Debbie Roberts is Panera Bread’s new chief operations officer, the St. Louis-based fast-casual chain said Tuesday.
She replaces Karen Kelley, who left the company earlier this year.
Roberts previously spent many years at McDonald’s, most recently as president of the quick-service chain’s East Zone, overseeing 7,000 restaurants in 11 regions.
“Joining an iconic brand like Panera is incredibly exciting,” Roberts said in the release announcing her appointment. “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 CEO Niren Chaudhary praised Roberts for her performance record and her years of experience.
“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,” Chaudhary said. “As the brand continues to grow and transform, Debbie’s experience will bring fresh perspective and unparalleled industry experience to our executive team.”
Roberts’ hiring is the latest in a string of executive appointments over the past year, including Eduardo Luz as chief concept officer, Claes Petersson as chief food innovation officer, Kathy-Jo Payette as chief people officer, Roland Ornelas as senior vice president and chief procurement officer, David Gaidos as chief food safety & quality officer, Gregg Waterman as chief manufacturing & supply chain officer and George Hanson as senior vice president and chief digital officer.
There are more than 2,100 Panera Bread locations nationwide, with sales of nearly $6 billion in 2019, according to NRN’s Top 200.
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