In July of last year, Panera made serious waves by announcing it would be testing a new take on a fan-favorite menu item. The Double Bread Bowl, which was tested in Philadelphia, quickly went viral, which is why it should come as no surprise that the fast-casual chain is now releasing it nationwide.
The Double Bread Bowl will be coming to participating Panera locations across the country starting on February 14. It's especially fitting that the two-hole bread bowl is being released on Valentine's Day since the vessel is quite conducive to sharing.
In September, shortly after the Double Bread Bowl test-run began, Refinery29 talked to Tom Sadler, Panera's vice president of food & beverage product development, about the innovation, and according to him, the Double Bread Bowl's creation was actually born out of another Panera innovation, the Build Your Own Mac & Cheese Bar. According to Sadler, one of the most popular ways customers enjoy Panera's mac and cheese is in a bread bowl, so when the chain decided to come out with several new ways for customers to personalize their mac and cheese, they wanted to find a way for these fans to enjoy more than one of those many new options all at once. In fact, the development team wanted to give customers as many opportunities to try customized mac and cheese at once, that they even tried making a triple bread bowl during the development process but were unsuccessful.
Though Panera knew how much customers love bread bowls, the food development team was still a bit surprised by how excited fans were over the announcement of the Double Bread Bowl's Philadelphia test. "We have a lot of cafés, and we want to make sure that while we're really serious about food and really serious about our approach to ingredients from a clean food standpoint, we also want to have fun. So this is one of those moments where it was a fun idea, a great way for our guests to experience multiple flavors, and it turned out bigger than I think we thought," Sadler told Refinery29.
Despite how excited Panera-lovers were about the initial test of the Double Bread Bowl, it's only just now coming to a larger market, and sadly, this nationwide availability will only be for a limited time. The Double Bread Bowls, which according to Sadler, are made simply by taking the same cutter used to create the classic bread bowl and using it on the chain's iconic sourdough loaf, will only be around through February 28.