Panera’s New Chicken Sandwich Needs to Justify Its Price Tag

After working on a chicken sandwich concept for years, Panera is finally unleashing its creation.

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panera chicken sandwiches
Photo: Panera

Little did we know it, but Popeyes was about to rock our world after it released its now legendary fried chicken sandwich back in 2019. It’s now 2022, which in chicken sandwich years is like three centuries, and Panera is finally coming out with two new Chef’s Chicken Sandwiches set to debut March 30.

When I say two, I’m sure you could hazard a guess as to what they’ll be. Sure enough, like seemingly all fast food and fast casual joints out there, Panera’s got a “Signature Take” and a “Spicy Take.” Which, we have learned by now, translates into “not-spicy” and “still not that spicy, but spicy for fast food.” Yay?

Panera’s chicken sandwich is expensive, but “worth it”

Each sandwich will cost a whopping $11, which the company admits (in its own press release!) is “slightly pricier than others on the market.” While $11 is comparable to most of the sandwiches on Panera’s own menu, it’s even more expensive than most of those—the only sandwiches that cost more are the Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT and the Toasted Steak & White Cheddar, which are both $11.99. Plus, “slightly pricier” is underselling it a bitthat’s roughly double the price of a fast food chicken sandwich, some of which we already know are excellent.

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A press release sent to The Takeout breaks down what’s included in each sandwich, and it sounds like the company hopes that quality, not just price, is the differentiator between Panera and all the rest:

  • The Signature Take begins with a chicken filet topped with a garlic aioli that’s made out of white wine, garlic, “secret” spices, and extra virgin olive oil. On top will be parmesan crisps and leafy greens, all on a buttery brioche bun.
  • The Spicy Take starts with the same chicken filet, except it’s topped with a buffalo sauce (“a rich, buttery wing sauce flavor made with aged red cayenne pepper and roasted garlic balanced with subtle notes of sweet honey and molasses”), and it swaps out the parmesan crisps for spicy cucumber crisps instead (“for an added and unexpected layer of bold, crunch and spice”).
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Is Panera’s chicken sandwich too late to the party?

I could be wrong, but... I’m thinking Panera is simply too late on this one. I once showed up at a birthday party a week late and, much to my disappointment, it was long over. I feel like this chicken sandwich trend has mostly sailed by now.

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Sure, the major chains that have introduced chicken sandwiches over the last three years have continued to sell them, and customers continue to buy them (particularly in the case of KFC, apparently). But I also can’t remember the last time I felt palpable excitement for a new chicken sandwich.

Make no mistake, a reliable breaded chicken breast sandwich is pretty good. It’s just hard for me to see how anyone would be excited about one from Panera now, especially at that price. If I’m going to pay that much for a single sandwich, I’d probably go to a local independently owned restaurant instead, but that’s just me. How about you? Do you think Panera’s doing too little, too late?

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