Creating a Connected Workspace for Panera Bread

September 23, 2022
Chef's Kitchen at Panera Bread

Our Executive Creative Director, Jamie Cornelius, gives a behind the scenes look at how we partnered with Panera Bread to design their new Boston office.

After recently designing Panera’s Next Generation café, the team at ChangeUp was given another exciting challenge by the fast-casual leader: design their new corporate headquarters in Boston. Our familiarity of the Panera brand and experience was essential in bringing the space to life. Our solution: design an office that allowed employees to better connect with not just each other, but with Panera’s brand and restaurants. In order to build a space that truly empowered employees, we looked at how we could bring associates even closer to the heart of the business—the food and the customer.

More than ever, there is no universal approach for creating an ideal workplace as an authentic strategy for a company. In understanding the Panera restaurant experience, we focused on creating an office that would engage and inspire associates to be champions of the brand.

  1. Connection: Surrounding the corporate office with points of connection, not only to each other but also to the customer experience, was critical. Just as people gather around a good meal in the restaurant, the employee lounge is the central connection point in the office. It’s where employees come together for impromptu and companywide meetings, or simply to have lunch. Anchoring the lounge is a large social media wall that broadcasts customers’ interactions with the brand and restaurants. The live stream is an important reminder, centering employees back to the customer.
  1. Engage + Inspire: Individuals have varied motivations for coming into the office today, so it was important to design moments of connection that motivate employees and remind them of their overall purpose. For instance, the brand immersion hall is a striking welcome moment for employees and guests. Stepping into the hallway activates the lights overhead, shining the path ahead of each person’s steps. This “lighted path” is a reminder of how each employee is an important part of the future of Panera, while the walls surround you in Panera’s rich history of innovation and their vision for the future.
  1. Innovation on Display: Early on in the design process we established the “Chef’s Kitchen” as the backdrop to the open office, setting the tone for innovation throughout the office. Only glazing separates employees from the energy and sensorial buzz of the kitchen. Employees can see what’s cooking in the kitchen and an adjacent tasting bar allows them to give feedback on potential new menu items. The space doubles as a working kitchen as well as a place to film new menu introductions at the chef’s table. The adjacent open office mimics that innovational spirit, with a mixture of open and semi-private meeting spaces, showcasing Panera’s culture of collaboration.

As we all think about the future of work, there’s an opportunity to explore new possibilities. Let’s bring the best of what worked post-pandemic, while reevaluating what it is that truly inspires employees today.  For employees to be champions of the brand they represent, then those feelings and customer experiences need to be translated into the physical workspace.

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