An article that I recently read about Panera Bread’s expansion plans provided hope in this troubling economy (see: “Panera Looks to New Venues in Expansion,” Reuters, 3/19/09). A national bakery chain with a well-developed brand name, high quality ingredients, convenient and competitive food offerings, and lots of room for growth, Is Panera Bread Open Today has developed an equation that will help guarantee solid returns for a long time. Panera currently has 1,250 locations with wants to open yet another 80-90 locations this season, a growth of around 7% of its current locations. In California, Panera has just 80 locations, so there are considerable opportunities within that state alone. Since becoming wholly independent from Au Bon Pain Co. in 1999, Panera’s stock has grown thirteen fold, and in 2006, was recognized as the top performer in the restaurant category for one-, five- and ten-year returns to shareholders, so it’s success is nothing sudden – it has been growing slowly and steadily.
Personally, I adore Panera. The bread is freshly baked, the menu offerings are well-considered, the climate is inviting and warm, and also the price is reasonable…and, I personally can’t think of a fast casual cafe chain which comes even close to winning vs. Panera on some of those dimensions. Au Bon Pain was created on the same premise that brought Panera success – hospitality, quality, fresh baked goods – but it is, in my opinion, a pale comparison. Take for instance, hospitality – in What Time Does Panera Close, you happen to be given a beeper while waiting for your food, so there is not any confusion when your food is ready and even, someone behind the counter will go out of their way to bring your food in your table. The food is served on actual plates with real silverware and also the seating includes comfortable booths and comfy armchairs. In Au Bon Pain, the silverware is plastic, the chairs are stiff and you also must bring the food to your table yourself and also the order process involves a less personal approach of completing a form and handing the form to the order taker. When it comes to quality and freshness, Panera also wins hands-down. The bread is served right from the oven plus they sell their baguettes to consider home, something that Au Bon Pain either fails to do or will not effectively communicate it does.
All of us know how a hot sandwich can draw out the ingredients’ flavors – Panera knows this and provides paninis – a design of grilling sandwiches that has been extremely popular. At Au Bon Pain, as opposed to paninis, it gives you ‘hot sandwiches’, which can be sandwiches which are continuously kept warm under a heat lamp. If you’ve ever had food which is kept warm that way, you’ll know which it just doesn’t taste great or very fresh. For any place that promotes the product quality and freshness of their breads, Au Bon Pain simply qxuhyp not do pretty much as good work executing. Finally, in terms of I can tell, Panera also wins on value. At Panera Bread Hq, your order of a sandwich automatically includes a bag of chips along with a pickle thrown in plus they smartly provide a half-sandwich and soup or salad combination, popular with health-conscious customers. At Au Bon Pain, almost every ingredient is line-itemed and you certainly don’t get the pickle…leading to your tab that is more often than not$1-$2 more. So, what went wrong with Au Bon Pain? In 1999, it went public and after that got shuffled around to several private equity groups. It certainly hasn’t changed much over the years and hasn’t tried to improve its offerings in accordance with Panera’s.
Perhaps, because of its success over time and too little a severe competitor, it hasn’t had to. But, let’s get real – in a health-conscious, quality, value driven economy like one that we live in – where would you rather choose lunch?