In the Greater St. Louis area, the company is known as Saint Louis Bread Company and has over 100 locations. Products include bakery items, pasta, salads, sandwiches, soups, and specialty drinks. Flatbread pizzas will be added to the menu in 2020. But do you know when St. Louis Bread Company changed its name to Panera?
Outside the St. Louis metropolitan area, St. Louis Bread Company is known as Panera. During the company’s interstate expansion in 1997, the name was changed. It is still known as St. Louis Bread Company in the Greater St. Louis, with more than 100 locations.
Where Did Panera or St. Louis Bread Company Come From?
In the early 1980s, Ron Shaich, a newly minted Harvard business school graduate, opened the Cookie Jar in Boston. He quickly realized that only the unsavory ones bought cookies before lunch, so he introduced baguettes and croissants in the morning purchased from a failing French bakery called Au Bon Pain.
When he realized that many of his customers were purchasing baguettes and meat from nearby delis for DIY sandwiches, he saw an opportunity and, with the help of investors, purchased the Au Bon Pain bakeries and added a sandwich shop component. Au Bon Pain grew into a minor national power in the 1980s and 1990s, with over 250 locations primarily targeting white-collar city workers on lunch breaks, but then began to plateau.
So, in 1993, they bought St. Louis Bread Company, a small Midwest sandwich or bakery chain with a more extensive bread selection and a broader demographic: the suburban lunch crowd.
To focus on what SLBC was doing, Shaich and his investors sold Au Bon Pain in 1999 and renamed the chain Panera, so it didn’t feel tied to the City of Toasted Ravioli. The early aughts were Panera’s Golden Era, as books like Fast Food Nation and documentaries like Super Size Me pushed people away from traditional fast food and toward more health-conscious options.
Panera didn’t have much national competition then, and even now, with 2,200 locations in the US, it doesn’t have a clear one-to-one rival. Panera sold to European conglomerate JAB Holdings for $7.5 billion in 2017 and, by chance, repurchased Au Bon Pain, the same company that initially purchased Panera. (Source: Delish)
Free Panera or St. Louis Bread, But Not Everywhere
Yes, you read that correctly: a few locations in low-income areas operate on a pay-what-you-can basis. The menu at these shops, known as Panera Cares Community Cafes, lists suggested donations but accepts whatever you can afford. Panera estimates that approximately 60% of customers usually pay that amount or more and that these stores typically bring in 70% to 75% of the profits of a typical store. (Source: Delish)
Access to Classic Jam All Day
If Beethoven isn’t your thing, Panera might not be for you. The cafe is notorious for only playing classical music in their locations. So, if you’re looking for some jazz, you might be better off going to Starbucks.
Image from RestaurantBusinessOnline