Panera announces CEO stepping down, acquirement of Au Bon Pain

Nov. 9, 2017

Panera CEO Ron Shaich will step down as CEO effective Jan. 1, 2018, allowing him to better allocate his time between Panera; initiatives for JAB, which acquired Panera in July; and his personal investments and interests, according to a company press release.

Shaich, who will be a significant investor in the company, will remain chairman of Panera's Board of Directors and will continue to work on strategy, communications and acquisitions for Panera. He will also pursue investments and causes important to him, with particular focus on working to reduce the pervasive short-term thinking in our capital markets and national debate. 

"This is the right time for me to step down as CEO while still staying involved in the business as chairman, I returned in 2011 because our growth was slowing and we needed to reposition Panera as a better competitive alternative with expanded growth opportunities," Shaich said. "And I'm happy to say we've done just that."

Blaine Hurst, Panera's president and company veteran who has led many of the company's most significant innovations over the last half-decade, will assume the position of CEO.

Hurst joined Panera in January 2011, as SVP of Technology and Transformation, charged with building the digital capabilities that would enable Panera 2.0 and Panera's e-Commerce platform. He was elected EVP of technology and transformation in May 2013, and EVP and chief transformation and growth officer in October 2014. Hurst was named president in December 2016, when his responsibilities were expanded to include Panera's core café business as well as Panera's technology, delivery and catering organizations.

"The past seven years have given me the opportunity to learn from an industry icon," Hurst said. "And I have been fortunate to lead and be a part of many of the initiatives that are now driving Panera's success. We've built a great team — in fact, it's the best team I know of in the restaurant industry. I'm looking forward to continue working with them and our partners at JAB as we take Panera forward.  With exciting new initiatives underway to better serve our customers and improve their dining experience, I believe our opportunity is even brighter. I thank Ron and JAB for their confidence in me."

Panera acquires Au Bon Pain

Panera Bread is rebuying Au Bon Pain Holding Co. Inc., parent company of Au Bon Pain. The Boston-based bakery-cafe chain has 304 units worldwide and will be part of Panera's initiative to intensify growth in new real estate channels, including hospitals, universities, transportation centers and urban locations, according to a company press release.

Terms of the transaction, which is expected to close during the fourth quarter, were not disclosed.

"With the acquisition, we are announcing today, we are bringing Au Bon Pain and Panera together again," CEO Ron Shaich said in a company press release. "This acquisition offers the strategic opportunity for us to grow in several new real estate channels, including hospitals, universities, transportation centers and urban locations, among others."

Shaich and his late partner, Louis Kane, created Au Bon Pain Co. in 1981. The company went public in 1991, and acquired Saint Louis Bread Company in 1993. Saint Louis Bread was renamed Panera and, in 1999, Au Bon Pain was sold so that all human and capital resources available at that time could be focused on Panera, according to the release.

Panera has more than 2,000 units, about $5 billion in system-wide sales, and more than 100,000 associates.


Topics: Franchising & Growth

Companies: Au Bon Pain, Panera Bread


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