Panera Unites with Caribou, Einstein Bros. to Form New Fast-Casual Platform

    The group will cover nearly 4,000 locations.

    Fast Casual | August 5, 2021 | Danny Klein
    Panera Bread's Baja Grain Bowl on a table next to soup.

    Panera Bread

    Today, 45 percent of Panera’s sales are e-commerce.

    Panera Bread on Thursday announced the creation of one of the fast-casual industry's largest platforms to date. Panera, Caribou Coffee, and Einstein Bros. Bagels are uniting to form “Panera Brands,” which will encompass nearly 4,000 locations and 110,000 employees across 10 countries.

    Panera CEO Niren Chaudhary is taking the reins as Group CEO of Panera Brands and will also continue to direct the more than 2,100-unit café chain—a role the former Krispy Kreme International executive assumed in May 2019, succeeding Blaine Hurst. José Alberto Dueñas, CEO of Einstein Bros. Bagels, and John Butcher, CEO of Caribou Coffee, will report to Chaudhary while continuing as CEOs of their respective brands.

    The company said Panera’s “distinctive competencies,” which include its sizable omnichannel retail network, digital infrastructure, loyalty program, food innovation pipeline, supply chain, and access to “extremely well-capitalized” franchise owners, will allow it to turbocharge growth in Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels, alongside Panera.

    “Together as Panera Brands, we are united by our common values and shared belief that we can be force multipliers for good. We exist to provide exceptional experiences for our guests, and to positively impact our communities, the planet and our shareholders while unlocking the dreams of our teams,” Chaudhary said in a statement. “We believe Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels together will leverage each company’s unique expertise and services to build an unrivaled fast casual platform with a tremendous runway for growth.”

    Today, 45 percent of Panera’s sales are e-commerce. And it boasts some 44 million users in its MyPanera loyalty platform.

    Panera Brands

    In the past 18 or so months of COVID, Panera shifted to more off-premises business and innovated around offerings such as its coffee subscription program and Flatbread Pizza launch. In turn, Panera said, its business has recovered to above 2019 levels and is currently delivering “consistently positive” one- and two-year comparable restaurant sales throughout May, June, and July.

    Panera has been under the JAB Holding Co. umbrella since the Luxembourg-based company took it private in July 2017 for $7.5 billion. Through investment entities, JAB also owns Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels, as well as Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Krispy Kreme (went public in early July), and Keurig Green Mountain brands.

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    Caribou Coffee was founded in 1992 and claims to be the No. 1 coffee brand in the upper Midwest. There are currently 713 stores in 10 countries. Einstein Bros. Bagels has 1,005 locations comprised of Einstein Bros. Bagels, Bruegger's Bagels, Noah's New York Bagels, and Manhattan Bagel.

    “Caribou Coffee is proud to be closing out the first half of 2021 stronger than ever,” Butcher said in a statement. “Our purpose at Caribou Coffee is to create day-making experiences that spark a chain reaction of GOOD. The creation of Panera Brands enables us to work smarter together, and drive greater impact for our teams, guests and communities.”

    Added Dueñas: “At Einstein Bros. Bagels, our relentless focus on delivering the most craveable breakfast experience for our guests and our efforts to transform the business during 2020 allowed us to come out of the pandemic as a stronger, more profitable, and more nimble company. I’m looking forward to seeing our powerful brand portfolio, executed with a simplified retail model and optimized for a great digital experience, continue to gain momentum.”