A write-up that I recently read about Panera Bread’s expansion plans gave me hope within 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, good quality ingredients, convenient and competitive food offerings, and plenty of room for growth, Panera Bread Hours Today has evolved an equation which should help guarantee solid returns for years to come. Panera currently has 1,250 locations with intends to open an extra 80-90 locations this coming year, a growth of about 7% of its current locations. In California, Panera has just 80 locations, so you can find 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 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 really like Panera. The bread is freshly baked, the menu offerings are well-designed, the atmosphere is inviting and warm, and the price is reasonable…and, I personally can’t imagine a fast casual cafe chain that comes even close to winning vs. Panera on any of those dimensions. Au Bon Pain was created on the same premise that brought Panera success – hospitality, quality, fresh baked goods – however it is, for me, a pale comparison. Take as an example, hospitality – in Panera Bread Hours Saturday, you are given a beeper while waiting around for your food, so there is not any confusion as soon as your food is ready and in some cases, someone behind the counter will fall out of their way to bring your food to 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 in your table yourself and also the order process involves a less personal approach of completing a form and handing the shape to the order taker. In terms of quality and freshness, Panera also wins hands-down. The bread is served right out of the oven and they also sell their baguettes to consider home, something which Au Bon Pain either fails to do or fails to effectively communicate which it does.
We all know how a hot sandwich can bring out the ingredients’ flavors – Panera knows this and gives paninis – a design of grilling sandwiches that has been very popular. At Au Bon Pain, as opposed to paninis, it gives you ‘hot sandwiches’, that are sandwiches that are continuously kept warm under a heat lamp. If you’ve ever endured food which is kept warm like that, you’ll know it just doesn’t taste great or very fresh. To get a place that promotes the standard and freshness of their breads, Au Bon Pain simply qxuhyp not do as good employment executing. Finally, so far as I can tell, Panera also wins on value. At Panera Bread Headquarters Phone Number, your order of the sandwich automatically comes with a bag of chips and a pickle thrown in and they also smartly offer a half-sandwich and soup or salad combination, appealing to health-conscious customers. At Au Bon Pain, virtually every ingredient is line-itemed and you certainly don’t obtain the pickle…leading to a tab that is certainly almost always$1-$2 more. So, what went wrong with Au Bon Pain? In 1999, it went public then got shuffled around to various private equity groups. It certainly hasn’t changed much through the years and hasn’t made an effort to improve its offerings relative to Panera’s.
Perhaps, because of its success over the years and too little a significant competitor, it hasn’t needed to. But, let’s get real – in a health-conscious, quality, value driven economy like the one that we live in – where could you rather go for lunch?