The Panera Bread® legacy began in 1981 as Au Bon Pain Co., Inc. Founded by Louis Kane and Ron Shaich, the company prospered along the east coast of the United States and internationally throughout the 1980s and 1990s and became the dominant operator within the bakery-cafe category.
In 1993, Au Bon Pain Co., Inc. purchased Saint Louis Bread Company®, a chain of 20 bakery-cafes located in the St. Louis area.
The company then managed a comprehensive re-staging of Saint Louis Bread Co. Between 1993 and 1997 average unit volumes increased by 75%. Ultimately the concept's name was changed to Panera Bread.
By 1997, it was clear that Panera Bread had the potential to become one of the leading brands in the nation. In order for Panera Bread to reach its potential, it would require all of the company's financial and management resources.
By 1997, it was clear that Panera Bread had the potential to become one of the leading brands in the nation."
In May 1999, all of Au Bon Pain Co., Inc.'s business units were sold, with the exception of Panera Bread, and the company was renamed Panera Bread. Since those transactions were completed, the company's stock has grown exponentially, and today it has a market capitalization of $4.5 billion. Panera Bread was recognized as one of Business Week's "100 Hot Growth Companies." As reported by The Wall Street Journal's Shareholder Scorecard in 2006, Panera Bread was named as the top performer in the restaurant category for one-, five- and ten-year returns to shareholders.
In 2007, Panera Bread purchased a majority stake in Paradise Bakery & Café®, a Phoenix-based concept with over 70 locations in 10 states (predominantly in the west and southwest). The Company purchased the balance of Paradise in June 2009.
In May 2010, Ron Shaich transitioned to the role of Executive Chairman of the Board and Bill Moreton, who had previously served as the company's Executive Vice President and Co-Chief Operating Officer, was named Chief Executive Officer and President and to the Board of Directors. In March 2012, to signify their partnership and shared commitment to Panera, the company announced that Ron Shaich and Bill Moreton would share the title of CEO. Shaich served as Chairman of the Board and co-CEO and Moreton as President and co-CEO until July 2013. In August 2013, Moreton was named Executive Vice Chairman to help oversee Panera’s business operations; he serves as a member of the Board of Directors. Shaich continues to serve as Chairman of the Board and CEO.
As of September 27, 2016, there are 2,024 bakery-cafes in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and in Ontario Canada operating under the Panera Bread®, Saint Louis Bread Co.® and Paradise Bakery & Café® names, delivering fresh, authentic artisan bread served in a warm environment by engaging associates.