Panera Bread

Interpreting the Top 100

Every year, many of us anxiously await the release of Technomic’s Fast Casual Top 100 report. Technomic’s Darren Tristano, one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry, gave me an interview and a sneak peek at the report. Here are his thoughts, followed by a few of my own.

Darren, what is the size of the fast-casual segment (2010)?

Panera Plans Development in Toronto

Panera announced an agreement with Covelli Enterprises to co-develop the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Ontario, for Panera Bread. Covelli, through its affiliate Canadall ULC, has aggressive plans for expansion in the GTA including two or three new bakery-cafes in the communities of Mississauga/Oakville and Vaughn in 2011. 

Panera Bread ULC, Panera’s Canadian affiliate, currently operates bakery-cafes in Richmond Hill, Mississauga, and Thornhill and also plans to open additional cafes in 2011.

Exclusive First Peek! Fast-Casual Top 100

Last week QSR's in-house fast-casual expert, George Green, snagged the interview of the season with Darren Tristano, executive vice president at leading research firm Technomic. Not only did he get Tristano's coveted insight on the fast-casual industry, he gained exclusive access to the highly anticipated Fast Casual Top 100 Report.

Below is Green's first-hand account of his time with Tristano as well as his own analysis of the study, which comes out next week.

Moreton’s View from the Top

The Panera CEO has spent one year at the helm of the fast-casual industry’s biggest company. His one goal? To keep the company on top.

On the evening of May 12, 2010, Bill Moreton and dozens of his Panera Bread colleagues celebrated the career of Ronald Shaich, the bakery-café’s cofounder, departing CEO, and ultimate visionary. For 25 years, Shaich guided Panera’s growth from a 19-unit chain into a fast-casual giant claiming $3 billion in sales.

Like many, Moreton stood at the center of that room in St. Louis and rattled off Shaich stories alongside compliments and gratitude. The room was jovial and celebratory. Moreton didn’t know how different tomorrow’s tone would be.

What Happened to Table Service?

In many cases, it’s a different consumer out there today deciding where to dine when the urge hits. Throughout the recession, full-service restaurants offered so many fire-sale bargains that those little affected by the economy could almost feel guilty for practically stealing meals when they would have just as willingly paid regular price.

The Fall of Pizza

What’s happened to pizza’s major players?

In 2000, the QSR 50 Report, this magazine’s annual ranking of the nation’s top quick-service brands, showed a robust American appetite for pizza, a category trailing only burger joints in representation. With pizza chains claiming four of the list’s top 15 slots and 12 of the top 50, the segment seemed poised to maintain its spot as a 21st century quick-service staple.

Top Women in Quick Service

Meet the women leading the biggest segment in the restaurant industry.

Just last year, women crossed the 50 percent threshold in the U.S. workforce, and for the first time in history represent the majority of working Americans. Even in our own industry, more than 50 percent of restaurants are now owned by women—a statistic released by the National Restaurant Association just last month.

While women’s accomplishments in the professional and collegiate world are undeniable (for every two men earning a post-secondary degree, three women are graduating), the fact remains that only 2 percent of bosses at America’s largest companies are women.

Yes Ron, There is a Fast Casual

Last October, I attended an industry conference and saw Panera’s founder Ron Shaich moderate a panel of great industry leaders. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know I also had the chance to ask Ron a question about the development and future of the fast-casual industry. Ron answered by noting that there was no such thing as fast casual and that no consumer says, “I am going to go to a fast-casual restaurant.” Needless to say, this caused quite a buzz amongst those of us in the segment, and there has been a bit of a debate going on since then.

Trickle-Down Theory

There was a time when the only place you could find Black Angus beef on a menu was at some of the nation’s finest steakhouses. But these days, Angus burgers are served at McDonald’s, Back Yard Burgers, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, and Smashburger and are just one of many fine-dining menu items, ingredients, and techniques that were adopted by quick-service and fast-casual restaurants over the last decade.

First WA Panera Drive Thru Celebrated with Free Coffee

Olympia, Washington, mayor Doug Mah helped celebrate the recent opening of Washington’s first Panera Bread drive thru, located at 2525 Capital Mall Drive in Olympia, by breaking a giant baguette with Thurston County Chamber members and Panera employees. Mah presented a proclamation announcing Panera Drive-Thru Day and welcoming customers to the new bakery-cafe by passing out commemorative coffee tumblers to guests at the drive-thru window on Friday, January 28.

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