Panera Bread storefront

JAB Holding forms new Panera Brands, bringing Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels under one platform

Is the move preparation for an IPO?

Multiconcept operator JAB Holding Co. is gathering some of its early daypart brands under one platform with the formation of Panera Brands, a group that will include the fast-casual Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels, the company announced Thursday.

Niren Chaudhary has been named Group CEO of Panera Brands and will continue to lead as CEO of Panera Bread. The company said Panera Bread — with its broad omnichannel retail network, strong digital infrastructure, industry-leading loyalty program, robust food innovation pipeline, world-class supply chain and access to well-capitalized franchisees — is in a “unique position to turbocharge the growth” for its sister brands.

Einstein Bros. CEO José Alberto Dueñas and Caribou CEO John Butcher will report to Chaudhary will continuing to lead their respective companies.

The move, however, fuels speculation that Panera Bread is looking to go public again.

Last year, JAB combined its Dutch beverage group Jacobs Douwe Egberts and Peet’s Coffee into one coffee portfolio that went public with an initial public offering. JAB this year spun off its Krispy Kreme brand with an IPO. And reports indicate JAB has weighed the IPO route with its pet-care portfolio.

When asked if an IPO is in the plans, a company spokesperson said, Panera is "always evaluating opportunities."

Chaudhary in a statement said the combined brands will be able to leverage each company’s unique expertise and services to build an “unrivaled fast-casual platform” with a tremendous runway for growth.

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.” said Chaudhary. 

The new company will include nearly 4,000 restaurants and 110,000 employees across 10 countries. 

The largest brand will be Panera Bread, with about 2,120 bakery-cafes in 48 states and Canada, which includes the St. Louis Bread Co. brand. Panera, with its focus on clean, sustainable ingredients, has been a fast-casual market leader. The chain was acquired by JAB in 2017 in a $7.5 billion deal.

During the pandemic, Panera Bread pivoted to off-premises sales and grew digital orders to about 45% of sales. The loyalty program has about 44 million members and the brand pioneered a coffee subscription program and launched Flatbread Pizza.

Panera Bread’s sales have recovered to above 2019 levels, the company said, and is gaining momentum with positive one- and two-year same-store sales through May, June and July.

Founded in 1992 and acquired by JAB in 2013, Caribou has 713 locations, mostly in the upper Midwest, though the chain has grown its international presence and is now in 10 countries. Caribou is known for its small-format stores and omnichannel capabilities, the company said.

“Caribou Coffee is proud to be closing out the first half of 2021 stronger than ever,” said CEO Butcher 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.” 

Einstein Bros. — which includes Bruegger’s Bagels, Noah’s New York Bagels and Manhattan Bagels — has 1,005 company-owned and licensed units across the U.S.

“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,” said Dueñas, in a statement. “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.”

The new Panera Brands, however, does not include other fast-casual JAB Holding brands, such as Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Pret a Manger.

In June, JAB said it intends to buy the Australian coffee chain Campos Coffee.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@informa.com

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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