Panera Bread to buy Au Bon Pain

Panera Bread to buy Au Bon Pain

Deal reunites two chains that split in 1999

Ron Shaich is bringing Au Bon Pain back into the fold as he makes a graceful exit. 

Panera Bread said Wednesday that it has a deal with private-equity firm LNK Partners to acquire the Boston-based Au Bon Pain Holding Co. Inc. — which Panera sold 18 years ago.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Panera said it acquired the 304-unit Au Bon Pain to intensify its growth in nontraditional areas like hospitals, universities, transit centers and urban locations.

The company said in a release that Panera's CEO Shaich will step down effective Jan. 1, 2018, to split his time between Panera, JAB Holdings and other interests. 

Shaich managed a cookie franchise in 1981 when he and his late partner Louis Kane created Au Bon Pain in 1981. The company went public in 1991.

In 1993, Au Bon Pain acquired a little-known bakery-café chain called Saint Louis Bread Company. They renamed the chain Panera Bread. In 1999, opting to focus on Panera, the company sold Au Bon Pain to Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co.

Panera Bread has since grown to become one of the biggest chains in the U.S., with more than 2,000 locations and $5 billion in system sales.

“We are bringing Au Bon Pain and Panera together again,” Shaich said in a statement.

The sale comes just months after Panera was sold to the investment firm JAB Holdings in a $7.5 billion deal, taking the chain private.

Au Bon Pain, much like Panera, is a fast-casual chain that serves sandwiches, breads, pastries, salads, soups and coffee. The chain primarily operates in urban office buildings, universities, transit centers, malls and museums.

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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