What To Know About Panera's Breakfast Menu

Breakfast is often considered to be the most important meal of the day. Whether you start each morning with a hearty dish or are satisfied with just a cup of coffee, you can probably find what you need at your local restaurant chain. In fact, fast food breakfast menus prove that restaurants have tried to capitalize on the frenzy since the dawn of time. You'll find Panera Bread among the fast-casual chains with a stake in the breakfast industry.

If you just thought of Panera Bread as a place to get soups, salads, and sandwiches, think again. A day at Panera kicks off just like the rest of ours do: early. It offers a breakfast menu at each of its locations, giving customers the option to dine in or grab something quick on the go.

But no matter how many times you have visited, you probably don't know all there is to know about Panera Bread's breakfast menu. There's more to it than meets the eye, and a morning meal here goes beyond the bagels and egg souffles you'll find on the menu. Find out everything you need to know before heading to Panera Bread for your next breakfast.

You guessed it — there are plenty of sandwich options

As Panera's name implies, bread is going to be a key feature in many of the breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Whether you want a warm and nourishing soup in a bread bowl or you're deciding which sandwich to order, carbs are plentiful. So when it comes to its early morning offerings, you'll find an ample supply of breakfast sandwiches to enjoy as you start your day.

Panera's breakfast sandwiches are essentially what you would expect, with varying combinations of meat protein, egg, and cheese. What you may not realize, however, is that you will want to have a few customization options ready when prompted on your next Panera visit. As it turns out, the breakfast sandwiches actually come with a number of alternatives to choose from. According to one Redditor, you can select whether you want your sandwich made on a bagel, brioche, or ciabatta bread. You can also pick if you want your eggs cooked over easy or scrambled.

You can enjoy a free cup of coffee on each visit

Frequent visitors might be familiar with Panera's Unlimited Sip Club. The perk provides free reigns on select beverages of any size when users pay a monthly fee. Although the club is not technically free, if you visit Panera regularly then the $10.99 price tag is more than worth it. The offer applies not only to fountain drinks but also to iced and hot coffee or tea.

If you're still hesitating about whether the Unlimited Sip Club is worth the cost, consider that a regular iced 100% Colombian dark roast coffee costs $2.89. You would need to order four of them to reach the value of your monthly Unlimited Sip Club membership. Therefore, a weekly trip to Panera would be enough to reach the value of the $10.99 monthly fee, which seems more than feasible. Another factor to keep in mind is that you can redeem your Unlimited Sip benefits only once every two hours. That means you can't stock up on a month's worth of coffee during a single breakfast unless you're seriously lingering.

Panera offers a healthier side to your morning meal

A bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich paired with an iced latte sure sounds delicious, but if you are looking for healthier breakfast options, you may be wary about stepping foot in a Panera in the early morning hours. After all, it's still a fast-casual restaurant chain, no matter how fresh its bread may be. And those rich, carb-heavy ingredients are not exactly the healthiest of choices when consumed on a regular basis, though they are mighty tasty.

You'll be glad to know that Panera offers a number of additional breakfast food items that are more nutritious, whether you want a low-carb option like an egg souffle or a fruit-based dish like steel-cut oatmeal with strawberries and pecans. You can also keep calories to a minimum by opting for regular hot or iced coffees and teas and skipping the mountain of whipped cream on top.

Whether you choose a rich breakfast item or one that cuts down on calories, Panera continues to strive to offer fresh ingredients in all of its menu items. The restaurant's "No No List" was created in 2015 to eliminate over 100 ingredients from its menus, such as artificial preservatives and sweeteners.

Calorie counts can vary quite a bit

While we are on the topic of healthier breakfast options, let's take a moment to further unpack some of the nutritional content of Panera's breakfast items. The range of calories you may consume when eating here is quite large, though certainly dependent on your selection. Hearty options will carry more calories, but they're great for those mornings when you want to treat yourself or are looking for a satiating breakfast to tide you over.

As for the food item that packs the most amount of calories, look no further than the sausage, scrambled egg, and cheese sandwich on an Asiago bagel, coming in hot at 820 calories. For beverages, the frozen caramel cold brew offers quite the sweet treat at 480 calories. On the flip side, Panera sells fruit cups that only contain 60 calories (and plenty of vitamins), and your basic cup of tea or black coffee will have very few (if any) calories before you add flavoring, sweeteners, or cream.

In-between options that aren't too high or low in calorie count include the breakfast wraps (the bacon, scrambled egg, and tomato wrap provides 470 calories) or a cup of Greek yogurt with mixed berries that counts just 240 calories.

When exactly can you eat breakfast at Panera?

All of these menu items sound delicious, but within what timeframe can you eat breakfast at Panera? At some point, employees need to switch over to the signature soups and salads, right? As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and at Panera that includes its daily breakfast offerings. The Cold Wire reports that the restaurant does not serve all-day breakfast, and instead, limits service to specific hours each day.

The hours depend on your closest location and the day of the week that you visit, but for the most part, breakfast is served during the typical morning hours you may see at other fast-casual chains. At Panera, it begins when the restaurant opens (typically 6 a.m. or 7 a.m.) and goes until 10:30 a.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. If you are not visiting Panera in person and are placing an order for delivery through a service like Doordash or GrubHub, get your order in before the 10:30 a.m. or 11 a.m. cutoff to guarantee that you are still able to enjoy breakfast.

Want to eat breakfast for lunch? That's no problem, depending on what you order

While breakfast is confined to specific hours of the day, not every menu item vanishes at the cutoff time. When the clock strikes and employees switch over to lunch, you can say goodbye to egg souffles and breakfast wraps ... until tomorrow at least. But if you are craving a pastry such as a muffin, croissant, or cinnamon roll, they are available while supplies last. Since those baked goods stay out on display all day long, there should still be some treats around for lunch or dinner. 

