Panera Bread Names New CEO

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The fast casual bakery cafe chain Panera Bread has announced late last week that it has appointed Niren Chaudhary as the company's new Chief Executive Officer and President.

The restaurant industry veteran previously held the role of COO and President at the quick-serve chain Krispy Kreme International since 2017. Prior to that, he has had different executive management roles at Yum! Brands for 23 years.

"Niren is a recognized industry leader with an impressive track record of establishing brands and leading companies to achieve growth in markets around the world," said Oliver Goudet, Panera Chairman and JAB managing Partner and CEO in a press release. "He is passionate about serving the people he works with as well as his customers, and has shown a keen ability to develop growth strategies that appeal to consumer needs no matter where they reside. These qualities make him perfectly suited to lead Panera into the next phase of global growth in the US and abroad, while maintaining its mission of doing good in the world and serving food as it should be."

Chaudhary will be taking over Blaine Hurst's former role as he retires and transitions to the Vice Chairman of the Board of Panera.

"Blaine played a significant role in making Panera a leader in the industry including his tireless efforts to lead Panera through its omni channel journey including Panera 2.0, digital, delivery, catering, brand evolution and his commitment to diversity and inclusion," said Goudet. "To that effect, we are excited that Blaine has agreed to join JAB to help accelerate the technology transformation of our other food portfolio brands such as Pret a Manger."

Panera Bread started 30 years ago, making it one of the oldest fast casual brands on the market. Today, there are 2,300 Panera Bread stores In the U.S. and Canada.

However, now that the fast casual sector so saturated, the brand has much more competition.

In 2017, JAB Holdings bought the chain for about 7.2 billion with the goal of expanding the restaurant by focusing on quality and convenience. Panera has been ahead of the curve when it comes to incorporating technology with its popular mobile app and loyalty program, along with its massive employment of kiosks in the last few years. Last year, the chain launched its own delivery service.

Back in 2016, we spoke to Ron Shaich, the founder and former CEO about how he started Panera Bread and learned about his story as a game-changer in the industry who helped to build the fast casual movement. Check out the Fast Casual Nation documentary trailer below or watch the full film now available on Amazon Prime Video.