• The fast-casual chain Panera Bread has announced a new initiative involving the sale of in-demand grocery essentials through its restaurants, so that shoppers don’t have to brave grocery stores during the coronavirus pandemic to buy items like bread, milk, and produce.
  • This could be a more convenient option for shoppers struggling to adjust to grocery store changes like reduced hours and the frenzy of trying to score hard-to-obtain items like milk and bread that shoppers have been hoarding since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
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Grocery stores around the country remain one of the few public places open during the coronavirus pandemic that’s brought the US economy to a screeching halt and forced dramatic shifts in how the stores do business in order to meet shoppers’ demands — as well as to keep them safe.

Retailers like Walmart and Kroger have trimmed their hours so that shoppers don’t have as much of an opportunity to congregate there. Both chains are also now limiting the number of people who can be inside a store at any one time. Meanwhile, the fast-casual restaurant chain Panera Bread announced a new offering on Wednesday that might provide a solution to grocery shoppers looking for a better and safer way to buy essentials: You can now do so from Panera, via its new Panera Grocery initiative.

Instead of feeling like you’re risking your safety inside a somewhat crowded grocery store, you can now buy in-demand essentials from Panera like milk, bread, and fruit. “Leveraging the Panera supply network of clean ingredients, Panera Grocery is easily ordered on the Panera app or website and is available via contactless deliveryRapid Pick-Up®, Drive-Up and Drive-Thru, as well as through contact-free delivery via Grubhub,” the chain announced.

Items currently available via Panera Grocery include fresh-baked breads and bagels (Classic White Loaf; Whole Grain Pan Loaf; French Baguette; Bagel Packs), milk and dairy items (Skim Milk and 2% Milk gallons at participating cafes; Greek Yogurt, Yogurt Tubes; Plain Cream Cheese) and fresh produce (Apples, Avocados, Blueberries, Red Grapes, and Vine Ripe Tomatoes).

Here’s what you see when you look for these items in the Panera Grocery section of the chain’s website. I’ve chosen a Panera store near me, and it gives me the option to buy staples like these with an easy tap:

Image source: Panera

This could be a more convenient option for shoppers who’ve otherwise been confronted repeatedly with one of the signature images of the coronavirus era — empty store shelves, as shoppers early on started wiping out the inventory of items like bread, milk, and toilet paper at stores around the country.

About the new Panera Grocery option, Panera CEO Niren Chaudhary said in a news release: “From limited choices on grocery shelves to the growing need to limit the number of trips outside of the home, it is an incredibly stressful time when it comes to putting wholesome food on the table, and we knew Panera could help. With this new service we can help deliver good food and fresh ingredients from our pantry to yours, helping provide better access to essential items that are increasingly harder to come by.”

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.