Online restaurant delivery is rapidly growing. That much is for sure. Every week, it seems, a major player like McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, or Taco Bell announces that it’s either going to start offering delivery service or expand the service it already has. Now, restaurants are experimenting with menu items that are available only through delivery.
The St. Louis-based bakery-cafe chain’s original Mac & Cheese is one of its most popular items, and the addition of bacon is an easy adaptation of an already hot seller. By offering Bacon Mac & Cheese only for a short time, the potential negative impact on the company’s bottom line is minimized, even if the test proves to be a failure.
Panera has purposely poised itself for such a bold delivery experiment. In early May, the chain increased its delivery force to about 13,000 drivers and employees, up from 10,000 delivery-related jobs since the end of 2017. Panera offers delivery via its app or website in 43 states. Digital sales currently account for 30% of total sales, the company said.
Is Panera’s Bacon Mac & Cheese starting a trend of delivery-only menu items? It’s hard to say at this point. But should a bigger player like McDonald’s try such a move, others will almost certainly follow. Imagine a new variation of the Big Mac that was available only through Uber Eats. Given the rapid pace of McDonald’s delivery expansion, it’s not hard to envision. After all, McDonald’s has already offered delivery exclusives, even if not in the form of food. To celebrate what it called Global McDelivery Day in July, the fast-food giant gave away ’90s-inspired freebies like Golden Arches shirts, World Famous Fries and Big Mac socks, bandanas, and pins that were only available with Uber Eats orders over $5.
Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage analyst for Industry Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based market intelligence firm. It's the perfect job for him: He loves junk food, he often works besides a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper, and anytime one of the health nuts in his office gives him grief for eating a Big Mac, he gets to smile and say: "Hey, this is my job." Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.