Panera Bread has agreed to buy Au Bon Pain, the café restaurant co-founded by Panera Ron Shaich, the current Panera CEO, over 35 years ago.
Both Panera and Au Bon Pain are fast-casual restaurants popular for sandwiches, soups, salads and pastries. Currently Au Bon Bain has 3-4 worldwide locations, including many located in universities, hospitals, office buildings and transportation hubs.
The acquisition enables Panera, which promotes healthy offerings, to jump into new and different retail environments, said the chain on Wednesday.
In a prepared statement, Shaich said that with the announcement today of the acquisition, we bring Panera and Au Bon Pain together again.
Panera, based in St. Louis, did not disclose terms of this deal that should be finalized before the end of 2017. Officials at Au Bon Pain were not available to comment.
The news of the acquisition came just 30 minutes prior to Shaich announcing that he would step aside as the CEO as of January 1, 2018, but would remain the chairman on the board of Panera.
Shaich said he would continue working on communications, strategy as well as acquisitions at Panera and focus on personal investments for JAB that in July acquired Panera.
Blaine Hurst, the current president of Panera will become the new CEO. Hurst joined Panera during January of 2011 following a period as president of Papa John’s.
Shaich added that the time was right for him to step aside as the CEO, while staying involved with the business as its chairman. He has been the company leader 36 years and is pleased that Panera over the past 20 years has been the restaurant stock that has performed the best.
His move is similar to one by Howard Schultz, who resigned in April as CEO at Starbucks and became the executive chairman.
The two men are known for being outspoken on a wide range of social issues and spending over 30 years each building tiny café businesses into huge global brands.
Shaich is proud of how Panera has pushed into today’s digital age, its loyalty program and is 100% clean menu.
In 1981 Au Bon Pain was created by Shaich and partner Louis Kane. The company then went public ten years later. Au Bon Pain in 1993 acquired Saint Louis Bread, that was then renamed Panera.