Panera Bread announced Tuesday the appointment of Debbie Roberts as Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, effective September 8. A well-known restaurant industry leader, Roberts brings nearly 30 years of restaurant experience and will be a collaborative leader for all Panera operations and operations support functions.
“We are thrilled to welcome Debbie to Panera and looking forward to her bringing her strong record of cross-functional partnership, results-driven engagement, and especially, her focus on people as the core of operational excellence,” says Niren Chaudhary, Panera CEO. “As the brand continues to grow and transform, Debbie’s experience will bring fresh perspective and unparalleled industry experience to our executive team.”
Roberts joins the Panera team after three decades at McDonald’s, where she was most recently East Zone President with responsibility for 7,000 restaurants in 11 regions. Roberts’ hire is the latest addition to Panera’s leadership team, which has expanded to bring on industry veterans from world-class companies including Kraft, Yum! Brands, Unilever, Pepsi, CVS, Accenture and Coca-Cola.
“Joining an iconic brand like Panera is incredibly exciting,” Roberts said. “I look forward to building on the team’s accomplishments and helping to simplify and innovate our operations as we navigate this unique time in our industry.”
Panera brought on former U.S. chief marketing officer at Kraft Heinz, Eduardo Luz, in May as chief brand and concept officer. It added Claes Petersson as chief food innovation officer, responsible for all culinary food innovation, in June. Kathy-Jo “KJ” Payette as chief people officer in April; Roland Ornelas as SVP, chief procurement officer, a month earlier; Gregg Waterman as chief manufacturing and supply chain officer in January; and David Gaidos as chief food safety and quality officer in March.
As of June 30, 2020, there were 2,128 bakery-cafes in 48 states and in Ontario, Canada, operating under the Panera Bread or Saint Louis Bread Co. names.