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Panera Bread growing and ‘well positioned’ for expected IPO: report

The company had been publicly traded for 26 years before being taken private in 2017.
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Since it filed to go public in December, Panera Bread, which helped pioneer the fast-casual category, has been watched closely by would-be shareholders. And according to a new report from Placer.ai, the chain has been as hot as the soup in one of its bread bowls.

The report stated that the company has been on a “growth spurt,” noting that its February monthly visits were up 5.2% YoY.

The report also noted that, since it’s popular for both coffee and morning fare as well as lunch and dinner items, it doesn’t see the lags that competitors like Starbucks and Sweetgreen experience early or late in the day.

  • From 6am–8am, when Sweetgreen does virtually no business, Panera serves 9.4% of its daily customers, according to Placer.ai
  • From 6pm–8pm, when Starbucks serves 9.8% of its daily customers, Panera serves 17.3% of its patrons.

IP…Oy: While often heralded as a milestone, going public can make CEOs feel hamstrung as well, especially when they have a long-game strategy that could be to the detriment of shareholders who are after quick gains.

When Retail Brew interviewed Panera founder Ron Shaich in 2023, we asked about a pizza product the chain introduced in 2006, Crispani. Shaich discontinued it sooner than he would have if the company, which went public in 1991, had been privately held.

“I still love the product, but I realized I didn’t have the staying power and I didn’t want to take on the investment community,” he said. “So I pulled it and it was done.”

After Shaich led the $7.5 billion sale of Panera in 2017, the new owner, JAB Holding, took it private again.

Bready set go: When Panera announced layoffs of 17% of its 1,800 corporate staffers in November, the Wall Street Journal characterized it as “slim[ming] down ahead of a planned IPO.”

Reuters reported on March 6 that “ahead of a planned IPO, according to internal company documents seen by Reuters,” the company had relaxed some ingredient and animal welfare standards to save an estimated $21 million annually.

Panera has a No No List of ingredients including artificial sweeteners and preservatives that it won’t use in its products, but in January it removed three additives—sorbic acid, maltodextrin, and phosphates—from the list, Reuters reported.

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.