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.

Foodies Freak Out as Panera Bread Announces Double Bread Bowl Test

The bakery-cafe fast casual chain Panera Bread is taking its beloved bread bowls to the next level. 

Instead of offering a bread bowl that fits just one of the brand's soups or the wildly popular mac and cheese, Panera Bread is testing a double bread bowl in the Philly area between August 5 and August 31st. 

This new menu item is an entire loaf of bread that has two bowl cut-outs to fill with chain's creamy food.

"Ideal for sharing with your BFF, significant other, or even a co-worker, the double bread bowl can include any two of Panera’s signature soups or Mac & Cheese," said a Panera rep. to "Thrillist."

The double bread bowls will also be available via delivery at the Philadelphia stores that it is being tested at. 

In May, Panera Bread rolled out national delivery at all of its stores in 897 cities and 42 states in the U.S.

“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 press release from May. “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.”

About 31% of the fast casual's sales are currently digital, digital orders made up $1.75 billion in the company's revenue last year. 

Now, the chain is looking to entice customers by giving them a bread bowl option not available anywhere else. 

Although the innovative food offering that mimics a doggy dinner bowl is just available at Philadelphia Panera stores, the chain will roll it out nationwide if the August test goes well, according to "Delish."

“So, you want the Double Bread Bowl in a Panera near you? Where do you want to see it?” tweeted Panera Bread on Tuesday. 

The brand's announcement has taken social by storm as foodies continue to react with excitement with tweets like "a double bread bowl is exactly the kind of innovation I expect out of 2018, thank you Panera."

Read more about Panera's double bread bowl test at "Delish" now!