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Panera Buys Au Bon Pain, Merging Two Bakery-Cafe Brands

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The chain is betting on the purchase to boost its national expansion plans 

Panera buys Au Bon Pain
Au Bon Pain sandwiches
Au Bon Pain/Facebook

This week St. Louis’s Panera Bread announced it would be acquiring Au Bon Pain, the Boston-based bakery-cafe with around 300 locations in malls and cities across the world. Panera, which is credited with launching the fast-casual dining sector, now operates 2,050 locations across the country.

Panera says it plans to develop the Au Bon Pain brand into a chain that can fit into “new real estate channels, including hospitals, universities, transportation centers and urban locations, among others.”

The move comes just five months after JAB — a holding company that owns dozens of subsidiaries including Krispy Kreme, Peet’s Coffee, Stumptown, and Keurig Green Mountain — purchased Panera for $7.5 billion. JAB is on its way to becoming a global coffee giant; the acquisition of Au Bon Pain, which does a brisk business in to-go coffee, complements that effort.

Panera’s longtime CEO Ron Shaich also announced in a release that he was stepping down. Blaine Hurst, Panera’s president, is taking his place. Shaich, Panera’s founder, chairman and (until this year) CEO (along with his late partner Louis Kane) launched the Au Bon Pain Co. in 1981. After the company went public in 1991, it purchased the Saint Louis Bread Company, which was later renamed Panera. In order to focus on national expansion, Panera sold Au Bon Pain in 1999. Now, 18 years later, the two brands will be reunited.