Pastries aren't the only breakfast items you may be able to get after-hours. According to The Cold Wire, bagels continue to be sold once Panera switches over to lunch. You won't be able to get a breakfast sandwich with bacon, egg, and cheese, but you should be able to order a plain bagel, possibly with cream cheese too, to channel the breakfast spirit.

You can get an extra early start to your lunch

Lunch urges can strike at any time, and there are days when you are ready to eat your midday meal at 9 a.m. Maybe you got an extra early start and had breakfast a few hours before you normally would, or perhaps you are having one of those days where you won't have a lot of time to grab lunch so you need to bring something to eat at your desk. Luckily, Panera Bread has a bit of a menu hack that might be able to satiate your early morning salad cravings and provide lunch for later in the day.

According to The Cold Wire, certain lunch items are available at Panera all day — including during its regular breakfast hours. For example, you should be able to order a sandwich or salad in the morning, but soup is not available until lunchtime. You'll want to keep this tip in mind if you're heading into the office early with a busy day ahead. Simply grab a sandwich to go or pick up your lunch order after you finish breakfast at Panera.

Panera had a secret breakfast menu item

Speaking of lesser-known facts about Panera's menu, the chain offers some underground dishes that you can order for breakfast. Secret menus are not much of a secret these days, and many restaurants and fast-casual chains eagerly take part in the frenzy. Panera Bread actually has several secret menu items, but most of them are served at lunch or dinner. However, one particular dish is meant solely for breakfast diners: an egg white bowl with roasted turkey.

This low-carb breakfast option was even on the regular menu at some Panera locations, while at many others you had to order it by name. Although the dish was well-received, Hack the Menu has since reported that the egg white bowl is no longer available. Secret menu items tend to come and go depending on what is in stock, so be sure to have a backup order ready just in case.

For Panera staff, prepping breakfast begins early

Have you ever wondered about the quality of food items at Panera? It's a fair question, given that it is by nature a fast-casual restaurant chain. Depending on your local store, breakfast menu items can vary in terms of freshness, especially when it comes to bread. According to a former Panera employee who spoke with Refinery29, the bread dough came frozen from suppliers though the pastries and bread were baked on-site.

On the flip side, one Redditor recalled that while working at Panera, the dough was delivered fresh each night from a regional facility, so that it could be baked every night for the following morning. As for employees who prepare the bread and other breakfast menu items, their first shift begins an hour or two before the store opens. They typically arrive at 5 a.m., giving them a couple of hours to prep and bake all of those scrumptious bagels before the busy breakfast rush begins.

One day of the week typically a has busier breakfast rush than the rest

Breakfast and lunch are two of the busier times at Panera Bread, making for a hectic morning shift for staff. One employee confirmed this fact on Reddit, explaining that morning shifts are especially active since on top of the early rush, lunch is also a popular time to visit Panera. It's clear that mornings are intense, but is one day busier than the rest? 

It may come as no surprise, but many Panera locations are especially bustling on Sunday mornings. Indeed, a couple of Panera employees agreed in a Reddit thread that Sunday mornings were the worst in terms of crowds. However, one commenter mentioned that at their location, Sunday mornings tended to be the easiest. So, the busiest day of the week may all depend on your closest Panera location. If you want to avoid hordes of people on your next breakfast run, consider visiting on weekday mornings between the early rush of customers and shortly before the workday begins.

Panera wants you to know that its eggs are fresh

Remember back in 2015 when outlets like Women's Health reported that Panera banned over 100 ingredients from its menu, including high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors, and parabens? The move came when Panera unveiled its No No List previously mentioned, which the chain vowed would totally remove the ingredients from its menu. Since then, Panera has remained committed to keeping fresh and clean ingredients at the forefront of its soups, salads, sandwiches, and everything in between. That includes staple breakfast ingredients, like eggs.

In fact, Panera really wants customers to know that its eggs are among the freshest they will find at any fast-casual restaurant. In 2018, CNBC reported that Panera requested that the Food and Drug Administration clearly define what an "egg" is. While that might seem unnecessary, at the time there really was not a straightforward notion of it at some restaurants. Competitors were able to claim they were serving fresh eggs when in reality they were serving products with additives, colors, gums, and other questionable ingredients.

Panera Bread defines eggs as "freshly prepared, cracked shell eggs and/or egg whites with no additives," which sounds about right. The chain even launched a #RespectTheEgg campaign to spread the word about its ultra-fresh eggs.

Panera has been working to close its morning sales gap

Despite the busy crowds on Sunday mornings cited by Panera employees and the diverse menu options, Panera is well aware that there is still room for improvement with regard to its breakfast operations. According to CNN, the majority of Panera's sales happen in the second half of the day, which, if you are a major fan of its signature soups and salads, won't come as a huge surprise.

This is why Panera has begun to focus on expanding its breakfast offerings in order to entice more customers to visit during the morning hours, according to Forbes. Panera's chief growth and strategy officer Dan Wegiel explains that this move was out of necessity, as many locations were full during the lunch hours, leaving breakfast as the one area open for fiscal growth. Panera's breakfast menu has expanded quite a bit since 2019, with more enticing offerings, like breakfast wraps and cold brews, for customers looking for variety. In addition, Panera has put an emphasis on efficiency, even introducing delivery as an option for people looking to start their day early.

Panera is well aware of the competitive breakfast industry, with heavy hitters like Starbucks and Mcdonald's selling similar products at low prices. Wegiel hopes customers see Panera as a more high-quality option but acknowledges that speed is a critical factor in the fast-casual industry. This is particularly relevant during breakfast when almost everyone is purchasing items on the go.