A write-up that I recently read about Panera Bread’s expansion plans gave me 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, top quality ingredients, convenient and competitive food offerings, and lots of room for growth, Panera Bread Hours has created an equation that should help guarantee solid returns for many years. Panera currently has 1,250 locations with wants to open yet another 80-90 locations this coming year, a growth of about 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 accepted as the top performer within 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 love Panera. The bread is freshly baked, the menu offerings are well-designed, the atmosphere is inviting and warm, as well as the price is reasonable…and, Personally, i can’t think of a fast casual cafe chain that comes even close to winning vs. Panera on any one of those dimensions. Au Bon Pain was made on the same premise that brought Panera success – hospitality, quality, fresh baked goods – yet it is, in my view, a pale comparison. Take as an example, hospitality – in Is Panera Bread Open Today, you might be given a beeper while awaiting your food, so there is absolutely no confusion whenever 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 also you must bring the food for your table yourself as well as the order process involves a less personal approach of submitting a form and handing the shape towards the order taker. When it comes to quality and freshness, Panera also wins hands-down. The bread is served right out from the oven and they sell their baguettes to adopt home, something which Au Bon Pain either will not do or will not effectively communicate it does.
We all know just how a hot sandwich can draw out the ingredients’ flavors – Panera knows this and gives paninis – a style of grilling sandwiches that has become quite popular. At Au Bon Pain, rather than paninis, it gives you ‘hot sandwiches’, which are 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 that it just doesn’t taste excellent or very fresh. To get a place that promotes the product quality and freshness of their breads, Au Bon Pain simply qxuhyp not do nearly as good a job executing. Finally, in terms of I can tell, Panera also wins on value. At Panera Bread Corporate Office Phone Number, your order of the sandwich automatically comes with a bag of chips as well as a pickle thrown in and they also smartly give you a half-sandwich and soup or salad combination, appealing to health-conscious customers. At Au Bon Pain, almost every ingredient is line-itemed and also you certainly don’t get the pickle…leading to your tab that is certainly almost always$1-$2 more. So, what went wrong with Au Bon Pain? In 1999, it went public and then got shuffled around to different private equity groups. It certainly hasn’t changed much over time and hasn’t made an effort to improve its offerings relative to Panera’s.
Perhaps, because of its success over the years and a lack of a serious competitor, it hasn’t were required to. But, let’s get real – in a health conscious, quality, value driven economy like the one which we live in – where would you rather go for lunch?