A post 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, high quality ingredients, convenient and competitive food offerings, and lots of room for growth, Panera Bread Hours Saturday has developed an equation which should help guarantee solid returns for a long time. Panera currently has 1,250 locations with intends to open an extra 80-90 locations this season, a growth of around 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 adore Panera. The bread is freshly baked, the menu offerings are well-thought out, the climate is inviting and warm, as well as the cost 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 for instance, hospitality – in What Time Does Panera Bread Stop Serving Breakfast, you are given a beeper while waiting for your food, so there is absolutely no confusion whenever your food is ready and in many cases, someone behind the counter will fall out of their method to bring your food in your table. The food is served on actual plates with real silverware as well as the seating includes comfortable booths and cozy 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 the order process involves a less personal approach of filling out a form and handing the shape towards the order taker. With regards to quality and freshness, Panera also wins hands-down. The bread is served right from the oven and they also sell their baguettes to take home, something that Au Bon Pain either does not do or fails to effectively communicate it does.
All of us know just how a hot sandwich can draw out the ingredients’ flavors – Panera understands this and provides paninis – a design of grilling sandwiches that has become extremely popular. At Au Bon Pain, instead of paninis, it provides ‘hot sandwiches’, that are sandwiches which are continuously kept warm under a heat lamp. If you’ve ever had food which is kept warm this way, you’ll know it just doesn’t taste great or very fresh. For any place that promotes the product quality and freshness of the breads, Au Bon Pain simply qxuhyp not do pretty much as good a job executing. Finally, so far as I can tell, Panera also wins on value. At Panera Bread Phone Number, your order of the sandwich automatically features a bag of chips as well as a pickle thrown in plus they smartly offer a half-sandwich and soup or salad combination, attractive to health-conscious customers. At Au Bon Pain, almost every ingredient is line-itemed and also you certainly don’t obtain the pickle…leading to your tab that is certainly typically$1-$2 more. So, what went wrong with Au Bon Pain? In 1999, it went public and after that got shuffled around to different private equity groups. It certainly hasn’t changed much over the years and hasn’t made an effort to improve its offerings in accordance with Panera’s.
Perhaps, due to its success through the years and too little a severe competitor, it hasn’t were required 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 opt for lunch?