagels (Blueberry, Chocolate Chip, Sesame)
  • Chive & Onion cream cheese
  • The entire kids menu
  • Five specialty drink options, including hot chocolate and cold brews
  • Eight sweets and pastries
  • Four take-home packages
  • Fruit cup and Gogurt sides
  • Damn. Getting rid of the French Onion soup feels drastic; it's an offering I've always associated with Panera. And the entire kids menu? Bold. 

    This market test comes after recent menu expansions in the past few years, which included the addition of items like the Chef's Chicken sandwiches (Panera's version of the fried chicken sandwich). And remember, it is only a test, happening in select locations, so we probably won't be writing any food eulogies anytime soon, nor are we likely to see any tirades on social media about what's been permanently discontinued. But it's reasonable to guess that Panera might use the takeaways from this shrunken menu to decide how to bring its famously enormous default menu into a new era of fast casual dining.