Panera Bread has reached an agreement to acquire Au Bon Pain, a Boston-based bakery-cafe chain with 304 units worldwide. In addition, Panera announced Ron Shaich will step down as CEO effective Jan. 1, 2018. Blaine Hurst, current president of Panera, will replace Shaich at that time.
“This acquisition offers the strategic opportunity for us to grow in several new real estate channels, including hospitals, universities, transportation centers and urban locations, among others,” Shaich said.” Terms of the transaction, which is expected to close during the fourth quarter, were not disclosed.
The acquisition will bring Au Bon Pain and Panera together again. Shaich, Panera’s founder, chairman and CEO, and his late partner Louis Kane created Au Bon Pain Co. Inc. in 1981. The company went public in 1991 and acquired Saint Louis Bread Company in 1993. Saint Louis Bread was renamed Panera and, in 1999, Au Bon Pain was sold so that all human and capital resources available at that time could be focused on Panera.
Despite stepping down as Panera’s CEO, Shaich will remain active with Panera, allocating his time between the fast-casual chain; initiatives for JAB, which acquired Panera in July; and his personal investments and interests, according to a release announcing this transition. Shaich, who will be a significant investor in the company, will remain chairman of Panera’s board of directors and will continue to work on strategy, communications and acquisitions for the restaurant chain.
Hurst joined Panera in January 2011 as senior vice president of technology and transformation, charged with building the digital capabilities that would enable Panera 2.0 and the chain’s e-commerce platform. He was elected executive vice president of technology and transformation in May 2013, and EVP and chief transformation and growth officer in October 2014. Hurst was named president in December 2016. Earlier in his career, Hurst was vice chairman and president at Papa John’s International Inc.