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.

Is Fast Casual Dying? Emerging Brands Tell a Different Story

Despite major losses on the Nasdaq for national fast casual brands like Chipotle, Panera Bread, and Noodles & Company, fast casual emerging brands like Freshii, Corelife Eatery, and Sweetgreen are growing.

Based on Top 150 Emerging Brands Data

Based on Top 150 Emerging Brands Data

Foodable defines an emerging brand as a concept that finds itself at the beginning stages of development, whether it’s just launching or it’s working through the minutiae of scaling and expansion.

According to Foodable Labs, restaurant traffic overall has gone down 6.8 percent year over year, based on social media mentions of the top 1,000 chains, while emerging fast casual brands have seen an 8.2 percent increase in restaurant traffic.

Nasdaq claims that fast casual is a dying trend, but we believe this is just a shift in the trend.
Emerging brands can’t stay an emerging brand forever, eventually, they begin to scale and gain notoriety across the nation, if done right. National brands like Chipotle are simply seeing natural market forces.

They face greater competition as they continue to expand, as well as more challenges. Whereas an emerging brand is just beginning to build brand recognition. Emerging brands are more nimble when they’re smaller and face less scrutiny.

To learn more about what that exactly means for restaurants, be sure to watch the video above and download the Top 150 Emerging Brands Report.

Former Wahlburgers CEO, Rick Vanzura Shares A Valuable Leadership Lesson

Former Wahlburgers CEO, Rick Vanzura Shares A Valuable Leadership Lesson

"I was sure the purpose of that call was to fire me," said Rick Vanzura, Former Chief Executive Officer of Wahlburgers and Alma Nove restaurants, as he shared an anecdote about a time in his career as a consultant that taught him one of the most valuable lessons in leadership.

It touches on the importance of confidence, vision, and calculated action with clear intent with everything you do—especially if you’re a leader in your organization.

Vanzura recently made headlines when he announced his decision to step away as CEO from the famed concepts founded by the famous Wahlberg family. He says the parting with the Wahlberg brothers and the company was done in very good terms.

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The Future of Food in an Evolving Food Ecosystem

The Future of Food in an Evolving Food Ecosystem

Our food ecosystem is evolving. More and more consumers are demanding high-quality ingredients, organically grown produce, humanely raised animal protein, sustainably and responsibly sourced food.   

For example, at the launch of the frozen foods company Hip Chick Farms, known for it’s 100% organic chicken nuggets, “the [consumer] demand was already there,” as the company’s co-founder and president, Serafina Palandech, puts it. “The demand in retail has grown phenomenally over the last four years and in opening our restaurant concept, which we call The Kitchen, you know, we have an incredibly sophisticated consumer. They know exactly what they are looking for and they know exactly what they want to feed their families. So, I really see that the demand was already there and we are filling that need.”

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Forget Uber Eats, Panera Bread Launches its Own Delivery Service

Forget Uber Eats, Panera Bread Launches its Own Delivery Service

It seems like every day, a restaurant brand announces they have partnered with a third-party delivery service like DoorDash, Postmates or Uber Eats to expand its on-demand delivery in a certain market. 

Panera Bread, on the other hand, has made the conscious decision not to partner up with one of these delivery providers and instead, announced last week that the chain now offers national delivery at all stores in 897 cities and 42 states in the U.S.

Customers can use the Panera app to get their lunch or dinner delivered directly to their door for just a $3 delivery fee in most markets. 

“Panera delivery isn’t a pilot program. It’s not in just a few test markets. We now offer delivery across the country,” said Blaine Hurst, Panera CEO in a recent press release. “Delivery is fueling our next phase of growth, and the success we have seen so far is exciting. The combination of providing clean food options via an entirely digital experience is giving us a real advantage, and the momentum is just beginning.”

According to Panera, 30% of sales are made online, via kiosks, or through the app. The chain is aiming to increase that number and has hired 13,000 delivery drivers.

Currently, Panera has 2,000 stores and is known for being tech-savvy with its popular mobile app and loyalty program, along with its massive employment of self- service kiosks within the last few years. 

In April 2017, the chain was purchased by JAB Holdings for about 7.2 billion. It appears as though, JAB is aiming to keep Panera Bread ahead of the tech curve by now offering national delivery.

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