The group plans to develop 12 bakery-cafes in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties by 2011.
First Picks is headed by NFL star and businessman Keyshawn Johnson, who brings considerable experience as a franchise operator to his latest endeavor with Panera Bread. Johnson has owned and operated the fine dining restaurants Reign in Beverly Hills, CA and Profusion in Tampa, FL, and currently operates a multi-unit entity of Cold Stone Creamery stores in Dallas, TX. In addition to Johnson, the First Picks team is comprised of Glenn and Clarence Mah, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer respectively, and Ingrid Roberts, Managing Director. Mah and Mah bring 20 years of experience in the foodservice and hospitality industry, currently as part of CHED Concept Restaurants, an award-winning restaurant and bar operator in the United States and Canada. Roberts has over 12 years experience in marketing and business development, and is currently Managing Director of Keyshawn Inc., Johnson's parent company.
"Panera Bread is pleased to welcome the team at First Picks as the newest addition to our franchise community," said Mike Kupstas, Chief Franchise Officer for Panera Bread. "We are excited about Panera's continued growth in California and believe our partnership with First Picks will provide us with a great opportunity to expand into an area perfectly suited for us."
Johnson is best known for his illustrious career in the NFL, currently as a wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys. The #1 overall pick in the 1996 NFL draft, Johnson later went on to become a Super Bowl Champion as part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 2002-03 season.
"I am truly excited to have an opportunity to be involved with one of the finest brands in the restaurant industry," said Johnson. "Along with my business partners, we are thrilled to expand Panera in my home state of California. Panera exhibits a strong commitment to the communities in which they operate - and we are eager to continue that tradition by contributing to the economic vitality of one of the country's most beautiful and viable regions."
A graduate of the University of Southern California, Johnson has achieved success in numerous business and charitable endeavors outside of the football world. In addition to his role as CEO of First Picks, Johnson currently serves as President and COO of Keyshawn Capital Development, focused on commercial, retail and residential development, as well as community redevelopment. He also serves as Founder and President of The Keyshawn Johnson Education Fund, a group that provides scholarships and programs to encourage youth education, as well as provide opportunities for at-risk youths. Johnson is a spokesperson for many philanthropic, social and economic development entities, and continues to strive to be a leader and visionary both on and off the field.