At Panera Bread, you can order just about anything. Soups, salads, and pasta are among the popular items at Panera Bread. But let’s not forget about the endless varieties of freshly baked bread. Ciabatta, focaccia, baguettes—it’s a carb lover’s dream.

Considering the sheer size of the Panera franchise today, it’s hard to believe that Panera Bread began as a 400-square-foot cookie shop, founded by Ron Shaich. In the 1980’s, however, Shaich decided to merge his cookie store with a bakery, thus creating Au Bon Pain Co. Inc. Shaich recognized the appeal behind a bakery-cafe where customers could sit, eat and socialize. Becoming a publicly traded company, Au Bon Pain became popular across the country.

Despite the success of Au Bon Pain, Shaich realized that he wanted to create a restaurant that went beyond processed fast food. Instead, he wanted to create an establishment that served quickly but still valued real, healthy food. This unique, health-conscious approach to fast food, known as “fast casual,” changed much of the industry. Many credit Shaich for developing this niche of fast food, which has now grown largely popular. Shaich named the new restaurant Panera Bread, which, before long, achieved national popularity.

This unique, health-conscious approach to fast food, known as “fast casual,” changed much of the industry.

As Panera locations spread across the nation, the restaurant put higher emphasis on customer service. Even during the recession in the late 2000s, Panera Bread invested more into guest experience at their locations. During this time, in fact, the Panera franchise built some of its most popular and profitable locations.

How to Get Involved

With more than 2,000 locations, Panera Bread does offer franchise opportunities for those interested in joining the team. While Panera Bread does not sell single-unit franchises, the company sells market areas, requiring franchisees to open several units. Typically, these market areas involve the development of 15 cafes over six years.

Franchise Qualifications

  • Prior experience as a multi-unit restaurant operator
  • Net worth of 5.7 million
  • Liquid assets of $3 million
  • Resources to meet the required development schedule
  • A passion for fresh bread

Unfortunately, not everyone can meet the criteria for a Panera franchise. However, there are still opportunities for involvement. Panera Bred is a public company traded on the NASDAQ stock market. Investing in the company through the market is an alternative for those that may not be equipped to purchase a franchise.
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