Nov. 9 (UPI) — Panera Bread announced it is buying another bakery chain, Au Bon Pain, on Wednesday, the same day Panera CEO Ron Shaich revealed plans to step down.
Panera said the purchase is part of its plan “to intensify growth in new real estate channels, including hospitals, universities, transportation centers and urban locations.”
The sale of 304 Au Bon Pain stores to Panera, owned by JAB Holdings, would reunite the two restaurant chains, which, until 1999, were both owned by founder Shaich and his late partner, Louis Kane.
Shaich and Kane founded Au Bon Pain in 1981 and acquired Saint Louis Bread Company and renamed it Panera Bread in 1993. The company sold Au Bon Pain in 1999 to focus on Panera.
JAB Holding Inc., which also owns Keurig Green Mountain, Krispy Kreme, Caribou Coffee, the Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, and Stumptown Coffee Roasters, purchased Panera in April to expand its growing food empire.
After the news of the sale emerged, Shaich announced he plans to step down as CEO effective Jan. 1. He plans to remain on the restaurant’s board of directors.
He said the move would allow him to better split his time between Panera duties and personal investments.
“This is the right time for me to step down as CEO while still staying involved in the business as chairman,” Shaich said. “I returned in 2011 because our growth was slowing and we needed to reposition Panera as a better competitive alternative with expanded growth opportunities. And I’m happy to say we’ve done just that.
Blaine Hurst, Panera’s president and longtime employee, will take over as CEO.