Why Panera's Founder Started an Investment Fund for Emerging Brands

The former founder and CEO of Panera Bread Ron Shaich has started a new venture.

But instead of creating an iconic fast casual brand, he has started an investment firm to help emerging restaurant brands with funding and to grow.

With his partner, Keith Pascal, who was the senior concept advisor at Panera Bread Co., the two restaurant industry veterans have teamed up to assist up and coming brands that need capital but want to focus on strictly growing the business.

“This is the Buffett approach,” said Shaich in an interview. “We’re providing capital and they don’t have to spend time fundraising or dealing with board fights.”

Shaich, who struggled as the CEO of Panera Bread to keep up with the operational business while also pleasing investors, created the firm to keep other entrepreneurs off the "Wall Street treadmill."

The fund is named Act III Holdings and is working with Zoe's Kitchen, a publicly traded company, to go private at $12.75 a share by the end of the year.

The firm "saw a chance to keep Zoe’s out of the hands of activists by investing $140 million in that deal, which involves a takeover by the privately held Mediterranean chain Cava Grill. The goal is to give Zoe’s a chance to reset the brand amid a sales slump and a stock decline since its 2014 debut in public trading,” writes “Bloomberg.”

Shaich said that Zoe’s “would have gotten ripped apart" without the strategic move.

But to nurture emerging restaurant brands isn't Shaich's only incentive. Find out why he also started the firm at "Bloomberg" now.

Back in 2016, we spoke to Shaich about how he founded Panera Bread and 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 at Amazon.