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Panera turns to grocery deliveries as coronavirus shuts restaurants

Restaurants and bars lose billions amid pandemic

With most U.S. restaurants closed to dine-in customers because of the the coronavirus, Panera Bread is starting to deliver bread, fresh produce and other staples to consumers hunkered down at home. 

The service, dubbed Panera Grocery, gives customers the option of ordering common grocery items alongside the company's usual fare of sandwiches, soups, salads and sweets, the bakery chain announced Wednesday. Consumers can use Panera's app, the company's website or Grubhub to orders groceries for delivery or pickup. 

Backed by Krispy Kreme parent JAB Holdings, Panera operates 2,174 restaurants in 48 states and Canada and employs more than 50,000 people. Panera last reported annual revenue of nearly $3 billion in 2016 when it was its own publicly traded business. 

Panera has plenty of company in making changes to its business model. Nearly all U.S. restaurants — 97% —are running under some level of restriction during the pandemic, with most no longer offering dine-in service, according to industry experts at NPD Group. 

Quick-service restaurants, like Panera, which historically have more off-premise delivery and takeout business, saw transactions plunge 40% in the week ending March 29 compared to the year-ago period, the research firm found

The effect of the coronavirus on small businesses and eateries

The data for full-service restaurants was even bleaker. The typically pricier businesses, usually not set up for take-out dining,  saw transactions fall 79% during the same period, according to NPD.

"It goes without saying that business is way down," Ed McFarlane, owner of Ed's Lobster Bar in New York City, recently told CBS MoneyWatch. "When you go from a full service sit-down restaurant to a takeout and delivery restaurant — when it was less than 3% to 5% of your sales before this happened — it's a very difficult thing."

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